20M FILIPINOS CAN READ BUT CANNOT UNDERSTAND

Following is a PRESS STATEMENT (October 2, 2010) from 170 + Talaytayan MLE Incorporated.  It was published in INQUIRER.net as “Educators push for use of mother tongue in schools” with some alterations (see first two comments).

Quite frankly, we prefer the Inquirer’s version on account of the fact that it’s easier to understand it; the use of too many “big” words and numbers in the original press release (below) just tends to confuse us and forget most of what is said.  And we are left hanging with the bomb Dr. Nolasco dropped re favoring “spreading the basic curriculum for elementary and high school across the internationally accepted standard of 12 years” with nary a word on its implementation and the nightmarish logistics it would require to pull it at this time.  (A reading of ‘Length of School Cycle and the “Quality” of Education’ in the Philippine Education Research Journal might provide some insight.)

R. Nolasco

The number of Filipinos, aged 10-64 years old, who do not understand what they read, has grown to 20.1 million. This is based on the latest figures from the 2008 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS).

Dr. Ricardo Ma. Nolasco, head of 170+ Talaytayan MLE Inc., a coalition of education reform advocates throughout the country, said that counting and comprehension skills among Filipinos remain dismally and alarmingly low.

He underscored the need for the Aquino administration to vigorously implement its ten-point agenda for education including changing the exclusively English- and Filipino-based curriculum into one in which Filipino children start learning through their mother tongue.

He expressed support for Education Secretary Armin Luistro’s plan of concentrating on the core skills of speaking, reading, writing and counting in the primary grades. Nolasco also favored spreading the basic curriculum for elementary and high school across the internationally accepted standard of 12 years.

According to the FLEMMS survey, the Filipino’s ability to count or level 2 literacy went up from 84.1 percent in 2003 to 86.5 percent in 2008. Comprehension skills or level 3 literacy likewise increased from 66 to 70 percent.

“This means that those who cannot compute went down slightly from 16 percent in 2003 to 14 percent in 2008. Lack of comprehension abilities likewise went down from 34 to 30 percent after five years.” This is the good news, Nolasco said.

The bad news is that the number of individuals lacking in counting and comprehension skills actually grew. This was due to a higher population base of 67 million for 2008 compared to only 57.6 million for 2003. Nolasco computed the number of non-numerate Filipinos in 2008 at 9.1 million, which was almost the same as in 2003. However, those who lack comprehension abilities increased from 19.6 million in 2003 to 20.1 million individuals in 2008. This is the bad news, added Nolasco

Computation and comprehension skills were tested in the FLEMMS survey through a self-administered questionnaire accomplished by a sample of around 70,000 individuals throughout the country.

The questions for testing counting ability were as follows:

  • If a kilo of rice costs P25.00, how much will two kilos cost?
  • If a kilo of sugar costs P38.00, how much will half a kilo cost?

Those who answered these questions correctly were classified as functionally literate at level 2.

To test comprehension ability, respondents were made to read the following paragraph in English or its version in 26 Philippine languages:

The depletion of our forests is one of the most serious environmental problems of the Philippines. It causes frequent floods and loss of fertile soils. Crops and property are destroyed and many loves are lost because of frequent floods.

Based on the paragraph you read, what are the effects of forest depletion?

Those who answered this question correctly were classified as functionally literate at level 3.

In the survey, high school graduates or those with higher education are also considered functionally literate at level 4.

5 thoughts on “20M FILIPINOS CAN READ BUT CANNOT UNDERSTAND

  1. This is a copy of the press statement I sent to Tara Quismundo of the PDI. The article which appeared in today’s issue of the Inquirer didn’t turn out the way I expected.

    Ched, paki-CC ng ibang members of the board tungkol sa mensaheng ito. Salamat.

  2. Tarra indeed deliberately toned it down (read her article that came out this am — http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/topstories/topstories/view/20101002-295608/Educators-push-for-use-of-mother-tongue-in-schools). Maybe it was providential because a strongly worded title with bare facts about the FLEMMS might antagonize some DepEd people since it gives a clear and painful message that they have not been doing their job (what a message to hear during the world teachers day!). I know for a fact that the reason Dina and Allan were blacklisted by DepEd was because of their “When Reforms Don’t Transform” lecture (http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=65967413B1AF1C84). Well, some people chose to catalyze reforms from the outside. I would like to believe that our camp chose not to remain outside but to permeate the system, although we want ours to be a critical engagement type of action.

    I am glad that Tarra included that quote from Usec Quijano. It gives the impression that it’s not the teachers that are completely culpable since they are constrained by the language policy. I wish during the teachers month we can identity and relate stories about how some teachers resisted the system and instituted MLE in their classrooms. We can focus on the heroic acts of that teacher in the north who teaches physics using Ilocano, Jess Tirol, our teachers in Kalinga and those with Apu Palamguwan.

  3. Based on the present study (Length of School Cycle and the “Quality” of Education), there is no basis to expect that lengthening the educational cycle, calendar-wise, will improve the quality of education…

    The issue of lengthening the education cycle, of course, is important because it is a real issue for the Philippines in its international relations, it is a salient issue at the higher echelons of Philippine government, it is currently a policy issue for the country, and some proposals on how to resolve it may cost the country much.

    The value of the 12-year cycle is ultimately a matter of weighing the large and certain costs against the uncertain gains in lengthening the education cycle. However, one can adopt a guideline in weighing these costs and gains. One such guideline may be that individuals who are inconvenienced by non-standardised cycles should be the ones to bear the costs of reducing those inconveniences. People in the farms and small barangays should be spared the burden of a system that will not benefit them. The government could help those interested in foreign studies and work placement by supporting an appropriate system of assessment, rather than tinker with the whole cycle length. This solution addresses the alleged problem in a more focused way and does not indiscriminately impose on every Filipino the costs of meeting the needs of a few.

    Many educators seem to expect too much of the 12-year educational cycle. More likely, lengthening the cycle is so concrete a step that it gives them the feeling they are doing something about a faulty system. A friend who learned of the plan to adopt this proposal was reminded of the following Howie Mandel joke: “My wife does not know how to cook. So she went out and bought herself a microwave oven. Now, she does not know how to cook–faster!” If the plan is hastily adopted, pretty soon the problem would be how to cut short a poor quality 12-year cycle.

  4. I think your idea of putting the teachers who actually reform in the front as heroes is a good idea. That’s what I always say about the Lubuagan teachers. They are heroes because they chose to do the hard thing, the right thing, even when it was not popular. They did this because as committed teachers, they want to enable their students’ success.

    This is a methodological problem, not something inherent within the teachers themselves. The situtation should be problematized within the prescribed method, rather than within the quality of teachers. Teachers are compassionate people who know that the success of their students is also their own success. They do not want to be tied to ineffective methodology. Many teachers want to teach well with the L1 but simply don’t know how. Why? Because they have neither experienced it themselves (often) nor were they taught in their training courses how to build on the learners prior knowledge, experience and build a strong foundation in the L1. With training, experience and a properly situated curriculum, they will succeed!

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