PASIG CITY, February 19, 2020 – Hiding behind the cloak of journalistic freedom and claims of balanced news and fearless views, Inquirer practices not just shoddy but also malicious reporting.

Its screaming headline ‘70,000 Bicol pupils can’t read – DepEd’ has stirred a frenzy of alarm, and generated the usual chorus from their coterie of DepEd critics.

I call out the Inquirer for knowingly publishing preliminary data even when the data validated by DepEd Region V was already in the possession of its reporter.

On February 10, 2020, DepEd Region V held a press conference to discuss its precautionary measures on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Towards the end of the said event, a reporter asked about a recent press release of DepEd Region V regarding its reading intervention program distributed during the conduct of its Reading and Learning Resource Fair held on January 29, 2020. Regional Director Gilbert T. Sadsad stated that there are around 70,000 learners in Bicol considered as “non-readers” based on unvalidated reports by Schools Division Offices.

After the press conference, Inquirer reporter Michael B. Jaucian requested data from the Regional Office (RO). On the same day, he was furnished the validated data showing lower number of “non-readers” by email. Jaucian acknowledged the said email and thanked the DepEd RO personnel. A week after, Inquirer still proceeded to run its story using the unvalidated number. While releasing a regionally sourced report attributed to DepEd as its banner headline, it never sought any comment from the DepEd Central Office.

DepEd has never denied that there are problems in the reading proficiency of students. After posting major gains in access to education, DepEd has already identified quality to be the biggest challenge of basic education today.

However, the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI) is not the reliable measure to represent reading proficiency on a large-scale. Phil-IRI is a tool intended for classroom teachers to assess the reading levels of their students at the beginning of the school year. It is administered to Grades 3 to 6 students to identify those that may need intervention. As the name itself states, it is an informal tool and will expectedly be administered without uniformity and with flexibility. It is not meant to be aggregated for reporting to the public. The aggregation by the Regional Office is only for its internal use, as a rough measure to partially inform its reading programs.

Among the proper large-scale assessments, with strict standards and controls, are the National Achievement Test (NAT) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. DepEd has repeatedly noted in its presentations to the President and the Cabinet, Congress, and to the public through the media, that the NAT results gravitate towards low proficiency level in English, Math, and Science. In the 2018 PISA test, the Philippines ranked lowest in reading among the countries that took the test.

It is for the purpose of addressing the challenge of quality that DepEd has launched Sulong EduKalidad, its program of reforms to upgrade and globalize the quality of basic education in the Philippines. Joining PISA for the first time in 2018 is part of this effort to signal our determination to confront the challenge of quality in basic education, find out our standing in terms of global standards, take advantage of an assessment designed and constantly updated by education experts, and to have data for further study.

Sulong EduKalidad has four key reform areas: K to 12 Curriculum review and update; improvement of learning environment; teachers’ upskilling and reskilling; and, engagement of stakeholders for support and collaboration. The concrete initiatives under these reform areas are now in full swing.



Secretary, Department of Education