Reading comprehension in an emergency situation




The Manila Times


THE matter of reading incomprehension not only among our grade and high school children has graduated to university and even postgraduate level. Survey after survey have demonstrated this situation. Teachers at all levels who handle classes are under stress because of it. Talking to a teacher of a graduate business school over the weekend was to hear moans and groans about the inability of graduate students to comprehend their reading assignments, much less make intelligent and coherent comments or compositions on their reactions to them. Many reactions are illogical and, therefore, wrong because they are misunderstood. Others are completely off the mark and tend to go into run-on sentences to cover the incomprehension that is not only meaningless but ungrammatical as well. Neither obviously understood the reading assignment. Worse, they are also unable to express themselves orally as well. It comes from incomprehension, the inability to take meaning from words put together as essays or informative reading material that is supposed to catalyze thoughtful reaction. Another teacher of law students said the papers submitted were dismal in both comprehension and expression of ideas. Some students claimed that they were not proficient in English enough to write or express their thoughts. When asked to choose to express themselves in Filipino, after reading in Filipino, the results were equally dismal. It was not the language but the comprehension. The above clearly denotes that we are in a national emergency in reading and some say other subjects like mathematics, geography and history. This is alarming and must be met with emergency measures as well as a thorough revamp/review of the foundational teaching methods of the subjects. But reading, which opens the door to other subjects, must be given priority. One simple suggestion for reading comprehension that may take some organization and some funds plus expertise would be to organize a reading comprehension drive all over the country in all the languages that are used in designated places and come up with a step-by-step remedial program to bring up the levels of comprehension. Aside from pedagogical work, competitions, book distribution like the libraries that the National Book Development Authority is promoting, as well as encouraging local governments to put up libraries would help. Nationwide reading competitions with attractive prizes in parallel with school schedules would spark interest from the target market of students, be they grade school or high school and at present, even university-level students should be in the mix. Just like Spelling Bees, reading competitions would catalyze efforts toward improving how one reads, how one understands and how one expresses what was read. These are the basics of world civilization as it stands. The President has said that we have a reliable and educated workforce. Reading comprehension would underline that. The Department of Education has always been given the lion’s share of the budget, it must put those funds to fruitful work. The point is to bring reading comprehension to the level it needs to be. It should include all students, including those who have special needs, into the education program with emphasis on reading. Once reading comprehension is established, it opens the door to understanding other subjects. But the Department of Education needs assistance from both the public and private sector in order to push up reading comprehension. Local governments must design and implement their own programs taking into consideration their circumstances. Other government agencies like the National Book Development