MANILA — The Department of Education (DepEd) said on Tuesday it was mulling the use of English as the medium of instruction in schools after Filipino students ranked last in a global assessment on reading comprehension.
Fifteen-year-old Filipino learners placed 79th in reading and also scored low in science and math, according to the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released last week.
Philippine law mandates students to be taught in Filipino until grade 3, while their counterparts in other Asian countries like Singapore use English as the medium of instruction in earlier grade levels, noted Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
"It's an ongoing debate: others want to continue the mother tongue policy while there are also those who say we should start with English since it is the language of the rest of the world. We are looking into this," she told ANC.
In the Philippines, Metro Manila had the highest PISA score because of better facilities and access to alternative learning materials like the internet and mass media, said Briones.
Central Visayas, Davao, and the Cordillera regions, where children speak English early, also ranked "very high" in the PISA, she noted.
FUNDING WOES, POVERTY
Briones, 79, said she grew up during the war years being taught that the Philippines is "very advanced" compared to its neighbors because it was the only English-speaking country in Asia.
However, the Philippines is "nowhere near" the global standard of allotting 5 to 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education, said Briones.
"Now we look at the mirror and see that other countries have either overtaken us or have been better all along... The other countries have been catching up and spending so much more than what we are spending on education," she said.
The Philippines and other countries at the bottom of the PISA rankings also "tended to have high levels of poverty and hunger," she noted.
Briones said she was pushing for the expansion of the school feeding program because students' capacity to read, comprehend and reason "is linked to nutrition."
DepEd is also "continually reviewing" what and how children are taught, she said.
"We don't have to teach them data because they get data in the internet. We have to teach them how to process data and look at the meaning," said Briones.