Filipino Literacy and Its Perils
I have to warn you, but this reflection is full of my personal convictions.
Our consciousness of the development of our own literacy is a sign of a literate society. Saddening as it may seem, but many Filipinos, even in-service teachers, aren’t as aware we thought they were. If there were people who are indeed aware, they would not be enough to help improve our literacy as a whole. Thus, we need more aware people. And more than that, we need people who could do something about our literacy issues.
This is where the task of a literacy teacher and advocates becomes a challenge. And with literacy teacher and advocate, I mean every individual who has a direct contact with a learner… a person who contributes to the learner’s growth and development through direct interaction, formal and informal teaching/influence, and proximity. For hundreds of years, Philippines has been struggling for independence in education and literacy development. However, there are always things that obstruct us from breaking out in the prisons of our deviant perceptions.
There were a lot of trials done by individuals, organizations, and even by the government, to implement a program or system that would ensure literacy development in all aspects. From 10-year basic education, we took the risk to jump to K to 12 in order to be at par with other countries in the world. We even implemented the Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE) in order to cater the diversity of our language throughout the country. We were also adapting the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) to encourage productivity and performance among learners. These were just some of the major steps we have taken, and indeed, they lead us a step closer to literacy.
But the real question is, are we actually heading to our literacy endeavors?
According to the study When Reforms Don’t Transform, one of the risks that we keep on taking but not being successful at is pilot testing. In fact, it was not a risk; rather, it is a “safe step” to avoid a large scale error in implementing reforms in education. Pilot testing allows the Department of Education to obtain qualitative and quantitative data that will help evaluate the effectiveness of the newly-implemented program, but it also hinders the possibility of gaining results that are beyond evaluation. It is needed, definitely, but we were usually stuck in pilot testing that a program or reform with a lot of potentials will not have the chance of being implemented at all. So, no matter how many reforms we make, and no matter how many steps we take toward literacy, we will always be only half-way through it (Bautista et’al, 2008/2009).
I am not a critic of our educational system and policies. There were a lot of good reforms that the government has done to prioritize our education, but the greatest blockage that we have is neither the system nor the government, but it was the Filipino attitude in literacy.
In a recent study conducted by Bobby Duffy and James Stannard (2017) entitled Perils of Perception, Philippines ranked as the 3rd most wrong in perception in the world. Hundreds of questions were asked to Filipinos, and alongside with Peru, Philippines was tagged as one of the most confident in their answers, even if the answers were wrong. The worst part is, Filipinos regard this result as offensive. We take it seriously but in a negative way. Filipinos, just like what Michael Tan has said, are very prone to ethnocentrism. We look at the truth the way we want to see it and the way it is acceptable to us. We refuse to believe the truth of others when they are against our beliefs and standards. This result may raise awareness about our literacy issues, but it would surely find difficulty to induce actions among Filipinos to improve the very unlikely result of the study.
This somber truth requires more than literacy and imagination — it needs acceptance and initiative.
Now, the role of educators in our society becomes more arduous but meaningful. Pursuing literacy is a long journey to embark, but with the right attitude, clear goals, and well-trained individuals and experts in the field, Filipinos would be able to help themselves to achieve functional literacy that will encourage social mobility and global productivity.
Link to the study of Perils in Perception:
The Filipino Spirit in Reforms
Many are taking a step to promote literacy in the country by any means possible. Be it formal or non-formal schooling, thousands of volunteers come rushing to extend their help for the less unfortunate. In this paper, I would discuss one of the non-government/non-profit organizations in the country that endeavors to spread literacy among young Filipinos.
The Kapatiran Kaularan Foundation Incorporated is an ecumenical foundation that provides social, economical, and educational assistance to the less fortunate Filipino families. It started way back in 1950s after the World War II to provide aid to families who are suffering the aftermaths of the war. The organization aims to achieve the following:
· Kindle thirst for knowledge among individuals and training participants by coming up with innovative programs in education
· Keep and expand existing network with other development and people-oriented organizations and institutions with common development agenda
· Facilitate implementation of programs that gear towards people’s empowerment and accessibility to resources so as to become self-reliant and improve their quality of life
· Institute resource generation projects for the purpose of sustaining KKFI’s ministry of service
The literacy program of KKFI named Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP) is being implemented in Manila North Cemetery every weekend. They seek to provide basic literacy instruction to children (2–11 years old) who live with their families in the cemetery and who do not go to a formal school.
Every weekend, they teach different subject areas such as reading and writing, basic arithmetic, and values. The core of their instruction is Christianity (since it is a Methodist-rooted organization), and they inculcate the values through their lessons. Improvised school setting such as garden or mausoleums is used as the classroom. Teacher-volunteers bring their own materials for the children. After the lessons, feeding program will proceed as well.
The KKFI has also an established Child Development Center (CDC). The children from the MNC are encouraged to attend their CDC, although most of the parents refuse to send the children to school. CDC assists all the students and arranges transportation system for them so that they will surely be able to attend school.
The KKFI gains support from foreign sponsors (since its founder is an American lady) and donations from generous individuals. There were students who have already gone to college (those from MNC) and are already pursuing their bachelor’s degree. Most parents and adults in MNC are also helping out in the SNP. KKFI is not infamous, but it surely stirs the cooperation of the MNC community to help out their children to receive formal education.
Knowing that there are still a lot of organizations and people who are willing to help makes the challenge lighter and more positive. The road may be blurred by now, but as long as Filipinos help each other and work together, there is nothing impossible. Literacy is on its way.