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Aswang and literacy

The eight errors it failed to trace were not a good sign of success.

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In 2018, Filipino students were found as the worst among their counterparts from 79 countries in reading literacy, and second-lowest in both mathematical and scientific literacy.

It should have been a shock for the Department of Education (DepEd) to learn about it when it first joined the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) that year, but it is what it is.

The PISA should serve for the DepEd as a gauge. It is a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in member and non-member nations intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science and reading.

Many countries look to it to assess the progress in their education programs since it was first performed in 2000. It is repeated every three years with an aim to provide comparable data with a view to enable countries to improve their education policies and outcomes. It measures problem solving and cognition.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones described that 2018 performance as “a wake-up call.”

It was still two years before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and the DepEd was dead set on a mighty rebound in 2021 with measures to help Filipino learners fare better.

Aside from the coronavirus, natural calamities have also disrupted learning with class suspensions implemented for weeks. The Covid-19 crisis, however, had the biggest impact on the students’ activities with online learning becoming the new normal that necessitated big adjustments on the part of teachers, students, parents, educational institutions and more so, the DepEd.

Briones admitted facing “very serious challenges in education” as the DepEd had been at the receiving end of criticisms even before the pandemic.

The DepEd rejected calls for an academic freeze in the belief that students and teachers would have suffered more if it was imposed.

In place of actual classroom meetings, however, discussions were held via various web platforms, while other activities were introduced through modules. That’s where the DepEd has become controversial, though.

While this was happening, the DepEd was busy implementing measures to help Filipino learners fare better in the scheduled PISA this year with training for teachers and school leaders, as well as provision of learning materials and practice tests to students.

Still, the DepEd sees success as “a long way to go.”

In April last year, the DepEd decided to submit an official position for a one-year postponement of the next round of the PISA. It cited the current health crisis as a reason for the weak progress it had gained since 2018.

There’s more to it, however, than this explanation by the agency.

On 14 June, the DepEd confirmed 155 errors were found in the materials used in its distance learning program. The DepEd seems to have proudly beaten its chest with this number as there were 163 of these errors that were reported.

The eight errors it failed to trace were not a good sign of success.

Then, there was that scary error of that sex-starved aswang — the vampire of old that a module from the division office of Pampanga had glaringly approved for Grade 10 students.

It contained the lines: “The aswang is a god but it’s believed to be a human being that eats other human beings. Many believe they have wings and are awake at night to find someone to have sex with or devour.”

Not only was sex in the vernacular seemed unappealing to the parents of the teen students, but the story on which the reading was anchored, stalling the youth’s sail toward a better, learned future, tilted by a character from an illiterate past.

It’s no wonder we fared the worst in reading literacy the last time. A second-worst performance and mathematical and scientific literacy are none the better.

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