Growing number of non-readers alarming
Artemio Dumlao (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2019 - 12:00am

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The government, via Senate basic education committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian, is being urged to face head-on the growing incidence of non-readers and frustration-level readers in public schools around the country.

Residents in Tabuk City, Kalinga initiated a signature campaign asking the government to confront the problem.

“If the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP) and the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) are properly implemented, there would be no non-reader beyond Grade 3,” they said.

Earlier, Education Undersecretary for curriculum and instruction Diosdado San Antonio had acknowledged that the Department of Education (DepEd) is aware of the presence of non-readers in high school.  The official’s admission stemmed from the February report of the Philippine Institute for Developments Studies calling on the DepEd to discourage the practice among public elementary schools of sending non-readers to high school.

The petitioners claimed that the presence of non-readers and frustration-level readers in high school means that programs for reading and the K-12 curriculum are failing.

They said the intent of the ECARP is to make every child an independent reader by Grade 3 and the Phil-IRI, a nationally validated reading proficiency assessment tool, is intended to strengthen the implementation of the ECARP.
“Under DepEd Order No. 021, series of 2019, setting forth the policy guidelines for the K-12, reading in English is included among the competencies to be attained in Grade 2,” the plea to Sen. Gatchalian read.
Taking note that most school children could read in Grade 3, the petitioners asked why the DepEd cannot successfully teach “all mentally normal children how to read at the grade prescribed by the curriculum when it was able to make them all read in Grade 1 in the past?”
They told Gatchalian, “we believe the breakdown in the effectiveness of the DepEd to teach children to read started with the decision to scrap the ‘No Read, No Move’ policy for Grade 1 back in 2001.”   ‘Our generation learned to read in Grade 1 and there is no justification whatsoever for young Filipinos to learn the skill at a much later stage in their educational journey specially so that under the current curriculum, they are supposed be able to read in Grade 2,’ they added.
A classroom teacher in the late 70’s and 80’s,  retired Provincial Cooperative Officer Robert Salabao, Sr. said, there are non-readers among the first and second year students in the high school Tabuk City.    He suspects while one of the bases for performance rating of teachers is the failure rate, teachers pass even the undeserving because nobody is to be retained.

Salabao instead suggested the use of the period intended for the Mother Tongue subject for practical reading for the reading laggards.   “Anyway the Mother Tongue is not really essential as part of the curriculum,”  insisting that, “why (do) children still have to be taught the Mother Tongue in school when it’s the language at home adding that priority language is actually English and which therefore should be learned in the grades.”

Lutheran minister Luis Aoas, also a petitioner,  blamed the DepEd for the overall erosion of the quality of education attributing it to the frequent changes in the curriculum and the system that had caused confusion.  He recalled that during the time when the curriculum only revolved around reading, writing and arithmetic or 3Rs, children were proficient.  While we need change, the clergy member admitted, “but when you keep on changing, the system is weakened as people no longer know which is which and things begin to look like experiments. We change for the better but frequent change could be disastrous.”

Aoas’ wife, Victoria, who used to work for the DepEd, observed that each time there is a new Education Secretary, there are changes in the curriculum.

Petitioners hope that under Sen. Gatchalian’s  Basic Education Committee,  the reading crisis is addressed because if there  are any national government officials acquainted with the non-reader headache, Gatchalian  would be one of them. 

Valenzuela City where Gatchalian was the former mayor and congressman, was the first LGU to discover and take action on the non-reader problem.   Back in 2014, the LGU found out that eight of 10 Grade 6 pupils in the city  were frustration level readers and one of every 10 a non-reader. 

The petitioners believe Sen. Gatchalian knows very well that delay in teaching school children to read takes resources to remedy because in 2014 alone, Valenzuela City allocated  P300M to  rescue the Grade 6  non-readers and frustration level readers in its public schools.

Gatchalian knows that the  problem is a tough nut to crack because last summer, after  four years of giving full support to the reading program of the Department of Education (DepEd) there,  the LGU still conducted a reading skills training for  “213 non-readers, 3,725 frustrated readers and 14,712 instructional readers” from  Grades 2 to 6 from the city’s public schools, they reiterated.

We hope the senator will also realize that  if  that’s the situation in his home city  where the  LGU is actively intervening, it could be much worse in places where the DepEd is  single-handedly addressing the problem, the petitioners said.


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