Boon and bane

NOT many will disagree that there are a lot harried parents in the country today because of the additional two senior high school (SHS) years of the K to 12 curriculum of the Department of Education (Deped).

Under K to 12, a student is required to undergo kindergarten, six years of elementary, four years of junior high school and two years of SHS.

The implementation of mandatory kindergarten began in school year (SY) 2011-2012, followed by the new curriculum for Grade 7 to 10 in SY  2012-2013. SY 2016-2017 marked the nationwide implementation of the Grade 11 curriculum, followed by the Grade 12 curriculum this SY 2017-2018.

In this paper’s The Broader Look story last week (See, “PHL still teaching self in journey to K to 12,” in the BusinessMirror, June 15) Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones asserts that the program will benefit Filipino students and the country.

“We rolled out the K to 12 because Filipinos should realize the rich advantage of the new curriculum in making the youth more productive and competitive, not only overseas, but more so in their country,” Briones said.

“We are doing K to 12 for ourselves and for Philippine education,” she added. “We are doing this to be able to compete in our own country so that we can equip our learners with appropriate skills, creativity and intelligence to cope with the changing world.”

We have no quarrel with the noble intentions of this curriculum. Granted, the K to 12 Program is supposed to not only make our graduates more competitive with the rest of the world by extending our school system to match theirs, it would also make them more productive and employable in our own country.

But that’s granting that those two additional years would be quality years added to a vastly improved system. Two more years of the same poor system won’t cut it.

As we pointed out in last Tuesday’s editorial (See, “Quagmired,” in the BusinessMirror, June 13), the opening of this school year saw classrooms in public schools still overcrowded, their teachers having to do two or three shifts just to accommodate the huge number of students and photocopying learning materials themselves. The government’s P543.2-billion budget allocation for education this year still has not solved the perennial basic problems—the lack of classrooms, teachers, textbooks and other basic needs.

Parents, students and teachers are probably telling themselves in exasperation that an additional two more years of schooling like this is the last thing they need.

There are so many kinks in the K to 12 curriculum that the government has to iron out and we certainly hope President Duterte won’t just kick the can to the next administration.

The League of Filipino Students (LFS) previously estimated that a student in a public SHS needs P100,000 to cover expenses for the additional two years under K to 12, and a student in a private SHS needs P200,000. The LFS said additional expenses under K to 12 will eat up most of the annual income of Filipino families, which averages at P235,000, while the poorest families in the country living on P69,000 a year would find it impossible.

The costs might have been lessened somewhat because of the DepEd’s P34.5- billion allocation for SHS vouchers this year and the P22 billion it spent for vouchers last year.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said though that this is no consolation to a lot of parents who do not even have enough money for their kids’ transportation to school.  ACT said there are already 3.4 million dropouts because of the lack of school vouchers.

The SHS is “not for free but for sale”, said ACT National Chairman Benjamin Valbuena, adding that only profit-oriented private schools are the ones benefiting from the K to 12 Program.

We certainly hope this is not true.