Whatever shall we do with our education system?
The central reform that the present administration wants to implement is the K to 12, a program that makes kindergarten mandatory and adds two years to the present 10-year basic education. Today we begin our series on this program that will be implemented for the first time in June by the Department of Education. Filipinos often reminisce about the era until the 1950s when the Philippine economy was second only to Japan in Asia. In the decades that followed, the Philippines watched itself being overtaken by countries that rebuilt themselves from war, instability and poverty, as our own continued to sink into the quagmire of disunity, destructive politics and corruption. Correlated to the country’s economic decline is the neglect and deterioration of its educational sector. Is it any wonder that today our country has fallen from its former prestige to the bottom of most global rankings of progress and development? The Department of Education’s K to 12 Program is one concrete response to reverse this steady decline and to move toward its goal of long-term educational reform and sustainable economic growth. The central feature of the K to 12 Program is the upgrading of the basic education curriculum to ensure that learners acquire the relevant knowledge and skills they will need to become productive members of society. It seeks to introduce relevant skills development courses and special interest subjects that will suit the personality, strengths and career direction of each learner. With the participation of the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the program has the capability of offering professionally designed classes and apprenticeships in sports, the arts, middle-level skills, entrepreneurship, and applied math and sciences. Whereas the old system overemphasized the value of a college degree before employment, the new program is designed to equip every learner who graduates after senior high school (Grade 12) with the opportunity for improved employment and entrepreneurship while ensuring that the high-school graduate has the necessary competencies to pursue a college degree either immediately or at some later stage. With an upgraded and better-equipped pool of human resource, industries will be able to find better and more qualified matches in their labor requirements. For graduates proceeding to tertiary education, the K to 12 Program puts them at par with their international counterparts and makes them more competitive in colleges and universities both here and abroad. Higher education institutions will gain the flexibility to offer more enriched and specialized courses in every degree program since a number of its general education courses would have already been completed in high school. This greatly advances the graduates’ chances of landing 21st-century careers and acquiring self-employment skill sets. As in any worthwhile investment, returns are reaped only after enough time and effort. The K to 12 Program is just the beginning of what we hope to be the answer to the Philippines’ comeback to the global stage, and a sustained path toward progress and development for its people. If we want to see our country back on the right track, we must dare take that first bold step today.
Is the Philippines ready for K+12?
The current System of Education in the Philippines is in the brink of extinction, for a new Education System is being proposed. The existing system of 6 years in Elementary, and 4 years in Secondary before entering Tertiary is being challenged. In fact, a major reform in the Education System is on the horizon, and this shall radically change the way Filipinos are educated.
Many queries arise because of the new system. Students, parents and even educators doubt the effectiveness of the K+12. Contrarily, the Department of Education does not want to be stopped and is determined to pursue the program. On a reform as massive as this, it is expected that the opinions of the people are divided; after all, it depends in the K+12 on how the Education of the country will progress.
It is proper then that the public be educated about the issue. Parents must know about this because in it depends the Education of their child; students must know about this because in it depends the way on how they would be educated; and educators must know about this because in it depends how they’ll educated the students. The purpose of this essay is straightforward: to inform the public about the issue and present my arguments regarding the K+12. I will embark upon the effectiveness of the implementation of K+12, not necessarily the effectiveness of K+12 as a system. In Education lies the future of a society; it is appropriate then that the students be educated properly, because their individual as well as societal growth depends in it. What is K+12 and why would we implement it?
Starting SY 2011-2012, the Department of Education will begin to implement the Enhanced K+12 Basic Education Program, or simply K+12. K+12 is an abbreviation of Kindergarten + 12 years of Elementary and Secondary Education. This means that all students are required to enroll on a Kindergarten first, before advancing into Elementary. The current 4 years of Secondary level will be changed into 6 years, divided in Junior High School and Senior High School. Thus, the basic Education process of a Filipino child will be Kindergarten + 6 years of Elementary + 4 years of Junior High + 2 years of Senior High.
The Universal Kindergarten will be implemented starting SY 2011-2012. This means that starting this school year, the first step in the Education of a child is Kindergarten, unlike in the old system where a child may go to Elementary without finishing Kindergarten. On SY 2012-2013 all the grade 1 students will be under the 12 year Education curriculum and the old 10 year curriculum will finally be removed. The batch of first year high school students on SY 2012-2013 will be the first ones to experience the new high school curriculum; this means that by SY 2016-2017 they will undergo Senior High, instead of already finishing Secondary level. And by SY 2018-2019 all students are required to have attended the full 12 years of basic Education for them to be accepted in the Tertiary level.
The obvious addition in the K+12 is the Senior High School. The Department of Education has outlined the basic definition of Senior High School, and it is:
[a] 2 years of in-depth specialization for students depending on the occupation/career track they wish to pursue, [wherein] skills and competencies relevant to the job market [are taught]. The 2 years of senior HS intend[s] to provide time for students to consolidate acquired academic skills and competencies. The curriculum will allow specializations in Science and Technology, Music and Arts, Agriculture and Fisheries, Sports, Business and Entrepreneurship.
