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Philippines: A nation of nonreaders?

The greatest sign of a success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” – Maria Montessori

I have a confession to make.

In my thirteen years as teacher – three years and counting in public school, I believe that every child learns at his/her own pace.  And that includes developing his/her reading ability.

When I was a grade one teacher, I really had a hard time making my pupils read and appreciate reading. So frustrated that I, so idealistic (still is), had no choice but to retain at least two students. But I let others move on to the next grade level, still struggling to read. I also had a pupil who has been promoted to grade four but I suspect, has dyslexia.

Since the public school system has this “mass promotion policy” (“no child left behind”) even pupils with reading difficulty are promoted to the next grade level.

And now that I’m in grade three and now handling the highest section (though it’s heterogeneous. due to the merry dispersing of “mischievous” pupils throughout all sections) I also have to do remedial reading with my eight “slow” pupils. I thought I was doing well with my own program.

Until last Monday.

As I welcome back my pupils after school break, one of them, a habitual absentee, a slow reader, and…a 4Ps recipient at that! finally appeared after spending his extended vacay ahead of his classmates, became my target for a one-on-one remedial reading session. What happened next was a big disappointment, and a humbling lesson.

He did not want to read a short Filipino passage, because he could not read it.

I tried to coax him into reading  a shorter passage, again, his lips did not move.

“What’s wrong with you? Could you not read this passage?”

No answer. (sighs)

The following day, I tried to have him read a passage but was unsuccessful.

I am disappointed in myself. I think I did not my best. I thought of James Ingram…

You see, the Grade Three level is considered a crucial stage, a transition to the intermediate level. At this point, a Grade Three pupil is expected to be proficient in reading. And that adds pressure on us Grade Three teachers.

While browsing the net, I chanced upon this blog by a former DepEd undersecretary. He writes the truth. And the truth hurts.

But like him, I still believe we can undo the notion of the Philippines being a nation of nonreaders.
Stakeholders – meaning the pupils, the parents, the school must work together, get involved to make the program a success.

I’m sharing Mr. Luz’s post.

A nation of nonreaders

BY JUAN MIGUEL LUZ (former Education undersecretary)

WHY IS it that despite our supposedly high literacy rate, many Filipinos can barely read and write? Why haven’t we been able to develop a reading habit among Filipinos?

THE problem of nonreading lies at the heart of why the Philippines is so uncompetitive in the world economy and why so many of our people continue to live in poverty or barely escape it. [photo by Jaileen Jimeno]

Straightforward questions about something so fundamental. Yet there are no easy answers to such a complex problem. Worse, the problem of nonreading lies at the heart of why the Philippines is so uncompetitive in the world economy and why so many of our people continue to live in poverty or barely escape it.

Someone once remarked that we are not a nation of readers; we are a nation of storytellers. Ours is a culture of oral history passed on by word of mouth not through the written word. Perhaps that is why most of the information people receive today is gathered from television (62 percent) and radio (57 percent). Newspapers and magazines are read by only 47 percent and 36 percent of the population respectively, according to a 2003 government survey.

In the modern era, however, this is too low a figure. And how did this happen when we pride ourselves as being a highly literate people? Then again, are we really?

To start with, let’s establish the difference between literacy and reading. They are related, but literacy is a level of competence, while reading is a skill. One can be literate but not necessarily a reader because reading, as a skill, requires the development of a habit that must be exercised daily if it is to be retained and enhanced. If left unexercised, the skill becomes rusty and can even be lost.

We begin this discussion with literacy, for which there are two measures: simple and functional.

Simple literacy is the ability of a person to read and writewith understanding a simple message in any language or dialect. Functional literacy, meanwhile, is a significantly higher level of literacy that includes not only reading and writing skills, but also numeracy (the ‘rithmetic that completes the ‘three Rs’), which leads to a higher order of thinking that allows persons to participate more meaningfully in life situations requiring a reasonable capacity to communicate in a written language. The simplest, most direct measure of functional literacy is the ability to follow a written set of instructions for even basic tasks. Thus, functional literacy is the more important indicator of competence when it comes to adults in the workforce.

FOR DECADES, the Philippines has reported a simple literacy rate in the mid-to-high 90s. In 2003, the simple literacy rate was actually lower at 93.4 percent for the entire population at least 10 years of age. Girls show a higher rate of simple literacy than boys (94.3 percent versus 92.6 percent). Not surprisingly, Metro Manila reported the highest rate at 99 percent; the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the lowest at 68.9 percent (and falling compared to the 1994 rate of 73.5 percent).

