At the end of a school semester, university professors would usually require their students to pass an in-depth research paper containing their knowledge about a certain assigned topic they themselves studied for a couple of months.

This requires a lot of research and technical writing expertise. It should be well-written, analytical, organized, and well-researched.

Most students, however, become anxious whenever their professor told them to do such a task. Happy-go-lucky students would just resort to copy and paste an already-completed research paper they found on the world wide web, rehash it, placed their names as the “author,” and pass it with crossed fingers on their backs, hoping that their professor won’t find out.

Aside from the fact that some if not all students are just plain lazy to conduct a comprehensive research, some can’t put their explanations into words. Some cannot even write a decent sentence in English.

In an article by the think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) on April 20, it bared that senior high school students find it difficult to write in English when working on a research paper.

It noted that students are submitting projects for compliance only, preventing them from applying their learning and ability to persuade and to argue.

Seven months later, the country’s global English proficiency level slid down to 27th place in the 2020 EF English Proficiency Index, according to the report by international education company Education First this week.

The country’s rank dropped further down in the last three years based on the report: from 14th in 2018, 20th in 2019, and 27th in 2020, while it placed 13th in 2016 and 15th in 2017. While the Philippines’ global rank is down by seven places this year, its English proficiency remains “high.” The country has a score of 562 out of 700.

In Asia, the Philippines is behind Singapore, which has a score of 611 and is ranked 10th on the global index. Globally, the Netherlands topped the list, with a score of 652.

The English proficiency levels in the report range from “very low” to “very high.”

The ranking was based on the English tests administered by Education First to 2.2 million adults from 100 countries and territories in 2019.

To some, rankings like this don’t matter. For them, these are just mere numbers. Surveys like this, however, reflect the struggles students in private or public schools are experiencing as the current education system deteriorates.

Amid the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools in the country shifted to distance learning – a mix of online classes and printed learning modules – following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to suspend face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Under the distance learning system, parents have an active role in guiding their children through modular lessons, which poses a problem for students who do not have anyone to facilitate learning at home or whose parents cannot guide them due to lack of knowledge.

If the Department of Education (DepEd) couldn’t support wholly or improve the education system in the country, they should at least correct their faulty learning modules. After all, they are tasked to hone students with or without the pressure of a national health crisis.

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