Filipino illiterates now at 5.2M

THE Department of Education (DepEd) is set to strengthen the education and literacy programs of youths and adults as the number of Filipino illiterates reached 5.2 million, and dropout rates stood at 6 percent in elementary and 7.5 percent in high school.

“We are now at [a] dead end in education,” Education Undersecretary for Muslim Affairs Manaros Boransing said.

“With these crises, the government should be compelled to implement without delay and strengthen education and literacy programs for youth and adults,” he added.

Boransing delivered the welcome message at the Forum on Youth and Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning held at the DepEd central office in Pasig City.

He said the rising dropout rate would inevitably take its toll on the Philippine economy, especially amid the global financial meltdown.

DepEd data showed that schoolyear (SY) 2004-2005’s dropout rates of 6.98 percent in the elementary and 7.99 percent in secondary level rose to 7.33 percent and 12.51 percent, respectively, by SY 2006-2007.

Although these figures went down in SY 2007-2008 to 6 percent (2.2 million children aged six to 12) and 7.5 percent (3.4 million aged 12-15 years), the numbers are still high, he said.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the department has initiated several interventions such as the launching of Project Reach last year, to enable out-of-school children and youths to go back to school through collaborative work between school and village officials, and help from the private sector.

Earlier, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) report listed the Philippines among countries that deprive children of basic literacy and numeracy skills with its failure to address inequalities in education.

The Unesco 2009 report said the Philippines also lags behind in achieving universal primary education as part of its commitment to the Education For All (EFA) goals which the country signed in 2000.

Unesco said Filipino children in the poorest 20 percent of the population receive five years less education than children from the wealthiest families. On the average, the poorest 20 percent get 6.3 years of education compared to the 11 years of the rich20 percent.

A literacy mapping of fifth- and sixth-class towns by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also showed the presence or impact of government’s literacy programs are not felt in the bottom 30 barangays.

DILG assistant division chief Virginia Ferrer said literacy programs are currently not among the priorities of some local government units (LGUs), and the most economically backward areas have the highest number of illiterates.

She said the situation might worsen if government, particularly the LGUs, will not intervene.

The DILG said the bottom 30 barangays with the lowest literacy rates are in Abra, Benguet, Kalinga, Mountain Province, La Union, Batanes, Isabela, Laguna, Quezon, Albay, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Iloilo, Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor, Leyte, Samar, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Norte.

The bottom 3 barangays with the lowest literacy rates were Matampa (30.4 percent), Alipuaton (32.9 percent) and Bunal (44.8 percent) in Salay, Misamis Oriental.

The study showed the most common reasons why LGUs do not initiate literacy projects for its needy constituents are: they believe this is the responsibility of DepEd; they have no funds; nobody cares; no official in the fifth- or sixth-class towns has requested for them; and they are not the priority of LGUs.

Ferrer urged Congress to pass a law mandating municipal governments and other LGUs to set aside a percentage of their Internal Revenue Allocations for literacy projects that should be made part of the annual municipal development plans. (Business Mirror)

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