Over the last 10-year period (measuring simple literacy is part of the national census taken once a decade), there has been a disturbing occurrence. Nine of 15 regions (under the old regional configuration) showed a slight decline in simple literacy from 1994 to 2003. These included two of the three Visayan regions (VII and VIII) and all of the Mindanao regions. Overall, simple literacy for the entire country fell by 0.5 percent from 1994 to 2003. (See Table1)

Table 1. Simple Literacy Rate
(for the population aged 10 years and older)
Source: National Statistics Office

1994 93.9 93.7 94.0
2003 93.4 92.6 94.3

What do these numbers mean? Based on a population of 80 million, 6.6 percent illiteracy translates into 5.3 million Filipinos who cannot read or write; a number that grew by about 1.6 million over the past decade.

I suspect, however, that our simple literacy rate might even be overstated, meaning there may be even more Filipinos incapable of reading and writing a simple message, with understanding, than reported officially. The measure of simple literacy, after all, is not determined by a test but rather by a census question. A census-taker asks respondents: “Can you read or write a simple message in any language or dialect?” It’s easy to imagine that quite a number of household heads would answer affirmatively to hide the fact that they are illiterate, out of a feeling of hiya (shame). And I do not think census-takers take the time to test the literacy level of a respondent during the survey.

Professor Dina Ocampo of the University of the Philippines School of Education says that literacy is really about the ability “to construct and create meaning from or through written language.” To do so will require a higher degree of abstraction. Therefore, the true measure of literacy must be functional, not simple.

THE FUNCTIONAL literacy rate in the country is more realistic — but again, it may be overstated, even though it is measured by a test and not the subject of a survey question. Curiously, the test itself is called the Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), which is done by the National Statistics Council in partnership with the Department of Education and the Literacy Coordinating Council.

Table 2. Functional Literacy Rate
(10-64 years old)
Source: FLEMMS, 2003

1994 83.8 81.7 85.9
2003 84.1 81.9 86.3

In 2003, the functional literacy rate was determined to be 84.1 percent of the population aged 10-64 years old. Again, girls showed a higher rate at 86.3 percent of all females surveyed versus boys at 81.9 percent of all males. (See Table 2)

While the overall rate for the entire country rose slightly in 2003 versus 1994, seven of 15 regions fell over the same period with Regions II, VIII, IX, X and XI showing drops in both simple and functional literacy rates.

More revealing is functional literacy by age group based on the 2003 FLEMMS: Adults closest to college graduation age (20-24 and 25-29 years) showed functional literacy rates of over or close to 90 percent. But school-age children (10-14 and 15-19 years) showed rates far below the 100 percent that would be assumed since functional literacy is based on a grasp and facility with the ‘three Rs’ (reading, writing, and arithmetic) that we hope our children are mastering. The numbers, however, say otherwise. (See Table 3)

Table 3. Functional Literacy by age group
Source: FLEMMS, 2003

10-14 78.8
15-19 89.9
20-24 91.6
25-29 89.1
25-29 89.1
30-39 86.3
40-49 84.2
50-59 78.6
60-64 68.6

This relatively lower figure reflects the high dropout rates of children before the start of Grade 4 (or by age 10). Department of Education (DepEd) data show that for every 100 children who enter Grade 1, close to 15 do not make it into Grade 2, and roughly one-quarter (24 percent) have dropped out before Grade 4.

Grade 3 (10 years old) is a critical year in terms of formal schooling. Since preschooling is neither compulsory nor part of the package of free public education guaranteed by the Constitution, Grade 3 marks the third full year of basic education for children who attend public elementary school and the year when the facility to read, write, and do the four operations of arithmetic with competence is expected. (Less than 20 percent of those who go to public elementary school actually attend a full year of preschool education.)

Dropping out before this grade level thus becomes a major contributor to the lack of functional literacy, which in turn has a negative impact on adults and their eventual work productivity. This is assuming, of course, that by the end of Grade 3 (or the third year of formal full-time schooling), our children’s competence in the three ‘Rs are being honed fully. But as we are seeing, that may not be happening in far too many schools.

WITH LOW-LEVEL literacy comes poor reading skill. In elementary schools in the Division of Manila, reading test scores reveal that only one-sixth to one-third of pupils can read independently at the desired grade level. By the end of the elementary cycle (Grade 6), over one-third of elementary graduates were identified as “frustrated” readers; another one-third were “instructional” readers. Both levels are below the desired reading level at the end of the elementary cycle. (See Table 4)

Table 4. Reading Levels of Children in the City Schools Division of Manila
Source: Philippine-IRI Test, Schools Division of Manila, SY 2003-04

1 64.41 20.17 15.42 23,114
2 49.98 31.45 19.07 28,170
3 47.59 32.47 19.94 26,843
4 44.82 32.17 23.01 25,493
5 50.78 28.48 20.74 30,288
6 36.50 34.67 28.83 27,199


The Phil-IRI (Philippine-Informal Reading Inventory) test is an oral test given to a pupil to measure reading ability. Five test questions are administered constituting the entire test.

Independent reading level – Pupil can read with ease and without the help or guidance of a teacher. In the Phil-IRI test, they can answer four or five correct answers (out of five test questions) and can read with rhythm, with a conversational tone, and can interpret punctuation correctly.

