By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Amid criticisms thrown at the Department of Education (DepEd) following a report claiming thousands of learners in Bicol cannot read, Education Secretary Leonor Briones maintained that concrete initiatives to uplift quality of education are now in full swing.
Briones, in a statement, noted that “DepEd has never denied that there are problems in the reading proficiency of students.” She added that “after posting major gains in access to education, DepEd has already identified quality to be the biggest challenge of basic education today.”
Despite this, Briones underscored the importance of using “proper large-scale assessments” as basis when assessing learning outcomes and the quality of education – as a whole. Among these assessments – with strict standards and controls – are the National Achievement Test (NAT) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test.
“DepEd has repeatedly noted in its presentations to the President and the Cabinet, Congress, and to the public through the media, that the NAT results gravitate towards low proficiency level in English, Math, and Science,” Briones said. “In the 2018 PISA test, the Philippines ranked lowest in reading among the countries that took the test,” she added.
Earlier, DepEd was forced to “give context” to a report citing that there are 70,000 non-readers in Bicol region based on the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) result. Briones called out the said report noting that it is “not just shoddy but also malicious” for “knowingly publishing preliminary data” despite the issuance of a validated data by concerned region.
The Phil-IRI result, Briones stressed, was “not the reliable measure to represent reading proficiency on a large-scale” because it is a “tool intended for classroom teachers to assess the reading levels of their students at the beginning of the school year.” The Phil-IRI, she added, is administered to Grades 3 to 6 students to “identify those that may need intervention.”
“As the name itself states, it is an informal tool and will expectedly be administered without uniformity and with flexibility,” Briones said. “It is not meant to be aggregated for reporting to the public [because] the aggregation by the Regional Office is only for its internal use, as a rough measure to partially inform its reading programs,” she added.
Striving for quality education
After addressing issues to access, DepEd has been focusing its efforts to achieve quality education. “The concrete initiatives under these reform areas are now in full swing,” Briones said.
For the first time in 2018, the Philippines joined the PISA as part of its efforts to uplift quality of education in the country. Briones noted that joining PISA signalled DepEd’s “determination to confront the challenge of quality in basic education, find out our standing in terms of global standards, take advantage of an assessment designed and constantly updated by education experts, and to have data for further study.”
The 2018 PISA results showed that Filipino students fared “worst” among 79 countries in terms of reading literacy and second lowest – both scientific and mathematical literacy. It also revealed that the country scored 353 in mathematics, 357 in science, and 340 in reading – which are considered “below the average” of participating Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
Following the announcement of the 2018 PISA results, DepEd has launched its “Sulong EduKalidad” initiative to address the challenge of quality education in December.
“Sulong EduKalidad” is a program of reforms to upgrade and globalize the quality of basic education in the Philippines. It has four key reform areas: K to 12 Curriculum review and update; improvement of learning environment; teachers’ upskilling and reskilling; and, engagement of stakeholders for support and collaboration.