Blessings of the magi


WITHIN a decade beginning at the 21st century’s threshold, Filipinos have nudged upward their literacy rate to five percent.

So shows the 2010 Census of Housing and Population data released late December 2013 by the National Statistics Office.

In NSO reckoning, all it takes for a person to be deemed as literate is to be “able to read and write a simple message in any language or dialect.”

With that as yardstick, it turns out that 97.5 percent or 69.8 million of the total 71.5 million persons aged 10 and above were literate in 2010—and that was 5.2 percent higher than the 92.3-percent literacy rate notched in 2000. Notes NSO: “There are more literate females than males—higher by 0.2 percent, or 97.6 percent compared to 97.4-percent male literacy rate.”

Let’s make this clear: No global standard for measuring literacy holds sway. Fact is, most nations reckon the literacy of their populace by the ability to read a newspaper—not much of an omen for local print media whose combined circulation for the nation’s readers is way down below five million newspapers weekly.

For want of a global literacy standard, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) plies a less-than-easy measure of literacy: “(It is the) ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.”

Too, the Unesco yardstick for literacy “involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

NSO may have set too low a mark of literacy for Filipinos to yawn through. So unlike the Unesco nudge for people to engage in critical thinking and continuous learning to make the grade, maybe make a difference in the community and society.

Centuries back, three learned men—so-called wizards or magi—from eastern parts of the globe sought out a newborn king, who in their reckoning, was out to save mankind. No GPS, no hovering communication satellite, likely just crude instruments, old-fangled maps, sheer persistence or maybe faith and a scatter of stars in the vault of heaven to guide their quest.

They found Him. And laid before the infant who would be king their gifts usually brought to honor a monarch—pricey bitter myrrh used to embalm dead royalty, gold, and frankincense, expensive gum resin used in perfumes and salve for joint pains.

It must have entailed a “continuum of learning” for an ordinary mortal to become a magus; the Christian faithful celebrates today a feast for three of such exceptional learned men. The celebration writes finis to the world’s longest Christmas season—not much of a celebration to a continuum of learning that both enable and ennoble Filipinos to achieve their goal, seek out and sharpen edge in knowledge, and maybe participate fully in the community and society.

A 2004 global survey “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” had the Philippines scoring an average of 86- dullard or bobo level; one level up from moron, two levels up from imbecile. We ought to have moved up from that level.

As everything begins at home, would-be-parents among Filipinos have a lot of catching up to do in training their children in the way they should go.


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