Gatchalian proposes ARAL Program Bill to help students catch up

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2023 09:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 03 2023 01:26 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday presented before the plenary a bill creating a tutorial program for students who have lagged behind their peers.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, said Senate Bill 1604 seeks to create the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program that would "help out students who did not enroll during School year 2020-21, and those who fall below the minimum proficiency levels required in language, math and science."

ARAL would be a continuing program for students where they will be assisted to improve on those three major subjects.

"It will not be part of the curriculum. It's a program outside of the curriculum. It is akin to a tutorial program because we detected that the pandemic caused a lot of damage in terms of proficiency of our students,” the senator explained.

This program will be mandatory for those who did not enroll from School year 2020 during the pandemic and those "who fall behind the minimum proficiency level."

Students will be assessed whether they need to undergo such program.

“We need to come up with an intervention program so they can catch up with their peers,” Gatchalian said.

Senator Koko Pimentel during his interpellation questioned the necessity of the law.

“Would the math (and science and reading) teacher know who is lagging behind? There is no need to assess per learner basis, feedback from teacher he can already identify if the student is weak,” Pimentel said.

“What will happen is the student covered by the ARAL Program will be required to spend extra hours. The intervention should have already been made during the regular class hours,” he added.

While that is the most practical solution, Gatchalian said there are still some students who are "in dire need of intervention." He cited a study of 10-year-old students pre-pandemic that showed that 69% of those students can read and understand a story, while 30% could not.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the senator said the numbers worsened. 

“Ninety percent of our 10-year-olds cannot read or understand a simple story, and that is from World Bank,” he said.

“USAID also conducted what they call ‘rapid literacy assessment’. For Grade 1, only 40% [in NCR] is grade-ready, for Grade 2 only 36% and Grade 3 is 25%. This determines the readiness of our students in terms of reading… If you go to the rural areas, it is even worse,” the senator explained.

Gatchalian said they have done a similar program in Valenzuela where they “tapped college students” to tutor students who need to catch up.

In an ANC interview Friday, the senator said the country's literacy crisis is due to lack of fundamental skills teaching.

"We have too many subjects and competencies that lead to students not learning the fundamental skills such as reading and numeracy," he said.

Gatchalian also noted congestion in the current curriculum.

"We're bombarding our students with more subjects... that they don't need. In effect, they're not learning because they don't have the time to learn," he said.

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