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Still Catching Up

How do you feel about our language skills? I mean speaking, reading and writing. We all probably feel confident with English. Some of us may not articulate in an American accent, but we’re pretty confident that we can give directions if a lost Caucasian asks for some if you happen to bump into one out in the street. Many of our countrymen converse with Americans over the phone for a living as call center agents. We take pride that our beauty pageant contestants don’t need interpreters in the question and answer portions.

The Philippines ranked 77th out of 81 countries globally in the student assessment in reading, mathematics, and science conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for 15-year-old learners.” Program for International Student Assessment “PISA result indicates Philippine education system is 5 to 6 years behind. ( The ranking was released on December last year. To the credit of DepEd, it was quick to respond to address the issue. Towards the end of the following month, Catchup Friday was implemented in schools across the nation. Have you heard about it? Ask the kid running around the street what they do in school on Fridays.

To put it simply, every Friday, pupils and students from Kindergarten to Grade 10 pause in their regular lessons and just read all day. Initially, the children could choose or bring any book to read in the classroom. Later, reading materials corresponded to the subject on the given hour, i.e. Math books on Math time, Science books on Science time and such for the other subjects. There are no quizzes or performance activities based on the reading text after the reading activity. They just read, and read, and read. I guess, that’s good. I guess, it would be good to diminish the pressures of post-reading quiz in catching up with the lag in reading, mathematics and science. What makes of self-paced reading without assessment for comprehension or application? Well, that would be leisurely reading. We never know. It could be effective. After all, the Finnish don’t give homework to students. The Japanese start their academic learning somewhere along Grade 4. Yet, they are recognized to have efficient education systems. So, let’s see. Maybe, reading for the sake of reading could do some wonders.

A high school student told me that Friday has become his favorite school day. He doesn’t have to worry about end of the week quizzes, probably boring lectures and tedious performance tasks. He would just have to read. Maybe, the other kids would love it in the same way.

On the other hand, a female elementary pupil gasped when told that there would be no regular lessons on Fridays. I don’t really know why. Fridays should be light school days. Students won’t be doing much but read. Why do I feel some sort of low enthusiasm? Since, they won’t be doing nothing much, nothing that would raise or lower their grades, (and their parents know this) a few or some of the kids have decided not to come to class on some Fridays. They must be thinking that they would just be reading anyway. Attendance or absence would not influence passing, failing or improvement of grades. They won’t be missing any important discussion of lesson or instruction for some big project. They must think, they might as well, take a day off and come back on Monday when the lessons resume.

We may not be sure if leisurely, self-regulated reading would catch up with the lag on language skills, mathematics and science, but at least, this would certainly be beneficial in some way. Recreational reading relieves stress, helps cognitive development, and develops empathy (Thadani, 2022). We’ll have a little less stressed, more empathetic and a little more cognitively developed children. How does that get us higher from rank 77? Maybe, , the cognitive development would do the trick. Maybe, that would come in indirectly somehow. I guess so. But, maybe we can do something that will bring us closer to reading, science and math. Reading just for reading seems like a far cry, an overoptimistic attempt to shoot a basket all the way from the other end of the court.

Maybe, this is just one step of a grand plan. Maybe, they’re cooking up some efficient plan to improve our performance. Let’s give it some slack.

I hope we get closer to understanding why despite the intricacies of the curriculum, and despite our high perception of ourselves, we uselessly pant in chasing to elevate our rank.

1 Timothy 4:15: “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”


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