Inadequate teacher training for 'Catch Up Fridays' stalls reading progress

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Inadequate teacher training for 'Catch Up Fridays' stalls reading progress
Students of Aurora Aquino Elementary School in Malate, Manila actively participate during their first day of classes on August 29, 2023.
STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Teachers’ lack of in-depth training on how to help struggling readers weakens the impact of the Department of Education’s “Catch Up Fridays” program, according to the initial assessment of the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM 2).

DepEd’s weekly reading intervention program aims to close the reading gap among Filipino students by dedicating half of Fridays to reading and writing, but EDCOM 2 warned that just getting students to read texts is not enough to improve their skills.

Around 90% of Filipino children aged 10 struggle to read simple text, according to the World Bank’s 2022 data on learning poverty — a metric that was already high (70%) before the pandemic.

"Based on EDCOM consultations, Catch-Up Fridays do not appear to be structured to optimize learning recovery,” EDCOM 2 Executive Director Karol Mark Yee said in a news release.

“It seems that teachers have not been provided in-depth training on how to conduct effective reading intervention...while reading classes focus on 'reading' more texts, they do not necessarily help the students improve their reading skills,” he added.

DepEd Memorandum 001 s. 2024 states that the “Catch Up Fridays” program will dedicate half of every Friday to reading and the other half to values, peace and health education. 

DepEd said that its reading program will “give learners opportunities for reading intervention and reading enhancement through developmentally appropriate reading materials.”

While “Catch Up Fridays” also requires schools to provide interventions for two kinds of students — those who struggle to read or cannot read at all and those who need slightly less help — EDCOM 2’s observations show that this is not done in all schools.

During a meeting between EDCOM 2 and DepEd on Thursday, Undersecretary Gina Gonong explained that teachers nationwide have already been trained to implement its national reading program, specifically on “how we handle learners on different levels.”  

But Yee said that EDCOM 2 has noted the lack of differentiated instruction in several schools.

"We know - we've visited many schools - that [differentiated instruction] is not happening...If you look at the policy, it's not explicit to do differentiated instruction. It is not explicit that you group learners by ability,” he said.

The EDCOM 2 executive director said that there is a need to change the current teaching practices in “Catch Up Fridays” to meet the needs of students at different reading levels.

"Because until we change the practices, until we institute programs that could possibly move the needle, the reality is we will have homogeneous programs for heterogeneous learners and it's not going to solve the issue,” Yee added.

RELATED: Explainer: With students’ poor literacy, are all teachers now ‘reading teachers’?  

Reading cuts across all subject areas and is said to be the foundation of students’ overall learning as those who cannot read fall behind in multiple classes.

It is also among the three subject areas — along with science and mathematics — that the department is focusing on this year as part of its learning recovery program.

Latest data from the Comprehensive Rapid Literacy Assessment (CRLA) from Regions IV-B, V, VI, VIII and NCR show that over 60% of Grade 1 and 2 students are not yet reading at the level expected of them. Around 4% require full intervention and 24% need moderate intervention.

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