Nine out of Ten Filipino Children Can’t Read — That’s a Big Problem for All of Us
“Why don’t you just read the name of the chips?”I asked the child since we’d been going back and forth as he kept pointing at what he wanted to buy and I kept picking the wrong ones after many attempts. He couldn’t read, he admitted. “What grade are you in?” I probed. Grade four, he said. I had similar conversations with three other children who were buying from our store; grade three to four pupils who couldn’t read. When my husband remarked, “Ha, you’re in grade four yet you cannot read!”, one child proudly answered, “Even my classmates don’t know how to read!”
It’s one problem when a 10-year-old can’t read. It’s a bigger problem when he’s not bothered since the majority of his classmates can’t read too.
Even more bothersome, there are high school teachers who complain that they have students who can’t read. If a grade one pupil can’t read, it’s understandable. There are factors that contribute to how fast a child learns how to read and it’s important to allow a child to learn at their own pace. But if a high school student cannot read, it is our failure as a society.
Our observation reflects studies. The World Bank reported in 2022 that 9 in 10 Filipinos in late primary age cannot read well. The two years of remote learning made the learning gaps worse. Though even before the pandemic, there was already a looming problem with reading proficiency.
Reading is a prerequisite to several other skills and opportunities so it’s important to be deliberate and urgently face this learning crisis. Whether you are a public official, policy maker, institutional leader, student, or parent, we all have a role to play before this problem gets worse and breeds many other problems.
Take Care of Our Teachers
Most Filipino teachers are competent in what they do. They only need to be given enough room to show their competence. They don’t need to show their bosses that they can teach well with portfolios and whatnots they need to submit every now and then. If their students can read and perform well on state exams, and do the necessary skills for their age at the end of the term, then the teachers have done their jobs well. An impressive portfolio doesn’t mean…