Studies are made regarding the capability of a Filipino student, and results gathered are very negative: The National Achievement Tests (NAT) for grade 6 students on SY 2009-2010 shows that only 69.21% of examinees passed, while the NAT for high school students show a more negative result – only 46.38% examinees passed. International studies are not different, they also show negative results. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), ranked the Philippines 34th out of 38 countries in HS II Math and 43rd out of 46 countries in HS II Science; for grade 4, the Philippines ranked 23rd out of 25 participating countries in both Math and Science. In 2008, even with only the science high schools participating in the Advanced Mathematics category, the Philippines were ranked lowest.The Department of Education blames the poor performance of Filipino students on the current Education system, they said that the current curriculum is designed for 12 years of teaching, yet it is delivered in just 10 years.
It is also argued that since the Philippines remains to be the only country to have a 10 year Education system in Asia; it is high time to implement the K+12, for our Asian brothers have done that a long time ago. The need to be internationally competitive is also stressed by the Department of Education. What are the benefits that we will gain with K+12?
The Department of Education has outlined the benefits that the society, as well as individuals would theoretically attain should K+12 be implemented, and these are the following:
A. To Individuals and Families An enhanced curriculum will decongest academic workload, giving students more time to master competencies and skills as well as time for other learning opportunities beyond the classroom, thus allowing for a more holistic development.
Graduates will possess competencies and skills relevant to the job market. The K+12 proposal will be designed to adjust and meet the fast-changing demands of society to prepare graduates with skills essential for the world of work.
Graduates will be prepared for higher education. Due to an enhanced curriculum that will provide relevant content and attuned with the changing needs of the times, basic education will ensure sufficient mastery of core subjects to its graduates such that graduates may opt to pursue higher education if they choose to. Graduates will be able to earn higher wages and/or better prepared to start their own business. There is a strong correlation between educational attainment and wage structure and studies specific to the Philippine setting show that an additional year of schooling increases earnings by 7.5%. This should also allow greater access to higher education for self-supporting students.
Graduates could now be recognized abroad. Filipino graduates, e.g. engineers, architects, doctors, etc., could now be recognized as professionals in other countries. Those who intend to study abroad will meet the entrance requirements of foreign schools.
B. For the Society and the Economy
The economy will experience accelerated growth in the long run. The objective of the K+12 program is to improve quality of basic education. Several studies have shown that the improvements in the quality of education will increase GDP growth by as much as 2%. Studies in the UK, India and US show that additional years of schooling also have positive overall impact on society.
The Philippine education system will be at par with international standards. K+12 will facilitate mutual recognition of Filipino graduates and professionals following the Washington Accord and the Bologna Accord. A better educated society provides a sound foundation for long-term socioeconomic development. The Enhanced K+12 Basic Education system will contribute to the development of emotionally and intellectually mature individuals capable of pursuing.
What is the present state of the Education Sector?
The poor scores given by Filipino students on exams testing their capabilities reflect the poor quality of Educational Institutions in the Philippines.
As of the moment, the Education Sector lacks 150+ thousand classrooms, 100+ thousand teachers, 95+ million textbooks and 13+ million seats. There is a good reason why our Education Sector is in short of the basic necessities of studying, and that is the low budget that the National Government gives to the Education Sector. Even if the budget allocation for Education this year increased 11.4% – making it 16.5% of the National Budget or P271 billion – compared to the budget allocation for Education on 2010, that is 15.6% of the National Budget or P240 billion, the budget is still insufficient to meet the needs of the Sector. In fact, Anakbayan spokesperson Clarizze Banez said: “Even if you combine the DepEd and SUCs (state college and universities) budgets, it will only equal to three percent of the GDP, a far cry from the six percent GDFP-amount advocated by the United Nations”.
The Department of Education needs P150 billion to fill all the gaps that it has, and to produce all the needed resources.
Is the K+12 a good investment for the country?
No doubt that improving the way of how Filipinos are educated is the goal of K+12. The K+12 may indeed improve the way on how Filipinos are educated, if it be implemented when we have a good and stable Education Sector. Unfortunately, we do not have such; indeed we have a Sector that lacks all the basic necessities of Education like classrooms, books, chairs and teachers. If there is something that we do not lack, it is the number of enrollees, for it is steadily increasing. The additional increase of enrollees on the Secondary level in SY 2010-11 to SY 2016-17 is 2.5 million, while on the Elementary level 3.8 million. Introducing a better system is good, when the recipient is ready; but when the recipient of the system is not yet ready, it becomes bad, on worst situations, disastrous. The Education Sector currently needs one thing to improve all its resources – budget. Yet, no administration in recent memory is willing to prioritize spending and invest money on the Education Sector.