Instructional reading level – Pupil can profit from instruction. In the Phil-IRI test, they answer three out of five test questions correctly.

Frustrated reading level – Pupil gets two or below in the Phil-IRI test (out of five test questions). They show symptoms or behavior of withdrawing from reading situations and commit multiple types of errors in oral reading.

What is troubling, in my view, is that the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) test is hardly a robust test and tends to score in favor of even poor readers. The DepEd has resisted using international test instruments based on the argument of cultural soundness (or lack thereof on the part of international tests with regard Philippine culture). The tendency to go with an “easier” test, however, defeats the purpose of measuring results.

If Metro Manila shows a higher literacy level than the rest of the country but low levels of reading competence, one can only expect even lower reading scores in other regions of the country with less endowments and educational facilities than the National Capital Region.

Here then is the crux of the problem: With poor reading comes poor learning.

In high school, science and math learning require a degree of reading ability since much of what is learned is actually self-taught. The classroom experience in science is expected to focus on experimentation. Learning basic facts and theory in science is supposed to be read as preparation for this. Since Filipino schoolchildren have shown low levels of reading, science and math proficiency are similarly poor because much of what is learned is not self-driven or internalized; rather, it is passed from teacher to student in the old-school rote learning fashion. This largely explains why so few high-school graduates are equipped for university-level science and the subsequent lack of a technical/technology culture among our working population. Without such, the manufacturing and technical sector will continue to be weak in this country — explaining to a large extent our lack of competitiveness in the global economy.

Poor reading is also a reflection of poor language proficiency, whether this be in English or in the national language. One sees this immediately in the language proficiency of public school teachers.

In 2003, responding to the reality that English language proficiency was sorely lacking or being lost among Filipinos of all ages, then Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus embarked on a nationwide campaign to raise the language proficiency of public school teachers beginning with high school teachers.

Starting with over 53,000 secondary teachers teaching English, science and math — languages that require a good degree of English communication skills — a Self-Assessment Test in English (SATE) was administered to determine the proficiency level of these teachers. Only one-fifth (19 percent) passed with a score of at least 75 percent correct. While the vast majority were able to answer more than 50 percent of the test questions correctly (65 percent), close to one-fifth were obviously deficient in English and should not have been teaching subjects that require a degree of English communication skills in reading and writing. (In education scoring, a mark of 75 percent or more constitutes “mastery.” A grade between 50 percent and 75 percent is considered “nearing mastery.” A grade below 50 percent is a measure of “no mastery.”)

THE KEY to learning is better reading skills. But this reading skill need not be confined to English only. The ability to read and write in any language or dialect is what is important. From this “life-long learning” or “survival” skill, one can develop the ability to “learn for life.” These are important elements for building individual competence and achievement that can be translated in the future into a competitive workforce.

Note, however, that the issue of English-language skill in the workplace is another issue altogether. At least it should be, but it often gets entangled with our plans on what to teach in our schools. We are concerned by the decline in English proficiency of our workers. But take note that Japanese, as well as Korean, Thai, and even Malaysian workers, are not required to speak in English on the factory floor. They communicate in their own native languages and they do so with competence.

The English language becomes important when workers are forced to work in situations where supervisors and managers are foreign or the work system is adapted from abroad. English then becomes the intermediate language of reference and a necessary element of communication. Because many Filipino workers are forced to work in such situations either in-country or abroad, English proficiency becomes a critical factor. But because the formal part of the language is stressed at so young an age when learning is still beginning, the ability to learn more science and math content is sacrificed. This is, in large part, why productivity among Filipino workers and managers suffers and why competitiveness, as a country trait, is low.

This bears repeating: Grades 1 to 3 are critical in the child’s learning cycle (assuming no preschooling for most public schoolchildren.) At this age, the fundamentals for literacy have to be established and the start of a reading habit developed.

SHOULD WE despair? Not yet — because while the vast majority of our public schools struggle to manage deficiencies and shortages in the system, there are diamonds in the rough sprinkled throughout that provide hope for all.

“Models-of-excellence” (MOE) schools were born out of a program called “Books for the Barrios” set up by a former Subic-based couple, Nancy and Dan Harrington, over 15 years ago. The Harringtons collected books from U.S. families, schools, and publishers (e.g. publishing overruns) and had these shipped to Philippine elementary schools to set up libraries and reading programs. In later years, Professor Isagani Cruz of Far Eastern University (and formerly De La Salle University) developed a reading program for them that focused on “words of the day” from Grades 1 to 6 to help hone a vocabulary set that would equip very young children to read.

In Agusan del Sur, Amy Ronquillo, the dynamic young principal of Pisaan Elementary School, took a poorly-performing school and transformed it into an MOE school where children are able to read well within the first year of their formal schooling. The result has led to a transformation of the school with parent involvement so high that what was once a school with a high dropout rate is now overcrowded, as parents compete to get their kids enrolled there.

