Blame game
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

After staying mum for some time, the Department of Education finally commented on the embarrassing truth that a 2018 Program for International Student Assessment revealed to the whole world only recently. That out of 79 countries that submitted to the assessment, Filipino students aged 15 years old placed dead last in reading comprehension, science, and mathematics.

Maybe the DepEd did not comment or react immediately because it was still trying to figure out who sledgehammered it on the head. But when its silence became deafening, education secretary Leonor Briones herself was forced out of near retirement to deal with the humiliating development. But the best she can do under the circumstances was try and parry the pointing fingers.

Trying to sound convincing, Briones said irate Filipinos should not look to K to 12, which her department implemented since 2016, as the culprit. And I agree. K to 12 has nothing to do with the international student assessment debacle. In her need to be defensive, Briones forgot that only 15-year-old students were assessed. That means no senior high school students at the end-phase of K to 12 were involved.

It is Grade 10 students who are 15-year-olds. Prior to K to 12 and senior high, Grade 10 students were what we once called 4th year high school students. They were the graduating students on their way to college. Now, with two more years added under K to 12, students get to be 17 before finishing senior high. They are 18 on entering college.

Rightly or wrongly, the perception of people is that K to 12 and senior high are two interchangeable pieces on the same controversial gameboard, from a game that former president Noynoy Aquino and former education secretary Armin Luistro rammed down the throats of all stakeholders in the Philippine educational system.

It is a system that lags behind the rest of the world, a reality that Aquino and Luistro tried to hide beneath the veneer of K to 12, naively thinking that by the simple addition of two years the system can catch up with the race. Well, there is no real and impartial assessment of K to 12 itself. But judging by the dismal performance of non-K to 12 15-year-olds, one can say with absolute certainty that the whole system itself is shot from the beginning.

Never mind the math and the science. But reading comprehension? How can Filipino 15-year-olds in this day of the internet place dead last among 79 countries in reading comprehension? The only plausible cause, I must repeat myself, is because the system is shot from the beginning. A glimpse of the beginning might include that strange animal called mother tongue and other whimsical experiments undertaken for the sake of appearances.

Now these experiments are bearing their poisonous fruits. Not even the fact that only 79 out of 200-plus countries took part in the assessment can set aside the very real possibility that even then we might still place dead last just the same. Poor reading comprehension? How can the third largest English-speaking nation on earth rate so poorly in reading comprehension unless some bright boys tampered with the comprehension process.

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