Technical Notes on the 1994 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS)

Release Date: 

Thursday, January 6, 2005


In November 1994, the National Statistics Office (NSO), in coordination with the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) conducted the second Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS).

A nationwide survey conducted every five years, FLEMMS seeks to gather information on the following:

  • functional literacy status,
  • educational and skills qualification, and
  • exposure to mass media of the population.

The 1994 FLEMMS was conducted in response to the government’s program of “Eradicating Illiteracy in the Year 2000” through Memorandum Circular No. 71, issued by President Fidel V. Ramos on September 7, 1993. This circular is basically geared towards intensifying, strengthening and consolidating efforts of all sectors of the society to deliver literacy and the necessary intervention to priority Filipinos especially those in the depressed, disadvantaged and underserved areas.

This survey was first conducted in 1989 with about 20,000 sample households. The 1994 survey covered a nationwide sample of about 25,500 households deemed sufficient to provide estimates at the national and subnational levels.


The purpose of the 1994 FLEMMS is to provide a quantitative framework that will serve as basis in the formulation of policies and programs on the improvement of literacy and educational status of the population and the improvement of mass media services to the public. Basically, the survey aims:

  1. to measure functional literacy levels of the population;
  2. to determine the educational and skills qualifications of the population;
  3. to determine the magnitude and socio-economic profile of the out-of-school youth; and
  4. to assess the extent of exposure of the population to mass media.

Specifically, the objectives of the 1994 FLEMMS are:

  1. to estimate the number of the functionally literate population and to determine their socio-economic characteristics;
  2. to determine the educational qualifications of the population in terms of formal and non-formal schooling; to ascertain the relevance of educational qualifications and utilization of course taken to occupation;
  3. to estimate the number of out-of-school youth and determine their socio-economic profile;
  4. to determine the socio-economic characteristics of the population 10 years old and over who are exposed to the different forms of mass media; and
  5. to estimate the ownership of radio, television sets, video cassette recorders and personal computer and the availability of periodicals.

SAMPLING DESIGN                

The sampling design of the 1994 FLEMMS adopted that of the Integrated Survey of Households of the NSO, which used a stratified two-stage cluster design.

1. Domains

The urban and rural areas of each province are the principal domains for the survey. In addition, areas with 150,000 or more population as of 1990 are also made domains of the survey with urban and rural dimensions. These include the four cities (Manila, Quezon City, Pasay and Caloocan) and five municipalities (Valenzuela, Parañaque, Pasig, Marikina and Makati) of Metro Manila; other key cities such as Angeles, Baguio, Cabanatuan, Olongapo, Batangas, Lipa, Lucena , San Pablo, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu, Mandaue, Zamboanga, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos and Iligan; and key municipalities such as San Fernando, Pampanga and Tarlac, Tarlac. The remaining municipalities of Metro Manila (Taguig, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pateros, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa) were treated as separate domain known as Other Metro. It should also be mentioned that in the case of Makati, six exclusive villages were identified and samples were selected using a different scheme. These villages are Forbes Park, Bel-Air, Dasmariñas, San Lorenzo, Urdaneta and Magallanes.

Because of the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Marawi City and Cotabato City are likewise treated as domains.

2. Sampling Units

The primary sampling units (PSU’s) under the sample design are barangays, which were classified as either urban or rural, and households within each sample barangay comprised the secondary sampling units (SSU’s). Within each domain, a pre-determined number of PSU’s (based upon an approximately “proportional to size” sample allocation scheme) was selected at the first stage of sample selection procedure with probability proportional to size (PPS). Prior to selection, PSU’s in each domain were ordered by population size, creating a secondary (i.e., implicit) stratification intended to improve the efficiency of the sample design. Population counts from the 1990 Census of Population and Housing (CPH) were used as measures of size during the first stage sample selection.

Within each PSU selected at the first stage, a pre-determined number of households (SSU’s) was selected at the second stage using a systematic random selection procedure with equal probability. The number of households chosen from each PSU took into account the probability of selecting the PSU at the first stage such that each household within the domain had an equal probability of selection for the survey that is the sample was self-weighting within domains.

DEFINITION OF TERMS                                   

Simple literacy

  • ability of a person to read and write with understanding a simple message in any language or dialect. The simple literacy status of an individual can be determined based on the respondent’s answer to the question “Can ____ read and write a simple message in any language or dialect?”

Functional literacy

  • a significantly higher level of literacy which includes not only reading and writing skills but also numeracy skills. The skills must be sufficiently advanced to enable the individual to participate fully and efficiently in activities commonly occurring in his life situation that require a reasonable capability of communicating by written language.

Out-of-school youth includes the following:

  • household members 6-14 years old who are not attending formal education during the School Year 1994-1995, and
  • household members 15-24 years old who are currently out of formal school, not gainfully employed and have not graduated from college.           


Data gathered from FLEMMS are results of a sample survey and are, therefore, subject to sampling variation, i.e., sampling errors are expected since the data were not obtained through complete enumeration or census.

  • The survey covered a national sample of households deemed sufficient to provide estimates about the population only at the national (Philippines) and subnational (region, province and key city/municipality) levels. Hence, tabulations and cross-tabulations of variables at any other lower levels (other municipalities or barangays) may be misleading or not statistically reliable.
  • Due to sample size considerations, 100% literacy rates occurred for highly disaggregated areas and/or special groups. This does not, however, imply complete absence of illiterates but may be construed as an indication of a very high literacy rate. n There are instances when the proportion has decreased but the number has actually increased. Thus, for a more realistic and meaningful interpretation of results, data users are advised to look at both the proportions and the absolute/actual numbers.
  • In comparing the 1989 with the 1994 FLEMMS results, the following differences between the two surveys must be taken into consideration:

a. on the survey period

The 1989 FLEMMS was conducted in July while the 1994 FLEMMS was carried out in November. As such, the comparability of the data may have been affected by the timing of the survey. Specifically, the enrollment rate of the population and the number of out-of-school youths may have been influenced by the seasonality in school attendance, harvest  season and other factors. Hence, the 1989 survey may present a relatively favorable picture.

b. on vocational/technical education/training

In 1989, the word “possession” was used to determine if the person has acquired vocational/technical schooling/training. In 1994, the word “completion” was emphasized in the question. If these two terms are conceptually the same, then the difference between the two surveys may be real. Otherwise, the results are incomparable as the 1989 term appears to be less restrictive.

c. on functional literacy

The 1994 FLEMMS Form 2 was designed to measure the functional literacy level of the household population 10 to 64 years old who have not graduated from high school. The eligible respondents were asked to read and answer the questionnaire by themselves, without any help from the enumerator or other household members. It was assumed that persons who have at least graduated from high school are functionally literate, regardless of the number of years theyhave been out of school.

Many changes were introduced in the 1994 FLEMMS Form 2 relative to the 1989 questionnaire.Some of the questions asked to measure functional literacy in 1994 were different from those in 1989. From 11 questions in 1989, the number was trimmed down to 7 in 1994, including one question on reading comprehension.

Provided that despite the differences in the questions asked, the instrument used to measure functional literacy in 1989 and 1994 are the same, then any increase/decrease in the literacy rates may be interpreted correctly as real change.

d. on regional grouping and disaggregation

In order to have a more realistic picture of the changes in regional data and to make 1994 figures comparable with 1989, the 1989 regional grouping was adopted in 1994. That is, the provinces comprising ARMM were reverted back to their mother regions. Specifically, the affected provinces are Maguindanao (excluding Cotabato City) and Lanao del Sur (excluding Marawi City) which originally came from Region XII; and Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, which were taken from Region IX.


Source: Social and Demographic Statistics Division