Editorial: Red flags in basic education

NO LESS than Education Secretary Leonor Briones had to come out with a statement regarding the dismal performance of takers of the November 2017 Alternative Learning System (ALS) Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test, where it was noted that the A&E test passers for elementary were only 16.5 percent while the previous year had a 38 percent passing rate. It was even more pitiful for Junior High School where the passing rate was 15.6 percent from 57 percent the previous year.

True, there are reasons for the major drop and thus the adjustment of the passing rate of 75 percent to 60 percent. As Briones' statement said, one of the reasons was that the math and science tests were written in English when it was in Pilipino the year before. One other reason was that "the time gap between the time of completion of ALS interventions and the current test was prolonged because of a number of postponements in test administration" and that the 2017 level of difficulty was slightly higher than the previous year's.

The reasons may be valid, but, this should not be an excuse to ignore the red flags these numbers are telling us.

First, the switch to English. That just means majority of those who have dropped out and now need to take equivalency tests to find out what grade they should be re-entering do not understand English.

Second, the gap of time between what can be considered as review and the tests... this only means that the lessons were not learned, they were just done by rote. Thus, the time between the supplementary lessons and the test created a major change.

What are these telling us?

It's telling us that the learners are not learning nor appreciating learning. Ergo, comprehension is nil. They are there to get their equivalency and nothing else. Otherwise, the interventions should have brought on learning and understanding, resulting to better passing rates.

While an adjustment may be merited now, lowering the passing grade should not be the recourse to be taken after this. Real learning must be the ideal.

Much like the two pedagogy introduced that brought in nothing but poor performances, the two strategies we have been harping on but never get any reaction to.

The "no child left behind policy". The policy had all the best of intentions, encouraging the teacher to make sure that every child passes the grade. But what this has brought about is that teachers merely pass the students, never mind if comprehension is zero and grades are not worth passing. Their reason? The policy is not to make the student repeat a grade. The result? Students who cannot even read and write both in English and Pilipino being able to graduate junior high school.

The mother tongue based multi lingual education: the intention of which is to teach primary school children in the language they know and are familiar with. Ideally, that should have been Davao Bisaya/Tagalog/Taglish as our children speak. But no. Department of Education ruled that Davao being in Mindanao, the textbooks should be in Cebuano. But Davao children are not Cebuano, they do not speak Cebuano, they speak a pidgin language and can understand Tagalog. Even teachers do not speak Cebuano, they speak a pidgin language and can understand Tagalog. But no, Deped says we are Cebuano, thus children and teachers from kinder to primary school are struggling to learn Cebuano. Mother tongue? Whose mother?

There are a lot of other red flags, but the 16.5% and 15.6% passing rates are the biggest and the reddest, the least that Deped must do is improve on their teaching methods. Period.
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