Even more, the opinion of DepEd about its lack of budget while implementing K+12 is alarming, Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said: “Dapat tanggapin natin na ito ang tamang direksyon, pag natanggap po natin ito, ngayon yung isyu ng karagdagang gastos… Ito po ay napaka gandang investment.” The Department of Education will implement the K+12 even if it lacks the budget, and thinks that while it is being implemented is the time to fill its gap. That is plainly absurd. It’s just like sailing a boat that has holes in it, and plans to repair the holes while they are sailing it, which is catastrophic.
What will this wrong optimism of the Department of Education bring? If it is serious about what it said, then the early batches of beneficiaries of K+12 will not have an additional two years of Education but an additional two years of torture. Studying even with the old system is hard, and in some way can be called a torture, and increasing the length of time will just increase the length of torture that the students receive. It will not live to its promise of educating the youth better; it may just worsen the situation.
Will the K+12 fulfill its economic promises?
Even if the students will somehow, miraculously do well on their studies, the promise of them having decent and well-paid jobs is another illusion. The World Bank said that the Philippines have the highest youth unemployment rate.Every year, 300+ thousand new graduates add up to the labor force, and that is why the number of unemployed lags. Even after graduation, older aged people are most likely to be employed than new graduates. In 2008, the Department of Labor and Employment said that 50 percent of the unemployed are aged 15-24. 35% of these students, or 400+ thousand, had finished and took up college degrees. And 700 thousand of these have either finished Secondary or reached Tertiary but has not able to finish it. The current state of the Economic system of the Philippines is very bad. Jobs are hard to find, even those who had finished taking college degrees will have a hard time finding a job. And putting up small businesses is not a good idea too, because it is hard, if not, impossible to compete with foreign owned big-shot companies. From that, it can be said that the unemployment is not linked to the current 10 year Education system, but rather to the poor Economy that the country has. And, if the first batch of graduates from K+12 plans to join the labor force after Senior High, with the current poor Economy, I doubt that they will be able to find a job. Will the K+12 fulfill its Educational promises?
The K+12 promises to “give students more time to master competencies and skills”, yet it is highly doubtable that students will master anything given the lacks of the Education Sector. The current ratio of classroom per student ranges on 1:45-100 depending on the school. Those few who have the 1:45 classroom to student ratio may be part of the few who will learn, but what about those who are in 1:75 or worst in 1:100? Learning anything on an environment that is unfit for Education will surely be hard, if not impossible. Classrooms are not the only deficiency; we also lack teachers, books and chairs. With no teacher to teach, no book to read and chairs to sit into, learning a lesson would be hard; mastering a lesson would become impossible.
And because of those deficiencies, the promise of “graduates possessing competencies and skills relevant to the job market” will be inaccessible. Students will not possess any knowledge if they are educated on an environment that is not fit for Education, and to tell you our Public Schools are unfit for Education. International as well as Local studies had proven that Philippine schools are unfit for Education, with the low scores that Filipino students are giving as the proof.
Increasing the years will not make schools fit for Education; satisfying the school’s shortage of resources will.
What is the verdict then?
The answer is simple – the Philippines is not yet ready for K+12. The effectiveness of K+12 may be another subject of debate, yet even if we assume that it is a sound system, the current condition of the Education Sector makes the K+12 impractical.
Because schools lack classrooms, students are forced to fit themselves on the available ones, resulting to over-crowded classes. And because schools lack books, students will be forced to endure with the available ones, making them bear a 3:1 student to book ratio. Finally, because schools lack teachers, teachers are forced to teach large quantities of students while a large number of students have to endure on a single teacher, and the average 1:65 teacher to student ratio is very alarming.
Increasing the number of years will not make up to the current deficiencies in the Education Sector; increasing the number of years will not make up to the fact that Philippine Public Schools are not fit for Education; increasing the number of years will not make things better, it’ll just worsen things.
The suggestion of increasing the number of years and filling the gaps at the same time is very ridiculous. It would be catastrophic for the first batches, because they will have to bear the current deficiencies while adapting to a new system.
What are the recommendations?
We have a simple problem – the lack of the basic Education necessities on public schools. Simple problems require simple solutions – the simple solution is increasing the allocated budget for Education. Many suggest rechanneling the budget used on paying foreign debts to the Education Sector, and I see it very appropriate. There is no harm on a society prioritizing on the Education of its people, for Education is one of the essentials of an effective society. The problem is visible, the solution is available, and the only thing needed is action. Before any major reform, the Department of Education must first fill out its gaps and deficiencies. There are many things that is needed to be taken care of, before even trying to adopt a new system. The current Education Sector is like a boat, with many holes in it. Placing a better captain will not make-up to the fact that there are holes in the ship; what will fix the problem is repairing the holes of the ship.
When the Department of Education has already taken care of things that needs to be taken care of – when it has already enough books, enough teachers, enough classrooms, enough chairs and a stable budget – only then can we start considering a new system; and not until we take care of old problems, it will continue to hunt us no matter how good the new system is.
With the current situation, K+12 will just worsen the situation.