An assessment conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund found Filipino students in Grade 5 performing poorly on reading, mathematical and writing literacy among five countries in Southeast Asia in February 2019.
Results of the 2019 Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) showed that 27 percent of Filipino pupils in grade 5 were only able to recognize single words, while only 10 percent of them developed the reading proficiency to allow their proper transition to secondary education. A high percentage of Filipino students were also in the lowest bands for mathematical and writing literacy.
The Philippines joined the first SEA-PLM, a pen-and-paper large scale assessment for students conducted by the UNICEF in February 2019. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia and Vietnam also participated in the study.
The Philippines’ performance in reading literacy showed a glaring difference from some of its neighboring countries, particularly Vietnam where 82 percent of the 4,837 Grade 5 students who participated in the assessment belonged to Band 6 and above, showing that “they were proficient in understanding, using and responding in texts with familiar structures.”
On mathematical literacy, 41 percent of the 6,083 students in the Philippines belonged to Bands 2 and 3, which meant they recognized simple shapes and compared angles while some might be able to add single-digit numbers together. Such skills are expected only during the first years of primary school. Again, students from the Philippines lagged behind.
An even more dismal performance was noted in writing literacy, where 45 percent of the students only had limited ability to present their ideas in writing, while only 1 percent could write cohesive texts with detailed ideas and a good range of vocabulary.
In response, the Department of Education vowed to act on the gaps in the country’s basic education curriculum, maintaining that it had made progress in its campaign for quality education in the country. Although much of that promised progress will probably be wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic that has severely limited the ability of the education system to deliver its services and goals, our education officials must continue to discharge their duties and continuously improve the quality of learning in the country, with or without a pandemic.
The Philippines’ education system already has a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully our education officials are up to the challenge of raising the quality of the abilities of the Filipino youth.*