In Negros Occidental, ESKAN or Eskwelahan sang Katawhan Negros (literally “school for the people”) set up district-level reading programs to improve on the achievement of pupils in schools in each of the towns. First started in the sixth-class towns of San Enrique and Toboso, the program has expanded to other towns in the province (E.B. Magalona, Murcia, La Castellana, Moises Padilla, and Silay) before being exported to the neighboring province of Iloilo (Concepcion and Ajuy).

Poor school performance was traced to a dearth of student-friendly instructional materials in most schools; inadequate skills and formal mechanisms for teachers to handle children with learning difficulties (chief among these, poor reading); and the minimal participation of the local community (i.e. parents) in local school matters.

To address these deficiencies, Grade 1 teachers in participating schools went through a 15-day rigid training on reading; para-teachers were recruited and trained to handle pupils with reading difficulties; and a pool of local trainers from DepEd developed instructional materials now being used by all Grade 1 pupils in schools in all ESKAN municipalities. The net effect: a decline in the number of slow and nonreaders in schools in all these municipalities, even within months of implementation.

Then there is the Sa Aklat Sisikat (SAS) Foundation whose program began in the Makati schools division before branching out to other cities and provinces. To date, SAS has set up reading programs for over 125,000 Grade 4 children in 525 public elementary schools. The program targets Grade 4 because it does not really teach reading; rather, it works on a school age group that already knows how to read in order to build a reading habit.

READING PROGRAMS, in fact, have been set up in all school divisions by both public and private groups. But in order to develop a reading habit, schoolchildren need books that tell stories in an interesting manner while developing a broader vocabulary. Textbooks, which are more lesson-oriented, lack the imagination that children need to develop the reading habit.

The problem of providing libraries of reading books in public schools becomes a question of logistics and the lack of resources. To provide reading books for over 37,000 public elementary schools becomes prohibitive in terms of cost. As an operating strategy to get around this constraint, the DepEd embarked on a program to build library hubs in each of the 186 school divisions.

These hubs are, in effect, warehouses of reading books in pre-packed book bins lent to schools within a given division on a wholesale basis. Teachers then lend out the books from the bins to children in their classes and encourage each pupil to read at least one book per week. After a 30-day borrowing period, schools return book bins and are eligible to borrow other book bins. Each library hub is stocked with anywhere from 25,000-50,000 reading books. Thus, while it is costly to build tens of thousands of school libraries with a small number of books, each school within a library hub area can have access to tens of thousands of books in a schoolyear even if it does not have a school library.

By early 2007, DepEd had set up 35 library hubs throughout the country servicing as many as 3,000 schools. In the plans are a total target of 300 library hubs, with larger school divisions getting as many as three to four hubs to service the hundreds of schools within their jurisdiction.

The DepEd, however, has been ambivalent whether this is the right strategy or not. Traditional administrators remain biased toward building school-based libraries, ignoring the high cost of such a policy. The success of the Library Hub program today, despite providing only 10 percent of the overall target, can be attributed to the sole staff working on the project: a young, energetic individual named Beverly Gonda. Working principally with local government units to set up library hubs under the sponsorship of the local school boards, Gonda has made library books available to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren through this infrastructure-building program.

With people like Gonda and Ronquillo, and organizations like Sa Aklat Sisikat and ESKAN, along with the rest of the MOE movers and shakers, there is hope for quality education outcomes. Clearly, however, a system-wide approach to literacy, reading, and learning has to be implemented if we are to claim true literacy and become a nation of readers.


You learn something every day if you pay attention. – Ray LeBlond


If my pupils and their parents could read my blog…Might as well have this quote by Mr. LeBlond printed and posted in our classroom.

Well, as a teacher, I’m not giving up on my pupils. I hope they won’t give up on themselves.

Travails of a Grade Three Teacher…and Grade Level Chairman…and All-Around Help… : ( :)

I been out of this universe for months!

I have been planning to resume my blog since June, but since I was adjusting to my additional responsibility, I couldn’t start writing right away.

Four months into my stint as grade three chairman, I could say that I’m a work in progress. (yabang no?)

Being a classroom teacher/class adviser is tough, what more if you are the grade three chairman?

You deal with 50+ students. You deal with a principal, assistant to the principal, to the other 48 colleagues, not to mention to six fellow grade level teachers.

We are now reviewing NAT (National Achievement Test) with the students, dealing with the slow and non readers in English (thru remedial program), dealing with the paper works demanded from the superiors in school, division level and regional level, and…oh, yes! Journalism! I also have Journalism to deal with. I, together with my co-teacher and SPA, train and supervise our young campus journalists – from grammar to actual news gathering and writing articles, to hopefully putting up our maiden school paper issue. (Fingers crossed)

As a grade level chair, I have to inform my fellow teachers regarding memos from the Division and NCR, reminder from our principal, etc, etc… The last two months were my struggling, tiring moments because I had to contend / argue with their stubbornness and egos over deadlines, memo, reminders, and other problems confronting our learners. I got to learn more of my colleagues because of that. And I learned that it’s no picnic being the leader.

