PH students rank sixth worst in reading. Publishing house steps in with tools to help them improve

Two recent studies reveal the abysmal state of the country’s education system.

The state of Philippine education is at its lowest point. The country once again found itself among the countries that produced the lowest proficiency for 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science, as indicated by the PISA 2022 rankings

The country scored Level 1a to 1b on mathematics, reading, and science, meaning our students have below minimum proficiency in all three subject areas. 

The country ranked an abysmal 77th out of 81 countries globally in PISA 2022 rankings. Banner photo from Unsplash; photo above by Jason Sung from Unsplash

The PISA student assessment, which is conducted by the OECD, showed that the country is sixth among the worst countries in reading, sixth in mathematics, and third in science. It also showed that on average, 15-year-old learners scored 347 in reading compared to an average of 476 points in OECD countries.

With these results, the country ranked an abysmal 77th out of 81 countries globally. 

In the same year, a World Bank study revealed that 91 percent of late primary age Filipino children are not proficient in reading.  More than half of young learners in low and middle-income families cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school.

Given the immensity of these problems hounding the Philippine education system, the question now is—why?

Too much focus on memorization

According to an article on Rappler, educational psychologist and University of the Philippines professor Lizamarie Olegario said the learning curriculum in the country is too focused on “mere memorization.” PISA questions require analytical thinking, she said.

Olegario added that teachers should veer away from teaching students to just memorize math formulas and read fictional books. “In PISA, they need to analyze problems. In science, basically the experiments only ask them to follow steps. But in PISA, they have to imagine. They have to do experiments in their minds.”

There are two major factors why Filipino students lagged behind other countries in PISA: the quality of teachers and the lack of resources. Photo by Taylor Flowe from Unsplash

Former Department of Education (DepEd) director for curriculum and development Joyce Andaya refuted Olegario’s claim, saying that “nowhere in the review did it come out that we focused on the lower level thinking skills.”

What Andaya failed to point out, however, was whether the teachers were “teaching the way lessons should be taught.” 

This is echoed by Philippine Business for Education’s Justine Raagas, who said in the same article that there are two major factors why Filipino students lagged behind other countries in PISA. First is the quality of teachers the country has and second is the lack of resources.

Lack of quality teaching

A World Bank study in 2016 stated that the knowledge of teachers and the method they use to teach a subject were “important determinants of student learning outcomes in the Philippines.” Sadly, the study showed that “knowledge of subject matter among elementary and high school teachers is low in most subjects.”

The study revealed that, on average, a high school math teacher was only able to answer 31 percent of the questions “completely correctly,” far from even half of the questions.

A World Bank study revealed that a high school math teacher was only able to answer 31 percent of the questions “completely correctly.” Graphs from the World Bank study

It’s unsettling knowing that teachers themselves are having a hard time answering the questions that they should already have a mastery of. 

Teachers shouldn’t be blamed entirely, however, as the problem is far too complex and systemic than that. It is important to note that teachers, especially those teaching in public schools, are overburdened with too many students, cramped classrooms, and administrative tasks on top of a not too stellar salary.  

To address this, the DepEd released an order removing administrative tasks from teachers so they could focus on teaching. This is a band-aid solution at best. Raagas, in the same Rappler article, said that if the DepEd would hire only 5,000 administrative staff every year, it would take years for the problem to be solved.

Lack of resources

Aside from the lack of quality teaching are inadequate resources. Raagas said that, “We perform poor, and we spend less.”

The Philippines allots only 3 to 4 percent of its gross domestic product for its education while the global standard is at 6 percent. This results in the perennial problem of classroom and textbook shortage. 

Classroom and textbook shortage is a perennial problem in the Philippines. Photo from Unsplash

In 2023, the DepEd was able to build only 3,600 new classrooms. DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas said that Philippine public schools lacked some 159,000 classrooms before school opened in August 2023. 

The DepEd also left some P3 billion worth of learning materials sitting “hostage” in warehouses from 2021 to 2023. The materials were later released after Rappler published its report in December 2023.

Add to these is the revelation of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian that a little over half of the P13.69 billion allocated for the senior high school voucher program (SHS-VP) did not go to the poor students for whom it was intended. The budget instead went to families who could afford to send their kids to school, resulting in “wastage and leakage” of government funds.

With all these irregularities, inadequacies, and incompetencies, what should the DepEd do now? Raagas said the department needs a strong leader.

“We need a strong leadership that [will say,] ‘Hey all these things need to be done.’ And the fact is that many of the reforms have to be done simultaneously,” she said.

Reading as a tool for success

Until the time comes that DepEd is headed by the right person with the right competencies and the “strong leadership” Raagas mentioned, non-government organizations, private companies, and individuals have been doing their lion’s share in helping improve the country’s education landscape. 

One of these companies is Abiva Publishing House, which introduced the SRA Reading Laboratory in the Philippines in 1965. A proven K to 12 level reading program for more than 60 years, SRA has been shown to help improve the reading and independent learning skills of more than 100 million students in 63 countries.

To give students more opportunities to practice reading and improve fluency, and to help address the prevalent learning gap among Filipino students, Abiva Publishing House is launching two new versions of the SRA Reading Laboratory alongside the traditional kits: the web-based digital version, and the book version which is the first in the world.

The SRA Reading Laboratory Online may be accessed through where students may log in, take a placement test, read Power Builders, and complete post-reading exercises. Students listen to stories, record themselves, and practice fluency. The 2024 Power Builders, on the other hand, is a six-book version that combines leveled stories and exercises in each book. 

With the aim to promote literacy and ignite a passion for reading, Abiva has launched the SRA Reading Laboratory Online and Power Builders in key cities across the country: Quezon City last March 14, Cebu City on March 16, and Davao and Cagayan de Oro on March 22 and 23, respectively.

By championing SRA, Abiva Publishing continues to play a vital role in enhancing reading proficiency among Filipino students and contributing to the overall improvement of education standards in the Philippines.

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