It was with joy that I looked at the assessment results of the children from Marawi. They were able to answer six out of 10 questions correctly in English and Mathematics. I had such unrealistic expectations that the children will perform much poorly in an assessment exercise that evaluated their learning performance during the pandemic. They had no access to resources from the internet and were purely reliant on learning modules. Their performance caught me by surprise. Our glass is more than half-full.
The children from South Upi did not disappoint likewise. I was happy to see that their performance was 60% on the average. These children are exposed to great difficulties that are unknown to students from urban centers. There is the constant fear of terrorism. Last January, the town’s mayor and local leaders survived an ambush by armed men. And yet, the children missed only four questions out of 10.
The truth should not hurt. It enables us to look at reality and see our strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging what is good and bad in us is the beginning of learning. It enables us to see what needs to be done so that things can be better. We cannot fix anything until we admit that there is a problem. Denial powers the creation of our own version of reality and prevents us from moving on.
Mayor Rex Gachalian had a big smile in finding out that the children from Valenzuela mastered eight out of 10 learning competencies even during the pandemic. He was truly happy to realize a positive ROI from their investments. Their Science High School was turned into a TV station where teachers taught lessons for the day. His smile did not disappear to find out that grade 5 students did not do as well. It beguiled him that scores dipped when students reached grade 5. Like a child, he thought that he was facing a mystery that ought to be solved. What were their difficulties? How can they be helped? The Mayor’s theme for this year is “No child should be left behind.” And this is the beginning of better days for their students.
It is wishful thinking that Mayor Rex’ attitude could be shared by our leaders and our teachers. There were test scores that we could not use for assessment. It was hard to believe an average score of 90% to 95%. Some of the concepts especially in Mathematics were truly difficult. I had to review concepts of multiples and how to factor numbers. It was normal to expect that given a set of numbers, grade 5 students would find it difficult to estimate their Greatest Common Factor (GCF).
Mayor Carlo of Vigan was also in full smile in knowing that the students from Vegan scored 72% on the average. That is not bad considering the absence of face to face learning. And so did Mayor Francis from Bacnotan, La Union, Mayor Steph Eriguel from Agoo, and Mayor Balgos from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya. We all agreed that we need to work towards developing simpler and creative learning experiences for children. Mayor Steph has already established a system for village mentoring.
It was also a revelation that students from the North and from Mindanao performed better in Math than in Filipino. This is quite understandable because Filipino is not their Mother tongue. The children from Marawi were proficient in solving problems involving money—which indicates that they are from a culture of good traders. We can never fool a Muslim trader selling watch and pearls be it in Quiapo or in Greenhills. I celebrated the children’s ability to say words by blending their sounds. Their waterloo remains in using contextual clues to understand the meaning of new words. And yes, the international assessments reflect reality. Our children need help in interpreting stories and communicating their ideas in correct sentences where the subject and the predicate are in perfect agreement.
For other communities that did not see the importance of testing, it is sad to note they have no means of finding out how their children performed and how they can be helped. They will just have anecdotes and stories without any means of finding out which one is true and which ones are perceptions.
And for those communities which were too afraid to accept and report what is true, they will be forever living in a world of their own imagination and denying themselves and their children the opportunity to become better.
I find the attitude of Mayor Banias from Concepcion Iloilo as noteworthy and worth emulating. When he read the World Bank’s summary of how poorly Filipino students performed in international assessments, he said:
“Our students are Tik tok proficient but not in Math and English. Our local government and School Governing Councils will confront this reality. We know the problem and we are not denying it”.
This is the beginning of wisdom.
The truth should not hurt.