As a class adviser, since being the Grade Level chairman, I also handle the highest section in the level. Grade Three Sincerity. One word to describe them? NOISY!

I also teach sections four, five and six. I teach English, Filipino, Sibika and Character Education.Imagex

I’m glad I’m given the opportunity to teach the highest section, though it’s not a homogenous batch. A sprinkle of mischiefs were in my class (they came from the lowest section, they were included in the master list so as to disperse (my word) these mischievous kids throughout all six sections…great! The upside is that in my own class, I could deal with them, give them more attention come class remedial time. In the real remedial class, they are still there, hopefully, they would be able to learn faster and better than the rest (not that I only wished my own pupils to succeed).

I always wish every day’s a better day for me and my pupils and their family. Even at my age, I’m still optimistic, and an idealist.

I have a dream that my pupils someday will be better citizens of this country and the world.

That is the dream of a Grade Three teacher, a Grade Level Chairman, and All-Around Help.

My Personal Essay

(this was the essay I submitted to the Ateneo Graduate School last year as a requirement for admission. After hurdling the exam, I made it, though, on probation. Right now, I’m on leave from the university)

When I joined the public school in 2010, I gave myself two years to familiarize myself with the system.  I have almost nine years experience teaching in the private school, and a brief stint with the Koreans, young and old.  I suffered from “culture shock” like other teachers who came from private school.  But then from my first year with public school, I have come to terms with the system.  As part of the system, I have to take the part of the facilitator, not the center of the instruction.  Seeing these impressionable, eager faces of my pupils whenever they discover or learn something from our activities, I resolve to enter graduate school this year.

Why Graduate school? Through a Masteral program, I aim to make myself a better teacher, armed with new insights and strategies to make learning more interesting and fun for my pupils. And with the specialization in Basic Education Teaching program, I plan to explore the issues on the educational system, and the new K To 12 Basic Education Curriculum to be implemented beginning school year 2012-2013.  I was drawn to the Basic Education Teaching program because it is only offered in Ateneo.  It would be interesting if I take a different specialization from my fellow teachers who are taking Masteral program in Educational Management.

I was like any other young girls who pretended as teachers in their play with their playmates as students.  Becoming a teacher has been my dream, and fulfilling my mother’s dream of being one is another.   I also was inspired by my former teachers in elementary, secondary and tertiary schools.   My undergraduate course prepares students to be college teachers but I prefer to work with smaller children.  Being a product of public school system, I am grateful for molding me into an educator myself.   It is deemed proper to “give back” by teaching in the elementary school.

I am always in awe of the sad state of our country’s educational system. At the outset, it seems perfect.  But reality checks come enrollment time, where as many as 50 pupils occupy a room meant for 35 pupils; and in the duration of the school year where parents (there are almost half of them) wouldn’t bother attending meetings/distribution of report cards as they are busy working outside their homes; erratic attendance of pupils due to numerous reasons – no “baon” as their parents wouldn’t allow them to attend school if they don’t have any; health reasons (parent or pupil); and a lot more.  The issues may be daunting, but I’m still hopeful.

I believe that understanding the system and devising strategies and methods for more meaningful and productive learning are essential for my academic and professional growth.  And since teachers are no stranger to challenges, I believe that the Ateneo Graduate School can open a lot of opportunities for me to seek ways to make me more empowered.   What it can offer me is a perspective that is “grounded on sound pedagogical theories and on the Jesuit tradition of intellectual excellence and service for others”.


May 3, 2012

To Promote or Demote – a Teacher’s Dilemma

It’s 18E time again…for nonteachers like some of you, you assume that this is one form we teachers fill up at this time of the year…Yes, this is a form where we write down the names of our pupils who are to be promoted or retained.

For the past three school year, I have and still am faced with questions and more questions, whenever I work on my 18E. I have pondered long and hard on who will be promoted or retained, and the names, faces, and circumstances involving them (my pupils) kept popping back in my mind. And it applies to pupils whose academic performance for the  school year are somewhat anemic and uninspiring to me. What I do is to exchange notes with my fellow teachers, but at the end of the day, it’s still up to me to decide whether to write “PROMOTED” or “RETAINED”. Hah! Tough decision…

This comes to mind an essay I read (actually, a reading assigned to my co-teacher in her graduate study weekly reaction paper) about issues confronting teachers… teaching issues that must be handled professionally and ethically.

Article VIII: The Teachers and Learners

Section 1. A teacher has a right and duty to determine the academic marks and the promotions of learners in the subject or grades he handles, provided that such determination shall be in accordance with generally accepted procedures of evaluation and measurement. In case of any complaint, teachers concerned shall immediately take appropriate actions, observing due process.  (Code of Ethics for Teachers)

 We face many ethical issues in our daily lives. However, our understanding of ethical issues is complicated. The following explanations of Strike help us to understand the nature of ethical issues.

