MANILA - Filipino students ranked last among 79 countries in a global survey of reading comprehension because they are more used to narrative instead of informative text materials, a group said Thursday.
Frederick Sotto Perez, president of the Reading Association of the Philippines, said this was the first time that the country joined the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The country joined the global survey which will "provide us baseline data for our curriculum," he said.
"The texts (in the exam) are mainly informational and the evaluation of the text and understanding revolved on informational text and not narrative, to which our students are used to in the Philippines," Perez told ANC's Early Edition.
"People are alarmed by the results. This alarm may lead us to a more reflective education which we want to pursue."
Perez said children should be taught expository texts that focus on factual information, at the age of 9.
"Reading ability is developed through practice. We can only develop fluent readers if we provide them with text, print and digital, and we practice them through teacher modeling, shared practice towards independent practice," he said.
Another reason for Filipino students ranking last in the exam is poor connectivity in far-flung areas, Perez said, noting that the country "lacks reading materials."
"There’s no internet, books are mainly children’s books, and there are no encyclopedias and other digital texts," he said.
"Books and printed text are very essential. Reading culture may be promoted in schools through extended literacy projects, book talks of teachers. Schools should be active in fostering a reading culture by actually making their libraries functional."
Students must also be taught to discern the credibility of a text which was one aspect that PISA tested, Perez added.
"I think it’s important we know how to evaluate sources, that is being taught in high school, check the facts and actually cross-check," he said.
"Even in social media, for example, we see our students always sharing online without discerning what kind of texts they are sharing with other people."
Teachers and parents must also be guided in handling digital literacy, Perez said as he emphasized that all educators should be "reading teachers."
"All teachers should undergo reading instruction strategy training. Our students to be able to do research should know how to read articles and facts, evaluate them, citation, distinguishing fact from opinion," he said.
"But if our teachers for example in science, social studies, or math are not equipped in helping our students develop those skills, the blame goes to our reading teachers."