DepEd urged to prioritize better literacy, numeracy in early school years

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
DepEd urged to prioritize better literacy, numeracy in early school years
The Philippines ranked low in three World Bank-led learning assessments, a problem that the multilateral lender said is accompanied by bullying and health issues like malnutrition.
Philstar.com / Irish Lising, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education should make improving literacy and numeracy in early learners a priority, according to a joint research center funded by the Australian government and tasked with advising the government on how to improve the basic education system amid a pandemic.

Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre has been working with the Department of Education in reviewing the K to 12 curriculum, and is giving technical support to the agency in large-scale assessments, including the PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study).

"A focus on foundational competencies in literacy and numeracy to me is most important," ACTRC Philippine Director Dr. Marie Therese Bustos said in a briefing on Wednesday.

ACTRC is led by the University of Melbourne and the the state-run University of the Philippines. It aims to advise and inform the Philippine education system through curriculum, teaching and assessment research. 

Improve reading and math skills of early learners

Bustos, who is a professor at the UP, also highlighted the importance of improving the reading and math skills of K to 3 students, citing international assessments which showed that Filipino learners are lagging behind counterparts abroad. For her, issues related to their poor performance started early on when they were young. 

Learning math early on translates to better chances of success in school and in life. Meanwhile, learning to read at an early age is considered by the education department as one of the most important outcomes of primary education. Being able to read is crucial to developing broad literary skills which will help the child successfully participate in society, the DepEd said in a 2019 memorandum

A World Bank report released last year pointed out that Filipino students ranked low in the multilateral lender's learning assessments in math, science and reading, and said the problem is accompanied by bullying and health issues such as malnutrition. 

Shortly after, Malacañang expressed concern over the findings.

In a 2022 updated joint report by the World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, the learning poverty is expected to worsen across the world amid the prolonged closure of schools, costing the current generation of learners $21 trillion. Learning poverty is the inability to read and understand a simple text by age 10. 

Figures from the same three institutions earlier showed that less than 10% of Filipino kids can read a simple text or understand a simple story. 

Due to the pandemic and health protocols, Filipino learners and teachers were faced with the abrupt shift to conduct classes through distance learning. The transition was fraught with several issues, including spotty internet connection and the lack of funds for gadgets. 

Vice president-elect Sara Duterte, who will be replacing Education Secretary Leonor Briones, might have a "very difficult" time helming the largest department in the Philippine government, De La Salle University-based political scientist Cleve Arguelles earlier said.

In a June 21 interview on "The Chiefs", he explained that she will be addressing the country's education crisis and dealing with bureaucracy in the department. 

For Bustos, the biggest challenge that Duterte would be facing is coming up with ways to address learning loss aggravated by remote learning. Learning loss happens when there is a loss of knowledge or skills typically brought about by gaps in one's education or if one's learning has been discontinued. 

"People have been talking about it, but we haven't exactly measured to what extent our students have regressed," she said. 

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