The Philippines: A Reading People
One view is that the literacy rate has risen from 72% to 90% in the last 30 years. According to the 2005 Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass MediaSurvey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), 48.4 million or 84% of the estimated 57.6 million Filipinos who are 10 to 64 years old are said to be "functionally" literate (Source: "8 out of 10 Filipinos are functionally literate" by D. Pepito, TODAY newspaper, February 17, 2005).
If 80% of Filipinos are functionally literate, does it follow that 80% of them are also economically well-off? Apparently, the NSO thinks so. But this goes against other statistical data by the Asian Development Bank, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the same NSO itself that there is a growing incidence of poverty in the country due in part to uncontrolled population growth.
Tuition fees in private schools nowadays have progressively soared such that many Filipinos have either stopped schooling or have reluctantly transferred to public schools. Only the economically well-off elite few can afford the high tuition of private schools.
The DepEd’s records show that most 6 and 7 year-old children manage to enroll in Grade One. But of every 100 who enter Grade One, only 65 finish Grade Six, and only 45 finish Fourth Year High School. Obviously even fewer finish a technical course or a four-year college degree course.
The presumption is that a high school graduate acquires “functional literacy.” But how do we find out about the functional literacy of out of school youth and adults who have not gone through the 10 years of basic education (elementary and secondary)?
In an online article by Juan Miguel Luz, he wrote about the literacy of the Filipino people. He titled his article "A Nation of Non-Readers". It begins with a series of questions including one that asks why the Filipinos have not been able to develop a habit of reading?
This was written in 2007, but as the other articles have presented above, this problem is a persistent enemy that has to be constantly battled. Most of the students or pupils read because they are required to. They read in order to study and in order to do their projects ot sometimes. It is only sometime that they are prompted by such requirements to read for intrinsic purposes.
I have always loved to read. My parents said that ever since I learned how to talk, I have been trying to read the signs of vehicles, billboards, stores, etc. Ever since I was in grade school, I have been borrowing books from my classmates who were more well-off than me. I went to the library often to borrow books and wished that I could take all the books with me so it was hard for me to understand how people (young or old) could not love reading as a hobby.
The problem with the youth who do not love to read today is that they also don't see their parents reading. The Philippines, my beloved but highly exploited country, gives more incentives to those who pursue the sciences and mathematics (or business discipline). Although, the government, in the past few years, has been formulating and implementing programs to help the students with their reading skills. But like I said, if the parents or guardians themselves do not promote this skill or have not themselves acquired this habit, then the programs will fall short of their goal.
Also, friends of mine who have gone abroad have stated that the bookstores there allow people to just sit on the floor or chairs and read the books instead of buying them. Also, there are multiple bookstores abroad. There aren't very many here, especially in the Southern part of the Philippines (according to surveys and online articles like the ones mentioned above).
It's a sad thing, but it is also a challenge. I dream of the day that the Filipinos will become a reading people and hopefully this will pave the way to further and deeper appreciation of our culture and importance or value for the Arts.