MANILA - The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday said a tool used to gauge elementary school students' reading skills is a diagnostic test given within the first two months of the school year.
This, after a report said around 70,000 pupils in the Bicol region cannot read. Of this number, at least 18,000 are in Grades 3 to 6, while the rest are in Grades 1 and 2.
According to Education Usec. Nepomuceno Malaluan, the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), which is used by teachers to assess their students' reading capability at the start of the school year, is designed for students in Grades 3 to 6.
"Para i-identify nga, precisely, 'yung mga estudyante na kailangan ng additional help," Malaluan told DZMM.
He also said that if the same test was given to those in Grades 1 to 2, then majority of these students would really be classified as "non-readers" since the test is designed for older students.
"In fact, if you look at the news report, it does not tally with the administration of this assessment tool, kasi ito ay pang-Grades 3 to 6, mainly, na ina-administer. May sinabi doon, the biggest number, 58,000, nasa Grades 1 and 2 daw, of 70,000. Eh hindi naman, wala kaming standardized instrument for Grade 1, at kung marami diyan ay Grade 1, lalo pa kung in-administer ito at the first quarter, first month, ay nag-uumpisa pa lang mag-Grade 1. These are 6 years old, at hindi pa talaga ito marunong masyado magbasa," Malaluan explained.
Malaluan, likewise, said they have yet to verify the data with their regional office in Bicol, as they need to clarify what tool was used for the younger students.
"May problema diyan sa information na 'yan, we really have to validate with our region kasi they might have introduced a supplemental instrument and not the standardized instrument that we gave them. Because ito ngang instrument namin ay for Grade 3 to 6," he said.
"Hindi ito intended to be a standardized test but a helping tool for a teacher to assess 'yung reading capacity and to identify the students at the classroom level," Malaluan also said.
Despite this seeming mismatch in the data, Malaluan said the education department is aware of the problem and is focusing on improving the quality of basic education in the country.
"That's a big number, still and we should really provide heightened intervention for reading, at 'yan ang tinututukan ng department ngayon," he said.
NUMBER OF NON-READERS 'ALARMING'
Meanwhile, Benjo Basas, chairperson of the Teachers' Dignity Coalition, said the latest report on the number of non-readers in Bicol region is both alarming and surprising.
"Medyo alarming and at the same time, nakakagulat. Statistically, puwede nating sabihin maliit. Pero sabi ko nga, 10, 20, or 100 estudyante na umabot ng grade 6 nang hindi nakakabasa eh that would be a cause for alarm," he said in a separate interview on DZMM.
For Basas, there are different factors that may lead to poor reading skills in the classroom, which include the number of students in a class, the classroom environment, as well as the discipline of students, among others.
"Isa po sa mga itinuturing nila na nagiging problema natin, ito 'yung napaka-lenient natin, ng system, doon sa mga bata, na halos hindi mo puwedeng pagalitan dahil baka ikaw ay alam ninyo na, baka ma-report," he said.
Dr. Leonor Diaz of the Reading Association of the Philippines, for her part, said the problem may be because the students are not orally familiar with the language they are expected to read.
For Diaz, it is important that a student is very familiar with the oral language before they develop their reading skill in that same language.
"Maganda na buo na 'yung oral language nila sa wikang babasahin nila. Ibig sabihin, kung mother tongue ang babasahin nila, malawak at malalim ang kanilang oral language sa wika na 'yun," she said.
She also said that the data reported from Bicol may have been taken out of context, as the Phil-IRI does not label students as "non-readers," contrary to what was reported.
According to Diaz, in the Phil-IRI, students are labeled as independent readers, instructional readers and frustrated readers.
"Iba kasi ang Phil-IRI assessment tool, para 'yan tulungan ang bata magbasa eh, at wala diyang label na non-reader sa tool na 'yan," Diaz said.
In December, results of a global survey showed Filipino students ranking last in reading comprehension among 79 countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018.
Filipino Grade 9 students got a score of 340, which is below the average score of 487.