Why Philippine Schools Are Failing

It is likely that there is more than one factor behind the dramatic drop in scores in all subjects in the National Achievement Test taken by six grade students in the Philippines. Still, it is also possible that there is one dominant factor. There is the notion that drills are boring and schools must jump right away into whole language,  critical thinking, and discovery-based learning. In reading, for instance, there is an emphasis on developing "literacy", instead of first simply honing skills. Schools are making the wrong assumption that these skills are innate. As another example, in mathematics, while addition maybe intrinsic, multiplication is definitely not. And with literacy, it has long been known that learning to read is not a natural process. Our brains are simply not wired for both reading and multiplying. And we already know this from research yet we insist on skipping this important stage.

In a post on this blog three years ago, Learning to Read: One of DepEd's K to 12 Big Lies, the following comparison is made between the time allotted for reading in primary years in schools in the Philippines and those in the state of Georgia in the United States:

Early this year, NPR featured a story on schools in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Above copied from NPR

This NPR story is based on a documentary also by Emily Hanford in American Media Reports' Hard Words. In 2015, schools in Bethlehem were performing poorly in a test called DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). Schools then decided to embrace what is already known with regard to how children learn to read, that is, children need to know how letters and their combinations sound first. And the results are remarkable:

Above copied from Hard Words: Why Aren't Kids Being Taught to Read

My mother tongue is Tagalog and when I was in primary school, there were drills where we simply read and recite "a", "e", "i", "o" "u", "ba", "be", "bi", "bo", "bu, "ka", "ke", "ki", "ko", "ku",.... These were drills that made us aware of how sounds are put into print. The following list of terms for phonics from ReadingRockets illustrates essential elements that connect spoken to written language.

With the above in mind, a quick look at how classes are scheduled in the Philippines can explain why sixth graders in the Philippines are failing miserably. Here is kindergarten:

And here are the early years:

Back in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, Hanford writes:
"It's impossible to know if the science of reading training is what led to the test score gains. Some of the schools in the district moved from half-day to full-day kindergarten the same year the training began, so that could have been a factor."
In the Philippines, sadly, the results are dismal and yet, everyone seems to be celebrating how successful Philippine schools have been.

Above copied from Manila Bulletin