Pandemic stalls students’ literacy skills, DepEd-6 says

Lockdowns caused by COVID-19 have resulted in some students not knowing how to read or count, according to education officials. (DepEd-6 file photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera 

The Department of Education (DepEd)-6 said that low basic literacy skills among grade school students is one of the problems that the department is facing as they transition to full implementation of face-to-face classes after two years of distance learning because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

DepEd-6 admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the literacy development of young students as they even received feedback about some students who did not know how to read.

DepEd-6 regional director Dr. Ramir B. Uytico also said that the pandemic further pushed the development of students backward even before the pandemic struck where assessments showed that some learners were already struggling to meet the minimum required literacy proficiency.

“Even without the pandemic, struggling ang mga kabataan natin. Kung namomroblema kami na walang pandemic, how much more that they were out sa classrooms,” Uytico said.

DepEd-6 Curriculum and Learning Management Division chief Dr. Elena Gonzaga, however, said that they do not have the exact number of non-numeric and non-reader students, but they assist the schools to conduct diagnostic tests using teachers’ made tests to determine the reading and numeracy capacity of learners.

Uytico added that the regional department also came up with a plan to recover the learning losses of students during the pandemic, as they crafted their Regional Education Development Plan where each school should include a reading program for their students.

During the National Congress of the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. in Iloilo City last November 2022, Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte also emphasized that one of the areas that need to be addressed in the post-pandemic learning loss is literacy skills and it should be started by having reading and comprehension programs.

Duterte also emphasized the crucial role of librarians and access to public libraries to address learning losses caused by the pandemic and even the typhoons that destroyed classrooms in the region.

Meanwhile, DepEd-6 also partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the ABC+: Advance Basic Education in the Philippines program to ensure that evidence-based solutions for improved early literacy and numeracy instruction can be adopted and sustained by the country’s education system.

In September 2022, USAID started giving reading materials to 515 pupils of Montes II Elementary School in Iloilo City, which Uytico commended knowing how important it was in imparting knowledge to young learners, as well as improving their comprehension skills.

“We need to produce children who are really readers, so the focus is on literacy, numeracy, and aside from that, for the region, we really want to produce champion learners,” Uytico said.

Aside from Iloilo City, other local government units that are also beneficiaries of the said program in the region include Roxas City in Capiz and Escalante City in Negros Occidental.

Uytico also announced that the regional department will be holding a Literacy and Numeracy Summit next year as part of their campaign to address the learning gaps and losses of students, especially in literacy.

The regional director explained that all school divisions across the region need to participate as those who have not started yet will present their numeracy and literacy programs.

While those who have already started will give updates about their program, and those who carried out their programs and did well will be sharing their best practices for other divisions to follow.

“It will be a gathering of literacy enthusiasts, then I will request our superintendents to be reactors, to discuss how to level up their numeracy and literacy,” Uytico said.