Longitudinal Study of Literacy and Language Acquisition in the Philippines [CIES 2024 Presentation]

The research on first language learning is the premise for the Philippines Mother-Tongue-based Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE) Policy which requires schools to deliver the Kindergarten to Grade 3 curriculum in the mother tongue (home language) of the school’s community (Corder, 1983; Walter & Dekker, 2011. Salmona, 2014; Yadav, 2014). Considering that the national curriculum requires children to transition to and learn in Filipino and English at the start of Grade 4, the question of mother tongue’s effect on second and third language acquisition is not academic, but central to the policy debate on MTB-MLE efficacy. The MTB-MLE policy consists of five discrete areas: curriculum, learning resources, assessment, teacher recruitment and training, and community support. MTB-MLE has proven challenging with respect to the myriad languages and dialects. Out of the 180 plus languages spoken, only 19 have been formally supported with an official orthography, standard learning resources and teacher professional development materials. In communities with non-supported languages, teachers contextualize the teaching and learning materials, often translating and adapting from the linguistically nearest mother tongue to their own. In a 2019 study on MTB-MLE, the Philippines Institute of Development Studies found inconsistent implementation across schools, including teachers’ negative attitudes toward MTB-MLE, linguistic diversity of learners and classrooms, and lack of teaching and learning materials being key factors hindering its implementation (PIDS, 2019). The Bicol Region poses a particular challenge. In an area slightly larger than Connecticut with a population of just under 4 million, thirteen different languages plus numerous dialects are spoken in the various provinces, cities and towns that dot this volcanic region (Lobel, 2019). The standard language of Central Bikol, which is the mother tongue of approximately half the population consists of six different local dialects depending on the locale. Wedged in the middle of the Central Bikol-speaking area is a cluster of five distinct languages: Rinconada, Buhi-non, Bikol Libon, West Albay Bikol, and Miraya, with only one or two municipal communities each that speak these languages. Under the USAID Advancing Basic Education in the Philippines (ABC+), RTI conducted a longitudinal study that provides new evidence on the efficacy of MTB-MLE. The study tracked the language and literacy acquisition of four groups of learners: those Central Bikol learners who are learning in a fully supported language; Buhi-non speaking learners who are learning in an unsupported language (ie, Buhi-non); Central Bikol speakers who’s language of instruction is Tagalog and Tagalog learners who’s language of instruction is Tagalog. The findings show evidence that the Central Bikol learners whose LOI is Tagalog are performing at par or worse in nearly all domains of reading in their first (Central Bikol), second (Tagalog/Filipino) and third languages (English). The findings show a flattening of their trajectory in terms of the pace of language and literacy acquisition, as well as significant equity gaps in comparison to their Tagalog peers. The evidence points toward continued support to MTB-MLE, despite the challenges in implementation.

Computer-based Reading Assessment Pilot Report

In February 2022, ACR–Philippines initiated conversations with USAID and the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd) on developing a prototype technology to enable automated assessment and scoring of learners’ oral reading fluency, listening, and reading comprehension skills. The idea resonated with DepEd leadership for several reasons. During the school years of 2020-2022, the COVID-19 Pandemic made face-to-face assessments challenging, particularly in remote learning settings. Teachers were stretched in time and resources to assess learners one-on-one their reading skills against the most essential learning competencies. Further, other international assessments like PISA use a computerbased format, and this will be an opportunity to understand how well-prepared students are to take computer-based tests. In response, ACR-Philippines sought to produce a ‘proof of concept’ that explores the feasibility of a self-administered computer-based reading assessment (CoBRA) in English and Filipino for students in the Philippines. The technology would incorporate voicerecognition software to enable students to read directly into their device. The software would automate the score of the students’ reading scores through an artificial-intelligence (AI) algorithm designed to calculate words-per-minute (wpm) and reading accuracy rate. The platform will produce reports providing students, parents, and/or teachers immediate feedback on their performance. This is a report of that pilot experience.

Comprehensive Rapid Literacy Assessment [CIES Presentation]

The CRLA was initially conceived as a 5-minute start-up reading assessment designed to help teachers quickly determine the reading profiles of their G1-G3 learners, and develop appropriate reading instructional strategies. The main goal is to identify children who need additional support in reading. The CRLA was developed in response to the extended break that learners experienced over the summer of 2020 due to the pandemic. After 32 weeks of no class, teachers needed a rapid, easy to use tool, to determine what level of readiness and support the returning children needed. The beginning of school year tasks focused on letter sounds, isolated words and sentence in reading in MT (G1), Filipino (G1-G2) and English (G1-G3). In the Philippines, learners are expected to transition from their mother tongue (MT) to Filipino and English (L2 and L3 respectively) by grade 4. However, the earliest standardized assessment used in the Philippines is for Filipino starting in G3 and English starting in G4. Prior to the CRLA, there were no existing standardized tools or systems used to assess in the MT. It was also a tool that could be administered remotely (online or even over the phone) which proved critical for schooling in the new normal where face to face classes were not permitted. Thus, the CRLA met the needs of teachers who were missing such a tool in their early grade assessment toolbox. The CRLA was initially piloted in November 2020 with select schools. The experience of the pilot led DepEd to scale up the CRLA to all schools in the ABC+ Target Regions. The feedback from the schools and teachers who utilized the CRLA was encouraging. Many schools used the results of the CRLA to develop remedial and focused reading programs in the context of the new normal and identify the struggling readers to provide additional support. Based on the success of the beginning of school year RLA, the Department of Education requested ABC+ to help develop middle and end of year assessments that would align to their curricular competencies. Keeping to the same criteria (rapid and easy to administer and analyze), the team incorporated listening comprehension, oral reading fluency and reading comprehension tasks for end of year administration. At the request of DepEd, ABC+ is currently in the process of expanding the number of MT languages supported by the CRLA and incorporating it into their operations manual for mother tongue-based multi-lingual education.

Information for Education Policy, Planning, Management, and Accountability in West Bank and Gaza: Final Report of Findings of the Data Gap Analysis of the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education

The purpose of the data gap analysis is to help the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education to identify ways to improve the integration and utilization of its data systems for policy, planning, and management, as well as reporting and feedback to the public and stakeholders. With funding through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), RTI International (www.rti.org) fielded a three-person team to survey Ministry offices, assess existing data systems and applications, and debrief the Ministry and USAID on summary findings.

West Bank Case Study Report

The purpose of this case study is to illuminate how and why US Agency for International Development (USAID) education programs in the West Bank and Gaza were able to achieve the lasting impact in basic, higher, and non-formal education despite the considerable political and environmental challenges. This study attempts to illuminate the pathways to sustained reform, the underlying reasons for the programs’ success, and the key lessons learned. It focuses far more on the how and why of program impact than on the “what” of program content.