PISA and the futureof Philippine education

Published December 14, 2019, 12:19 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid
Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

After some setbacks, such as the onslaught of Typhoon Tisoy, the country finally scored some major victories. In the Southeast Asian Games, Team Philippines won its second overall championship (the first was in 2005), and now with 149 gold, 117 silver, and 121 bronze, and some individual triumphs as well. Then come the announcement by Vatican that our Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has just been appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, one of the nine offices which function as the Pope’s cabinet. A Vatican analyst says that he could be a possible successor as this position is considered second in importance. Then there is the UN’s Environment award to Joan Carling for her exceptional performance. Significant, since this highest award in environment is given to one who was once suspected of being a Communist.

But the recent report on our dismal performance in the 2018 Student Assessment or PISA dampened our spirits. PISA is the world’s premier yardstick for evaluating the quality, equity, and efficiency of school systems. The assessment covered reading, mathematics, and science with focus on reading literacy and evaluation of students’ global competence which is the ability to understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others. Functional literacy was also an optional assessment.

The framework recognizes that reading literacy skills evolve and that the skills today are different from those of 20 years ago in terms of shift in emphasis from “collection and memorization of information to whether the student has the competencies needed to communicate, share, and use information to solve complex problems, on being able to adapt, innovate, and respond to new demands and changes, in being able to marshal and expand the power of technology to create new knowledge.” The ability to locate, access, understand, and reflect on all kinds of information is essential for individuals to participate fully in our knowledge-based society. It involves finding, selecting, interpreting, integrating, and evaluating information.

As we move from print to computer screens, to smartphones, structures and formats of texts have changed; thus, readers must develop new cognitive strategies and clearer goals, In short, “reading is understanding, using, evaluating, reflecting, and relating information within the text and outside the texts.”

The students is therefore asked about their (1) comprehension – locating information, generating inference; (2) synthesis and integration of multiple texts; (3) evaluating web search results; (4) corroborating information across multiple texts. In addition to answering the questions, he is also asked to determine the author’s point of view.”

We should not be surprised why our 15-year-olds (7th grade level) fared poorly. Even as the objectives of K-12 appear to support the framework, there was little time to implement the objectives, especially in the training of teachers, and the use of digital technology.

It appears that while we recognize the importance of integrating critical thinking skills and similar competencies such as skills in utilizing information for problem-solving, negotiation and life skills, etc., there are many other factors that hindered us from achieving these objectives. Among the problems besides inadequacy in teacher-training and lack of learning resources are poor nutrition, poverty, and failure of existing policies to prioritize the importance of curricular
and system reforms.

Dr. Ricardo Ma. Nolasco, lead proponent of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE), reports that although a law had been created requiring its full implementation, its performance leaves much to be desired.

MTBMLE requires teaching all subjects in grades one to three using the first language of the student. It is believed that a student learns faster and is more motivated to study if taught in his or her first language. Thus, supporters
note that with more support in the implementation of the law which would provide more learning resources and trained teachers for multilingual education, we would be able to produce human resources who are more analytical,
creative, and innovative.

The message from the PISA test outcomes is clear: If we want to change the present course, we must give priority
to education, not only in terms of budget allocation. Follow-up in terms of recruitment and training of teachers,
incentives that would encourage some of our best and brightest to enter the teaching profession, recruitment of media and information literacy as well as knowledge management specialists as curriculum planners, and providing full support for the implementation of Mother-Tongue-Based Multilingual Education.

It is perhaps time to create a Task Force that will coordinate these efforts. And get ready for PISA 2020. This time, we should gear ourselves with the political will and determination to move up. And that henceforth, we shall not only be known as the cradle of entertainers, athletes, and beauty queens, but as an enviable fount of thought leaders who would take the lead in shaping the region’s human resources.

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