Rampant cheating in NAT hard to believe, Umali says
MANILA -- The Department of Education (DepEd) will not abolish the National Achievement Test (NAT) despite allegations of cheating in the exams, according to Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali.
Speaking to ANC's "Headstart" on Thursday, Umali said they are not keen on scrapping the NAT since it is an important tool to help schools assess the competency of their students and if they are ready for succeeding grade levels.
He clarified, however, that failing the exam does not mean that a student will not be able to go to the next grade.
"It's just an assessment tool for us to know where our Grade 3 -- it serves as mid-elementary assessment; Grade 6 -- we would like to know whether they are ready from elementary going to 1st year high school or Grade 7; and for our 4th year students or now Grade 10 going to college," he said.
The NAT is a standardized exam given to all public and private schools across the country. The exam focuses on 5 learning areas: English, Filipino, Mathematics, Science, and Araling Panlipunan.
Amid allegations of rampant cheating, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has called for its abolition. This was backed by the Federation of Association of Private Schools and Administrators.
But Umali said, "As an assessment tool, it's very important for the department to know whether we are doing good with respect to teaching our learners, whether we are effective. And that's the only way to do it."
He said if students flunk the exam, the DepEd takes the necessary actions and interventions. For example, they see if teachers need more training, he said.
According to Umali, the education department does not believe that cheating took place during the conduct of the NAT. This is despite the claims of some teachers and students that they were armed with the answers before the exam.
"It's not rampant. We know because of the security measures we are implementing... Para po sa amin, wala pong nangyaring dayaan," he said.
He said strict security measures are in place to prevent cheating in the test. He said test booklets are well-sealed and are just opened on the day of the exam.
"Mula po sa paggawa ng tanong, pag-imprinta, tulad po ng mga kawani ng private company that will print the exams, we look at their background, their records. If they have criminal records, they cannot be part of the company doing the printing job. We quarantine them, they're isolated in a room. They cannot just simply get out of the place where materials are being printed."
"Pag-distribute po niyan mula sa company patungo sa division schools po natin, these are sealed in boxes na may pirma -- parang election. From the division offices to our schools, again sealed, cannot be opened. Until pag-deliver po ng packages sa room, sealed po yan at di po nabubuksan until sa araw ng eksaminayon," he said.
Umali also pointed out that public school teachers are actually the ones who stand as exam watchers in private schools while private school teachers watch students in public schools.
Therefore, there should be "conspiracy among room examiners who don't even know each other" for cheating to happen, he said.
"For it to happen, the principal who is the head examiner should be in connivance with our private school teachers in the case of our public schools. Medyo mahirap isipin yun... Ang mga guro natin hindi naman basta-basta nagpapagamit yan," he said.
The DepEd assistant secretary also noted that if there is indeed widespread cheating in the NAT, then the country should have been getting high mean percentage scores.
"We should be getting very high mean percentage scores...kung talagang malawakan ang dayaan. But it is not that good right now, though we are increasing. I mean that's one proof," Umali said.
Nonetheless, Umali said the DepEd will investigate the alleged cheating, which if proven true is "unacceptable," he said.
He called on complainants to come forward with evidence to prove that cheating took place.
"If this really happened, we want help from the public. If they have information, we are open... They just have to tell us the school, we will investigate. We should know the circumstances," he said.