15 million Filipinos can’t read, write

By Angelo G. Garcia – There are a total of 15 million illiterate Filipinos, 11 million of them suffering from functional illiteracy and four million suffering from no basic literacy skills.

The Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-Net Philippines) bared this Thursday after discovering the alarming number through a survey conducted by the Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS). The organization is now urging the government to focus more resources on addressing the issue by strengthening the alternative learning system (ALS).

What’s more alarming is that E-Net Philippines expects the numbers to increase in the coming years.

“We expect the illiteracy rate to further increase as more children were unable to go to school due to various factors such as economic hardship and with those already in school dropping out,” said Edicio de la Torre, E-Net Philippines president.

The Department of Education (DepEd) defines functional literacy as having the capability to solve such issues as problem solving and communication while basic literacy means having such simple skills as being able to read and write.

De la Torre and other education specialists from E-Net Philippines and its partner organizations said if left unaddressed, the problem might hamper the country’s effort to meet all the goals under the Education For All (EFA) 2015 set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Last April, a literacy mapping of 5th and 6th class municipalities conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) proved the general sentiment that while literacy programs have been conducted by the government in some areas, the presence or impact of these programs are not felt.

“There were a number of barangays in the bottom 30 where the literacy services of the government agencies like DepEd had not been felt,” said DILG assistant division chief Virginia Ferrer.

Ferrer also said that the literacy programs are currently not among the priorities of some local government units, adding that fifth and sixth class municipalities, the country’s most economically backward areas, also have the highest number of illiterates.

Ferrer stressed that the condition may continue to worsen if the government, particularly the LGUs in these municipalities, will not do something to address the problem.

The bottom 30 barangays with lowest literacy rates were located in the provinces of 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.

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