Ranked last in reading, PH must end moratorium on building school libraries

By Billy Begas

As the Philippines ranks last out of 79 countries in reading comprehension, a lawmaker has pushed for the resumption of building school libraries.

Deputy Speaker of the House and Representative for Batangas, Ralph Recto, said Sunday that the moratorium on building new libraries should be lifted.

“A school without a school is like a swimming pool without water,” Recto said.

In 2006, the government allocated 120 million pesos to build 60 library centers and 12 major learning resource centers, Recto said.

The last year a fund was allocated for the construction of school libraries was in 2014.

Recto said Congress can increase the Department of Education’s (DepEd) 2023 budget for new buildings, which is only 5.91 billion pesos, enough to fund 2,379 new classrooms.

“Kung totoong 900,000 enrolled in the vast majority of private schools in public schools, ‘there are not 22,500 daily rooms in life,’ Recto pointed out.

The Philippines had the lowest reading comprehension test scores among 79 countries, which participated in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2018 International Student Assessment Program.

The pandemic has worsened the country’s “school poverty”, with less than 15% of school children able to read simple texts, largely due to school closures, the UN Children’s Fund has reported.

“Let’s make our young people fall in love with books. And building book depots and reading centers could be the start of their beautiful relationship with reading,” he said. “If we want our children to read, read, read, we have to build, build, build libraries.”

Recto added that school libraries should have free Wi-Fi so students can access “the online universe of reading material waiting to be explored by inquisitive minds.”