Literacy Philippines: Mindanao Report


The literacy skills tested in this assessment include concepts about print (CAP), letter knowledge, single word reading of most used words (MUW), words read correctly per minute of a grade-level passage (fluency), total words read correctly of the grade-level passage (accuracy), reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. Overall, inter-rater reliability was good, meaning that assessors generally consistently evaluated children’s performance on these sub-tests.

Given these findings, Literacy programming should:

 accommodate the diversity of different language speakers in schools, ensuring that all teacher training content, community action activities, and any print materials developed are equally relevant to the different linguistic groups

 provide posters and other instructional and visual aids as well as helping teachers construct their own materials for a print-rich classroom environment in which teachers have legible assets from which to teach students

 establish Book Banks where children can borrow a variety of engaging, skill level appropriate print

 offer material creation and community activities that allow all students access to storybooks, coloring books, newspapers, magazines, etc

 provide household members, especially parents, with information about the value of telling stories, singing, and playing games with their children and suggestions for how to do so via the Community Strategies for Enhancing Literacy flipbook and parental awareness workshops

 increase students’ access to print through materials creation, Book Banks, Reading Buddies, and Reading Camps involving activities where students can actually practice handling books, especially storybooks, themselves and to learn from the example of experienced readers

 build on children’s existing letter knowledge and address the largely unknown letters

 focus on letters and phonological awareness through the teacher training, community action, and material creation such as alphabet posters and make-and-take letters

 give teachers the training and tools to help students apply their knowledge of letters and phonics to build their decoding skills. This should be reinforced through Reading Camp activities that emphasize practicing letters and reading basic words

Student Background and School Characteristics

Student Characteristics and Schooling Experience

The image below displays the average values for a range of background characteristics for each of the intervention and control sample of students. The sample as a whole is comprised of students about seven to eight years in age who come from a household of three to four other family members on average. While students were given the option of reporting more than one language spoken at home, the vast majority (97%) only reported speaking a single language at home. The linguistic composition of students seems similar across schools, with the largest linguistic group being the T’boli speakers (46%), followed by Ilonggo speakers (36%) and Maguindanaoan speakers (15%). Literacy Boost programming should accommodate the diversity of different language speakers in schools, and ensure that all teacher training content, community action activities, and any print materials developed are equally relevant to the different linguistic groups.

The vast majority of students walk to school and have attended an early childhood development (ECD) program prior to primary school, mostly kindergarten. About one-fifth of the entire sample reports having repeated a grade, mostly grade 1, but almost a quarter of students did not know whether or not they had repeated a grade.


Socio-Economic Status

In terms of socio-economic status (SES), most students have houses with bamboo walls (the cheapest wall-building material inquired about), with one quarter living in homes with wooden walls and about 14% in homes with cement walls (the most expensive wall-building material). Similarly, the plurality of students live in houses with bamboo floors, with another one fifth living in houses with cement floors and about 15% in houses with wooden floors. Another fifth of students live in houses with dirt floors (the cheapest type of floor). The average student comes from a household with about two of the five possessions listed in the survey, with electricity as the most prevalent and refrigerators as the least prevalent. For livestock, students report household ownership of between one and two types of livestock on average, with cows as the most commonly owned and goats and pigs as the least commonly owned.



It may be important to examine how students spend their out-of-school time in order to understand their opportunity for study and participation in Literacy Boost community activities. Thirty-five percent of students report working outside the home ‘sometimes’ and nine percent report working outside the home ‘every day.’ These out-of-home work responsibilities cause almost one fifth of students to sometimes miss school. Many more students report performing household chores ‘sometimes’ (40%) or ‘every day’ (57%), although about half the number of students report missing school for chore as report missing school for work. Almost one quarter of students report working ‘sometimes’ or ‘every day’ and performing chores ‘every day’ – this may be an important variable to examine during multilevel analysis as these are the busiest students according to their self-reports. Most students report studying ‘every day,’ more than report either working or performing chores ‘every day,’ And there are no differences in this time allocation by groups as can be seen in Table 4. Although this is a good sign, one quarter of students reports studying less than every day, and Literacy Boost should help teachers encourage all students to study every day as well as helping parents understand the value of frequent study and its linkage to reading skill level. The multilevel analysis section toward the end of this report will test this linkage.


School Characteristics

Turning to school characteristics, almost 60% of schools serve food to students, and only one-third have a school management committee (although nearly all schools have a parent-teacher association). The entire sample of schools is somewhat isolated from urban areas and roads, as the average school is about 14 kilometers from the nearest district center and about two kilometers from the nearest tar road. Schools infrastructure is not always fully developed: 17% percent of schools lack an office for the headmaster, 22% lack electricity, 40% lack a water point (and only 34% treat their water), 30% lack clean latrines for student use (and only 53% have a hand washing station with soap), 14% lack ventilation, and 60% lack play equipment. Most worryingly, a full 73% of schools do not have a library.

In addition, 52% of the classrooms assessed lack a legible blackboard.

In terms of teachers and training, supervisors appear to visit schools biannually on average. Teachers receive Ministry of Education in-service training (INSET) either annually or biannually, but receive other INSET more frequently – either biannually or monthly. Schools reported about one teacher transferred in and one transferred out during the course of the school year. Because the assessment was conducted early in the school year, this may be an indication of high teacher turnover.

Looking to the languages spoken by students, schools appear to be linguistically diverse with much overlap in students speaking one language versus another.


Examining school characteristics disaggregated by sample group reveals some potentially important differences. Comparison schools appear closer to district centers than do intervention schools, although the situation is reversed for distance to nearest tar road. Intervention schools appear more likely to have certain advantages over comparison schools: in terms of water and sanitation, more intervention schools have a water point, treat their water, and have a hand washing station with soap. More intervention schools have ventilation, play equipment, and SMCs. Intervention schools have a more linguistically diverse student body with some schools reporting Ilokano speakers7 versus no comparison schools reporting having Ilokano students. (7 Ilokano is another mother tongue spoken in the area. Due to the low number of children who speak this language as their mother tongue at these schools, Ilokano literacy skills were not assessed.)

Using clustered t-tests to investigate statistically significant differences among student background and examining the differences between schools, the two sample groups appear similar on the vast majority of student characteristics, as well as most school characteristics with a few exceptions.

Home literacy environment

Turning to students’ home literacy environment, Figure 1 shows that the majority of students have textbooks in their home, although a significant minority do not. This is the most common type of reading material in the household reported by students; little over one fourth of students report religious reading materials in the home and only 11% or less on average report having any other type of material. Indeed, the average number of types of print reported in the household is only one.


Students were also asked the question, ‘what do you do to learn to read better?’ and assessors categorized students’ first response into one of five categories. (The five categories were receiving help from family/community member, receiving help from teacher, hard work/practice outside of school, hard work/practice inside school, or the study of a particular language mechanic such as studying letters. Inter-rater reliability was excellent for this measure with a 0.89 ICC.) As Figure 2 shows, a large proportion of students’ responses were categorized as receiving help from family/community members, and the percent of children reporting hard work/practice outside of school was double that reporting hard work/practice in school.


Despite children’s perception that learning to read takes place with family and community members, Figure 3 shows that only about a third of students exchanged books with others in the week prior to the assessment, and less than a third read to anyone in the week prior to the assessment.


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