Out of 79 participating countries and economies, the Philippines ranked lowest in the “Reading Comprehension” category of the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
The category is determined as the “understanding, using, evaluating, reflecting on, and engaging with texts in order to achieve one’s goals to develop one’s knowledge and potential and to participate in society.”
While this is truly concerning, earlier reports revealed that Filipinos were dubbed as one of the most literate individuals among the Southeast Asian region.
And while this is something we should be proud of, the apparent disparity in data raises suspicions and questions from the general public.
BLURRING THE DISPARITY LINE
The truth is, there is no disparity between the two, but rather, these results relate to one another.
Indeed, the Philippines is one of the most literate countries in Southeast Asia; but here’s the reality — one’s socio-economic status has a major role in achieving literacy.
Reports documented that there is a strong relationship between one’s socio-economic status and their performance in school, accounting for 18 percent of the variance in reading performance in the country; but although there is a decline in the country’s poverty rate as of 2018 statistics, the country still has the largest percentage of low performers in reading among socio-economically disadvantaged students.
One of the primary reasons cited was the unproportionate ratio of students to teaching staff.
It was cited that the average class sizes of 15-year-olds in the Philippines are the largest, and the ratio of students to teaching staff in socio-economically disadvantaged schools is the highest.
But it doesn’t just stop there.
ADDRESSING THE UNPROPORTIONATE PROPORTION
To quote World Vision Executive Director Rommel Fuerte, “Literacy, most especially amongst the children and youth, is one of the key factors that determine how well a country progresses in this rapidly-changing world. We have an unfortunate reality where some Filipinos, both young and old, are still struggling with their literacy skills.”
The Department of Education (DepEd) recently welcomed 27 million students enrolled in kindergarten to senior high school. However, instead of feeling welcomed, students were greeted with cramped up spaces, insufficient books and reading materials, and outnumbered teachers and staff.
Not all schools were able to keep up with the growing number of students, and not everyone has the privilege to transfer to a fully equipped private school; thus, it gives us a clearer grasp on the fundamental problem in the education sector — that is, the lack of appropriated funds to finance the growing needs of our schools.
The K12 program was enacted to not only boost the quality of education to make it at par with other countries but to also aid in the mastery of skills to prepare individuals for employment and entrepreneurship.
But although the national government allocated P31.8 B for the execution of the program, it posed a series of problems and issues amidst its implementation such as the evident lack of classrooms, books, reading materials, and teaching staff that caused problems in the sector.
EDUCATION IS A RIGHT AND NOT A PRIVILEGE
We should call on the government to focus more on the disadvantaged areas and on the disadvantaged sectors in the society. We should call on agencies and organizations to conduct more projects and outreach programs that seek to reach out to disadvantaged youths in the community.
For instance, World Vision Development Foundation partnered with DepEd in launching their “BrigadaPagbasa” movement that seeks to enhance and improve the reading skills of the Filipino children.
Ultimately, our call-to-action should be to seek transparency and accountability from the national government for the allocation of funds for the education sector.
But beyond calling for transparency and accountability from the higher-ups, our call-to-action should also be to establish and develop a better quality, attainable, and accessible education that does not discriminate on the basis of one’s economic status.
Because, at the end of the day, education is a right and not a privilege.