    • First, ethical issues concern questions of right and wrong, our duties, obligations, rights, and responsibilities. Ethical discourse is characterized by a unique vocabulary that commonly includes such words as ought and should, fair and unfair.
    • Second, ethical questions may not be settled by an appeal to facts alone. In other words, ethical claims cannot be true or false in the same way that facts are. We do not decide whether ethical claims are true or false.
    • Third, ethical claims should be distinguished from values, especially appraisals or preferences. Values concern what we like or what we believe to be good and since values are a matter of our free choice there is nothing right, wrong or obligatory about them. (Strike)

Back to my consultation with my co-teachers. “How about N? Must I retain him? I’m thinking on enroling him at ALS.” (ALS-Alternative Learning System) “Nakakabasa na ba si N?” “Syllable reader pa rin. Absenero kasi e.” (Can N read better?” “He’s still a syllable reader. He’s an habitual absentee.” “Not in ALS. Di siya pwede.” (He doesn’t fit there.) “Ipromote mo na lang. Matanda na siya…” (Promote him. He’s old enough…) “Kaya nga gusto ko siyang ipa-ALS. He’s turning twelve.” (That’s why I want him to be in ALS) “Syllable reader siya. Dapat marunong nang magbasa talaga.” (He’s a syllable reader. He should have been a good reader) The exchange of comments continue… Hay!

If I promote him, his grade four teachers would get back at me and chide me for promoting him. If I retain him, he might lose interest in schooling and give it up altogether. See the picture?

The problem with these kids nowadays is that even they lack guidance and supervision from their parents or relatives. Like N. He’s the youngest of ten children, his mother a street sweeper, his father at sick bed. He prefers staying out late at night, nangangalakal (scavenging) and playing computer with his friends. So when he’s at school, he sleeps in class. There are times I lose temper when he starts dozing off to La-la land. As I mentioned earlier, he’s an habitual absentee. With the situation like that, do you expect him to do well academically?

There are times I would deliver a sermon to my students about the importance of getting an education. While it is true, poverty stares at them everyday, pangangalakal is not an option. They just have to be more focused in their studies – reading, writing, and more reading.

I also blame their parents for not being able to guide them, follow up on their school work. But they are out there – eking out a living to feed their children. And that’s what makes me sadder.

As the deadline for submission of our 18E draws nearer, I’m still deliberating whether I write “PROMOTE” or “RETAINED” on the column opposite their names…

Section 2. A teacher shall recognize that the interest and welfare of learners are of first and foremost concern, and shall deal justifiably and impartially with each of them.Section 3. Under no circumstance shall a teacher be prejudiced or discriminate against a learner.

Well, I have to do what I have to do. Bahala na si Batman.

Dining the Viking Way!

This time, I’m diverting from my usual education-related rants and raves.  I would like to share my happy and hearty experience at one of the most popular buffet restaurant in the Metro…Vikings! (Vikings: A Feast from the Sea)


I love food. I love to eat. (And it shows…hehehe) But I haven’t experienced buffet style eating, well, except for Tramway, a well-known buffet resto that’s good on your pocket, but just ordinary on your palate. Prior to my Vikings experience, I’m not into buffet, knowing that eating there would bore a hole in my pocket. But thanks to my sister, I was on my way to Vikings. Vikings by the way has two branches, @MOA and @SM Marikina. Since there was a promo on FB by Vikings SM Marikina that offered 20% discount for visitors until November 15 (I think they opened SM Marikina’s branch mid-October) and made reservations through their FB Wall. So during the All Souls’ Day, November 2, me, my sister and my brother trooped to Vikings. Sister gave me Vikings 101, tips on how to survive the buffet experience.

   First platter. One piece here, another there. I’m partial to meat that’s why I enjoy my first. Another platter, please!

Another platter of cholesterol-inducing goodies!

This time I had Angus steak and lamb…yummy! But by then, my tummy was having trouble processing them (hahaha)

For dessert, I had these. To keep up with the occassion, they had their sweet attractions attuned to Halloween.

I like the lobby, the outer dining area (Those are for walk-ins; those who made reservations were in the separate dining area, I guess for privacy, especially for bigger groups like family or barkada or office mates), the abundance of goodies from the Japanese, Chinese, seafood, pasta, local food, drinks, desserts…Two thumbs up! The food are superb! My most favorite is the Japanese. I didn’t try seafood because I’m allergic to it, except for fish.


The next time you go on a food trip with family or friends, try Vikings. Check out their website or FB page.

“In New Orleans, gluttony is a way of life.”


