By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY D. LINA
The jolting news that the Philippines ranked lowest in reading literacy among 79 countries, and second to lowest in mathematics and science, should be enough to shake all appropriate government agencies and learning institutions into action towards improving our educational system.
But more than just that, the results of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed last week ought to even prompt all stakeholders to reflect on and reexamine our learning processes, with the end goal of making Filipino children “learn how to learn” so they could cope better with the challenges of an ever-changing modern world.
“In a world that rewards individuals increasingly not just for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know, PISA goes beyond assessing whether students can reproduce what they have learned in school,” according to a PISA statement in its website.
Conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA underscores the value of critical thinking: “To do well in PISA, students have to be able to extrapolate from what they know, think across the boundaries of subject-matter disciplines, apply their knowledge creatively in novel situations and demonstrate effective learning strategies.”
For educators, a PISA statement offers invaluable advice: “If all we do is teach our children what we know, they might remember enough to follow in our footsteps; but if they learn how to learn, and are able to think for themselves, and work with others, they can go anywhere they want.”
And for those who have misgivings on the way PISA is conducted, the OECD has this to say: “Some people argued that the PISA tests are unfair, because they may confront students with problems they have not encountered in school. But then life is unfair, because the real test in life is not whether we can remember what we learned at school, but whether we will be able to solve problems that we can’t possibly anticipate today.”
The PISA results showed that 15-year-old Filipino students got a mean score of 340 points in overall reading literacy, much lower than the OECD average of 487 points. The score in mathematics was 353 points and it was 357 points in science.
Both scores are way below the OECD average of 489 points.
While the results were quite shocking for many, others were not surprised because of previous data pointing to the supposedly poor quality of education in the country. In 2014, a study of the Philippine Business for Education (PBED) revealed that a general aptitude test administered among college freshmen who were mostly graduates of public schools “found that only 3 percent were ready for college.”
“Most were entering college with only Grade IV to V reading and math competencies. Overall mean percentage score of fourth year high school students in DepEd’s 2011-2012 National Achievement Tests was 48.9, when the goal was a score of 75. The scores were 46.37 and 40.53 for mathematics and science, respectively. These are all evidence of a weak basic education system,” PBED said.
More dismal results also showed in succeeding National Achievement Tests (NAT). “In 2018, the national mean percentage score among Grade 6 pupils was only 37.44, the lowest in NAT history. This was a far cry from the 70.88 score in 2015, which then plummeted to 42.03 in 2016 and 39.95 in 2017. Grade 10 scores suffered a similar downward trend, from 53.77 in 2014 to 44.08 in 2017, only minimally inching upward to 44.59 in 2018,” a published report said.
PBED Executive Director Lovelaine Basillote, who has been studio guest in my DZMM teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan (8 to 9 a.m. Sundays), also pointed to the low proficiency of some teachers on what they’re supposed to teach and the dismal results of Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). She said that a PBED study showed that since 2009, the passing rate of teachers averaged only 31 percent, way below government’s 53 percent target passing rate, and “behind the average passing rate of those who took up medicine, the sciences, maritime, engineering, accountancy and agriculture.”
And it has been worsening. In the LET of March 2019, passers consisted of only 27.28 percent of elementary teacher examinees and 25.95 percent of secondary teacher examinees.
While teaching should always remain among the noblest professions, its luster appears to have dimmed with a prevailing mindset that undermines what ought to be a prestigious career. “Pag mahina, mag titser na lang (If one cannot excel, just be a teacher)” was how many view the teaching profession now, Basillote lamented.
Jose Yulo Jr., a multi-awarded pillar of the business community who heads the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, once said in my teleradyo program that our educational system should seek out the best teachers and students to be developed to their full potential. He stressed that adequate nutrition for Filipino schoolchildren must be prioritized, “lest our educational system will only be bringing up a country of idiots.”
Yulo’s warning is backed by the 2016 Global Nutrition Report which revealed the Philippines is among those with the highest wasting and stunting prevalence, the consequences of inadequate nutrition. Of a total of 130 countries ranked lowest to highest on wasting prevalence, our country was ranked 93rd at 7.9 % prevalence.
So much needs to be done to drastically improve our educational system. And learning from the PISA revelations could help a lot.
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