A COOPERATIVE project between the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc. has resulted in 80 video lessons on reading and Filipino values.

During a press conference last month, the NCCA introduced Wikaharian, a video series starring Teacher Michelle and her team of puppets aimed at teaching Grade 1 students reading and grammar (particularly in Filipino). While some episodes have been floating about since at least October, new episodes are released via Knowledge Channel’s Facebook at 1 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, according to the Knowledge Channel website.

Wikaharian is our first endeavor to integrate arts and culture content into subject areas such as reading and writing,” said Marichu Tellano, Deputy Executive Director of the NCCA.

Rina Lopez-Bautista, President and Executive Director of the Knowledge Channel, said that they began shooting the series prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdowns. While the series is available via the Knowledge Channel website and its social media accounts, the videos are also available offline on the Knowledge Channel in cable and satellite channels; as well as the Knowledge Channel Portable Media Library. “It’s an important step in helping children learn to read and instill among the young learners the awareness, the appreciation, and pride of Filipino beliefs and values,” she said.

Ms. Lopez-Bautista pointed to the recent tests issued by international bodies that ranked Filipino students well below their international peers in areas such as reading comprehension. “These videos come at a crucial time, as we face many challenges in improving the quality of basic education in our country; in light of our performance in all the international test results thus far,” she said. “By focusing our efforts on the foundational skills of early reading and numeracy, we can prepare our children better: not [just] for international benchmark tests, but more importantly, for life.”

Rep. Loren Legarda, who supports the project, agreed with the focus on foundational skills. “Cultural growth is actually what we need, and this, I believe, should start from the womb pa lang; binabasahan na dapat ng mga nanay ang mga bata (mothers should start reading to their children while they’re still in the womb).”

Catch Wikaharian and other online schooling programs at facebook.com/knowledgechannel and at youtube.com/knowledgechannelorg. — J.L. Garcia