February 18, 2020
QUEZON CITY – Amid reports on the reading proficiency issues of pupils in Bicol, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines calls on the Department of Education (DepEd) to make public the detailed report of the reading inventory done by the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) in every region nationwide. The group said that DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones ‘could be right in saying that reports on struggling readers in Bicol is unfair for the Bicolanos as the situation could be true in the whole of the country, or worse in poorer regions and localities.’
“Especially as our call for the review of the K-12 program has finally gained attention from the government, all indicators should be laid down to have an honest assessment of our educational system. The development of our students is a national concern,” said Joselyn Martinez, ACT Philippines Chairperson.
Martinez advised the education agency ‘not to be onion-skinned’ on the issue and truthfully identify and address the factors that contribute to the declining quality of Philippine education if it is sincere in its ‘no learner left behind’ slogan. She also warned against the ‘simplistic’ tendency to put the blame on the teachers’ capabilities and dedication to teach pupils how to read, but to look at the whole situation instead.
Congested K-12 Curriculum
Martinez raised the practical problem of less time allocated to honing the reading skills of students with the inclusion of more learning areas in the Grades 1 and 2 curriculum of the K to 12 program, compared to past education curricula implemented in the country. Under the K to 12 program, 40 to 50 minutes is allocated for each of the 7 subject areas compared to 1 hour for each of the 5 subjects before.
“Our primary education teachers lament of insufficient class hours dedicated to honing the reading skills of students, which they are compelled to make up by conducting special reading classes outside of regular class hours. Unlike before where primary education gives significant attention to the 3Rs—reading, writing, and arithmetic,” Martinez shared.
She said that teachers have little elbow room to make adjustments based on the learners’ needs as the DepEd sets the daily lesson log, budget of work for each subject everyday, and competencies that students are expected to acquire, based on which teachers’ performance is evaluated. Amidst these, Martinez said that DepEd further presses teachers to be “more innovative and sacrificing.”
“Yet, teachers are made to carry the brunt of this weakness in the curriculum as we are obliged to work extra hours for special reading classes on school days and even during summer vacation,” Martinez lamented.
Wanting Enabling Environment
Martinez also stressed the many government deficiencies in creating an enabling working and learning environment for teachers and pupils as hindrances to developing the reading competency of learners. She cited the large class size and inadequate textbooks and other learning materials as contributory to their difficulties in teaching pupils how to read.
“With years of the government’s failure to fill in the shortages in the educational system, the teachers carry everyday the burden of ensuring that ‘no learner is left behind,’” said Martinez.
ACT also noted that with K to 12 implementation came a host of paperworks and non-teaching duties that take teachers away from their focus in teaching, while teachers’ compensation does not measure to the volume and value of their work.
“They always say that quality education necessitates quality teachers. How can we have quality teachers if they were always interrupted in their primary focus and are not given quality pay?” asked Martinez.
Assessing K-12 from the ground
ACT pushed for an inclusive and comprehensive assessment of the K to 12 program that would involve the participation of teachers, students, and parents.
“The DepEd and Congress should be as keen in involving the very sectors that tackle the K to 12 program daily as they engage experts and the business sector in the K to 12 review,” asserted Martinez.
She said that teachers and parents alike are “very much concerned with what and how we train our students as the future of our children and our nation is what’s at stake.”
ACT pushes for the reorientation and overhaul of the current education program towards a nationalist, scientific, and quality mass education that is responsive to the needs of national development.