Basa Pilipinas: Childhood Literacy in the Philippines
The United States Agency for International Development and the Philippines Department of Education collaborated over the last three years to improve childhood literacy in the Philippines through a program called Basa Pilipinas, or “Read Philippines.” Basa Pilipinas aims to enhance reading skills in English, Filipino and other mother tongues for one million children in grades one through three. Begun in January 2013, the $39.7 million program is scheduled to conclude on Dec. 31 of this year.
On Oct. 26, 2016, Trey Hicks of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee visited several Cebu elementary schools to reiterate a commitment to childhood literacy in the Philippines. Hicks led reading activities for the children and was joined by USAID Office of Education Chief Brian Levey, who remarked: “Education…set[s children] on a path towards making informed and healthy decisions and taking advantage of limitless economic opportunities.” As Basa Pilipinas draws toward a conclusion, its effects on children and education will continue to evince themselves.
Operating at the classroom level, Basa Pilipinas expands access to reading materials. Roughly 8 million copies of teaching and learning materials, including teacher’s guides and textbooks in both English and local dialects, were distributed throughout the Philippines in the last three years.
Likewise, Basa works to improve reading delivery systems. The program assists the Philippines Department of Education in setting valid early grade reading standards and regulating teacher training in the school systems. Providing hands-on professional development to teachers ensures newly established reading standards are met. Modifications such as these at the systemic level establish achievable literacy goals for students and teachers alike.
Teacher training in literacy instruction is perhaps most crucial to the goals set forth through Basa Pilipinas. Almost 13,000 teachers received training on effective reading instruction, and nearly 3,500 Department of Education supervisors and school heads strategized teacher training support and Learning Action Cells facilitation. LACs are a “group-based intervention for improving teaching practice.” Through these programs “colleagues study content and pedagogies together, plan lessons collaboratively, and conduct action research as a group.” LACs are sustainable, low-cost ways to afford ongoing teacher development.
Basa Pilipinas has directly benefitted more than 1.6 million students, and 2 million more have been indirectly influenced. Evaluations of Basa Pilipinas in 2015 revealed the increased fluency of students by an additional nine words per minute as well as a 23 percent advancement in reading comprehension. And because most of the education reforms Basa imposed were on the systemic and teacher-training level, these dramatic improvements should only be the beginning of the progress in childhood literacy in the Philippines.
– Robin Lee