Critical Thinking on the Critical State of Philippine Education

Critical Thinking on Critical Theory


                When a group of my classmates in ED203 reported on CRITICAL THEORY, I admit I was intrigued with the new philosophy (theory?) since it focused on critiquing the other “isms” like Essentialism in particular, since these behavioral models of instructions are based on capitalist ”efficiency” factory that churns out workers (students/graduates) and produce undesirable results. 

                This brought to mind the Philippine Education Act of 1982, now on its 30th year, still in effect and agonizing the youth of this country. 

This Special Report on education is reprinted from the latest issue of Development and Cooperation (D+C), an international development magazine funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development


Top tier schools and diploma mills

By Alan C. Robles

It is a cruel paradox that a college education helps to escape ­poverty, but Filipinos have to be rich to afford one. Furthermore, those who do manage to go to college run the risk that the education they pay for may turn out to be sub-standard or defective.

Critics say the root of the problem is that Philippines’ system of higher educationfollows the American model. Most universities and colleges are private and profit-driven. JC Tejano, the national spokesperson of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), says: “All schools want to do is earn money.” In the SCAP’s view, they do far too little to ensure quality.

According to government data, there are 2,247 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines, and 88?% of them are private colleges and universities. Of the country’s 2.9 million higher education students, 1.74 million (60?%) are enrolled in private schools. Though they are smaller in number, public HEIs tend to be crowded, underfunded and overstretched.

Education cost issues

The government’s Council on Higher Education (CHED) currently estimates that, on the average, a student in a private school will pay 237,600 pesos (€4,200) for a four year course. On average, however, public schools, are not much cheaper. The CHED reckons that tuition for a complete four-year course will cost 233,600 pesos.

At a top tier university, however, the costs will amount to 400,000 pesos. The best and most expensive schools are in the private sector – but that is equally true for the worst and cheapest ones.

Compared with what a typical Filipino household earns, the costs of higher education are stiff. According to the official Philippines’ 2009 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, the average family’s annual income is a mere 206,000 pesos. The survey notes that for the families in the bottom 30?% the average is only 62,000 pesos.

HEIs tend to increase tuition every year. In the Philippines, college subjects are taught in small “units”. In 2005, according to the online magazine Bulatlat, the average cost per unit was more than 330 pesos. By 2011, the average tuition per unit had risen to more than 500 pesos.

Tuition isn’t the only financial worry of college students of course. The CHED figures do not include board, lodging, transportation and other expenses. These are not trifling outlays. For example, professors tell stories of students skipping classes because they cannot pay for transportation to go to school; there have also been reports of students who can’t focus because they’re weak from not having eaten properly.(College students are not alone in that situation. Even students in public elementary and high schools miss school because they miss breakfast.. – italics mine)

Aggravating matters, HEIs are creative in devising ways of padding their bills. Among other things, they levy fees for “laboratories”, “energy” and “development”. Last year, Antonio Pascua Jr., an official of the youth group Anakbayan, claimed one school was charging a “restricted fee”, the purpose of which was not clear to students. He says this is “completely baffling”.

Patricia Licuanan, the CHED chairperson, wants “all HEIs to carefully study their tuition and fee increases each year”. On behalf of the government, she insists that every HEI should “spend wisely and judiciously in order to lessen the costs to its most important stakeholders – its students”.

The sad truth, however, is that many students discover at some point or another that they are no longer able to afford tuition and drop out of the HEI they have been attending. They either stop studying altogether or transfer to a cheaper HEI. The new schools are worse, of course, but they are also in the habit of increasing fees.

In 2005, the Bulatlat report stated the dropout rate was as high as 73?%. Today, student leader Tejano demands a freeze on tuition and other fees. His organisation wants the burden on ordinary people to decrease. It also wants to ensure that more youngsters get a good education.

Private HEIs respond by saying they have to raise tuition fees or go bankrupt. CHED’s Licuana agrees and says that “quality education has a price”. She points out costs for faculty salaries, laboratories, equipment et cetera. Therefore, she argues, tuition hikes are “necessary”. At the same time she wants them to be “justified, reasonable and transparent”.

Quality concerns

Apart from the cost of education there is also the matter of quality. Among the private HEIs, there is a handful of top tier universities. Their graduates can probably compete with those of other elite schools around the world. Most other private-sector HEIs, however, basically seem to seek profits at the expense of substance.

A university faculty member, who asks not to be identified, says: “Some of them shouldn’t even be schools at all – there’s a proliferation of HEIs which are not qualified.” This educator speaks of fly-by-night operations” and “diploma mills”. While some do not charge high tuition, their quality is below standard.

Other teachers, who decline to be identified, tell disturbing stories too. One school, for instance, does not stock books in its library because its president argues that books are obsolete and everything can be downloaded from the Internet. A few semesters ago, another HEI was still using a textbook on international studies dated 1976. The world has changed since. 1976 was one year after the Vietnam War, 13 years before the fall of the Berlin wall and 25 years before September 11.

