DepEd to dedicate Fridays to reading starting 2024
Grade 7 students of Araullo High School along United Nations Avenue in Manila line up during school opening dry run.

The STAR / Edd Gumban



Manila, Philippines — All schools will be required to hold whole-day reading programs every Friday starting January as part of the Department of Education’s newest initiative to boost students’ literacy, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte announced on Tuesday.

The DepEd secretary said that the department’s curriculum and teaching strand is currently crafting a policy that will guide schools in implementing “catch-up Fridays” beginning January 12.

“This means that on Fridays, our sole focus will be on teaching children to read,” said Duterte, who made the announcement during DepEd’s culminating activity for the National Reading Month

Under the “catch-up Fridays” program, students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will spend the day reading age-appropriate materials “based on their interest” and will be asked to write essays, book reviews and other similar outputs.

Duterte said that the weekly catch-up program will focus particularly on reading but may also include subjects in peace education, health and values education.

Students who already know how to read will take lessons to improve their critical thinking and analysis, while students capable of critical thinking and analysis “will be asked to write books and essays,” she said.

“We need one day where we will focus on bringing students up to speed on their lessons. We can’t just keep doing the same things but nothing is changing or improving with our learners,” Duterte added.

9 out of 10 can’t read

Literacy — or the ability to read and write — is the most basic skill that students need to learn nearly all of their lessons in school, and anecdotes have shown that poor reading comprehension affects nearly all other subject areas.

The literacy rate of students in the Philippines is one of the lowest in the world, which the pandemic made even worse. According to the World Bank in 2021, 90% of Filipino children aged 10 struggled to read simple texts. This figure significantly increased from 70% in 2019.

Filipino students also performed the worst in terms of reading comprehension among all participating countries in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Duterte reiterated that the DepEd does not expect improved scores in PISA 2022, the results of which will be released two weeks from now.

“We have already been through two PISAs and the scores of the students have not yet improved. This means we need to innovate and do something else,” Duterte said.

She explained that with Fridays exclusively devoted to reading lessons, DepEd’s curriculum and teaching strand has been asked to “find a way” to fit all the regular classes in just four days or from Monday to Thursday.

The DepEd chief said that the official policy for “catch-up Fridays” will be released in December.