Another professor tells of a school that refuses to give faculty members money for photocopying exam papers. They either have to pay for copying themselves or write everything out on a blackboard.

The government of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is not blind to the problem of low standards in higher education. In fact, it has ambitious reform plans for the education sector. They include adding extra years to primary and secondary schooling (see K+12 below).

There is indeed room for improvement, as CHED Chairperson Licuanan says: “The Aquino administration inherited a chaotic higher education system.” In her view it is marked by too many higher-education institutions and programmes, a job-skills mismatch, oversubscribed and undersubscribed programmes, deteriorating quality and limited access to quality higher education.

For these reasons, the CHED is pursuing a Higher Education Reform Agenda. Among other things, it aims to improve standards and expand access.

At the same time, the commission’s political clout is being tested at the ground level. For some time, it has been trying to close down a Manila school called the International Academy of Management and Economics. This school uses the acronym IAME, which sounds a bit like the vastly more prestigious Asian Institute of Management (AIM). The CHED accuses the IAME of “gross and serious violations, continued defiance and failure to comply with existing laws, rules and regulations”. Nonetheless, IAME is still in business. It claims to have close ties to President Aquino himself.

Shady schools, however, are not the only challenge. Because secondary education tends to be poor in the Philippines, HEIs take off from a rather low level. The writer and scholar Isagani Cruz, who is a visiting fellow at Oxford University and has taught at various top-tier HEIs in the Philippines, asserts that first year college in the Philippines is really only equivalent to high school in other countries in academic terms.

All these issues prevent education from effectively contributing to economic growth and national development. The issue is well understood. Bill Luz of the National Competitiveness Council states: “Many in the business community have complained about our state of education. Indeed in global competitive indices, we have been rated poorly in terms of quality of basic education, quality of science and math education.” He points out that cooperation between industry and academia must improve.

Indeed, many graduates lack the kind of skills and knowledge that employers expect of professionals. “A large number of college graduates are taking low productivity jobs,” was the assessment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in a country study of the Philippines in 2007. In the same document, the ADB bemoaned a “scarcity of skilled workers in industries such as information technology and business process outsourcing”.

Earlier this year, the World Bank made basically the same point about the Philippines in a report on higher education in Asia. It argued that there was a disconnect between the education system, government programmes and private sector needs. Unsurprisingly, the report recommended improving the quality of higher education in order to boost the professional competence of graduates.


One way the administration of President Noynoy Aquino wants to improve higher education is by intervening farther upstream. Primary and secondary schools are not doing enough to prepare Filipinos for college. So far, most Filipinos spend ten years in elementary and high school. The government is implementing what it calls the “K+12” programme to add two years of schooling (“K” stands for “kindergarten”).

According to math professor Queena Lee-Chua, the idea is to “protect the rights of Filipino children who, at 18, are legally and emotionally still kids, unprepared for work or university”. She says programme aims “to do away with college remedial classes, by improving the quality of high-school instruction”. One year of pre-school kindergarten will lay the base, followed by six years of elementary school (grades one to six), four years of junior high school (grades seven to 10), and two years of senior high school (grades 11 to 12).“

The programme is controversial. Some critics argue public education is suffering from issues such as teacher incompetence, corruption, insufficient funding and debates over what language to use. They say that K+12 does not address these problems.

Parents, on the other hand, worry about the added costs of two more years of school. As basic education is free in public schools, the government’s approach does not put as much stress on parents’ budgets as it would be expanding college classes. There has also been confusion about implementation, with each school given discretion on how and when to add the years. (ar)

Unless this vicious cycle of the sorry state of Philippine education continues, The government MUST address the problems NOW. Repel Philippine Education Act of 1982! 

Existentialism in Education

Existentialism, for me, is an individualistic philosophy, It veers away from conformity, from the might of the many.  It allows self-introspection into one’s beliefs and choices.  I think I am employing this approach to my pupils, especially when I am asking them to decide on how to go about their inattentiveness to our lessons. Or if a pupil doesn’t participate in an activity, I would engage him/her to an open-minded discussion on how he/she learns best from me and from her and from her other subject teachers. This way, he/she becomes open with me about his/her preferred way to learn (take for instance, one of my pupils doesn’t finish the writing task in a day and she has very bad handwriting and easily gets distracted…she doesn’t linger in her task. She even finds way to talk to others…so with this dialog I have with her helps me too to know her preferences…though my patience is sometimes drying up – 

I don’t want to what to do with her. (No labeling please!)

…Wait! What happens after our dialog? This particular girl goes back to her note taking… until the bell rings signalling the end of classes.

I think we should concentrate both on personal growth and on society. I believe in learning about society and our place in it so that we can change what needs improvement for the sake of progress and the individual. The individual can help change society by first becoming good and learning about moral behavior. Respect and tolerance is the first step in that direction. A teacher’s caring and nurturing attitude will aid students as they learn to respect and tolerate each other.