Reforms in the Philippine education system: The K to 12 Program

In Photo: Students of the Bagong Tanyag Elementary School in Bicutan, Taguig, shows their Abakada book. In each classes, three school hours per session is only being accommodated for they are lacking in classrooms. The question is what can a student learn from a three-hour class. The Philippine educational system is faced with a slew of problems, including lack of classrooms, dilapidated school buildings and shortage of teachers.

By Cyril John Barlongo

QUALITY education is viewed as any country’s pillar of success.

Restructuring the Philippines’s basic educational system through the K to 12 Program is a tough but strategic move by the government to ensure that it produces competent graduates who can serve as the backbone for a highly skilled and employable work force.

In Photo: Grade 1 pupils from Pasay City Elementary School at Leveriza Street in Pasay City take time to write on their paper during the opening of classes in Metro Manila area and other provinces.
In Photo: Grade 1 pupils from Pasay City Elementary School at Leveriza Street in Pasay City take time to write on their paper during the opening of classes in Metro Manila area and other provinces. Roy Domingo

Introduced in 2011 by the Department of Education (DepEd), headed by Secretary Armin Luistro, FSJ, the K to 12 Program made kindergarten a prerequisite to basic education. It lengthened basic schooling to include a two-year senior high school and offered technical and vocational courses to students not planning to go to college, thus giving them more chances of getting employed in blue-collar work.

The program replaced the 10-year basic education curriculum, which consisted of six years in grade school and four years in high school that concentrated on the English language and Filipino, the sciences, arithmetic and mathematics, and the social sciences.

It also incorporated these basic lessons to include basic science and technology, engineering, mathematics, accountancy, business and management, humanities and social sciences, and general academic courses such as technical-vocational-livelihood, arts and design, and sports.

The implementation of the program has aroused fear among 13,600 teachers and 11,400 nonteaching staff in higher education institutions (HEIs) that they would end up losing their jobs due to the lack of college enrollees.

Petitions have been submitted to the Supreme Court to suspend the program because politicians and groups find the new system as insufficient preparation for life after school.

Lack of infrastructure is also one of the issues confronting the DepEd prior to and during the initial implementation of the program. Needed for the new curriculum are 30,000 new classrooms; 30,000 new teachers; and 6,000 nonteaching staff.

Like most government endeavors, public education cannot succeed without the support of the private sector.  With the help of companies and business groups, programs by the government are important in building a strong future for the country that would enhance our competitiveness in the global community and would advance the competencies of Filipino graduates to stand at par with global practices and be equipped with relevant skills and knowledge in their chosen professions. Different programs will give the youth a steady and confident footing in pursuing a career that will empower them to become able and productive participants in the shared task of nation-building.

Toward this end, business organizations have been supporting the K to 12 Program on its continued and proper reform implementation. Consistent support has been provided by the Makati Business Club, Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Management Association of the Philippines, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

Studies have repeatedly shown that “more schooling leads to a higher income, averaging a 10-percent increase for every additional year in school.”

The League of Cities of the Philippines has also expressed its full and unwavering support for the flagship education reform of the Aquino administration, led by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.

Quality education is the best that the country can offer, a call that leads to quality employment for a better quality of life. Hence, lawmakers should still be in the lookout for potential advancements in the current status of our education system.

As of January 2015, the Philippine Statistics Authority Labor Force Survey showed a 6.6-percent unemployment rate from 7.5 percent the previous year. Meanwhile, the survey also showed employment grew to 93.4 percent, up from 92.5 percent the preceding year.

If industries, members of academe and society as a whole can work concertedly toward empowering the students with global-standard competencies, the country’s employment rate will improve further.

Despite the massive number of graduates the country’s institutions of higher learning produce annually, not all possess the life skills needed to enter and become productive members of the work force.

Workers in the services sector dominated the largest proportion by 54.6 percent, comprised of those engaged in wholesale and retail trade, or in the repair of motor vehicles as the largest percentage. Meanwhile, workers in the agriculture and industry sector comprised the second and the smallest group with 29.5 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively. Laborers and unskilled workers have remained in the largest group, accounting for 31 percent.

Due to financial reasons, many high-school graduates today cannot proceed to college, which contributes to the aggregate of about 15 million out-of-school youth, according to PBEd.

The nonprofit organization proposes a voucher system to the DepEd and Commission for Higher Education (CHED) to give out-of-school youth a chance to pursue tertiary education.

According to PBEd, the Unified Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education (UniFAST) and the Tertiary Education Transition Fund (TETF) will facilitate the funding for the program if Congress will pass the two bills into law.

The UniFAST bill will harmonize government scholarships, grants-in-aid and loan programs, while the TETF bill, in turn, will establish a development and welfare fund, PBEd says.

The UniFAST bill has been approved on third and final reading in the House of Representatives and on second reading at the Senate.

The community where the students live is a key factor in collective assistance and encouragement. With the help of volunteers through the DepEd’s Brigada Eskuwela program, the public and private sectors unite to provide services and resources through the repair and ensuring the safety and cleanliness of classrooms and schools for the opening of public schools this June.

The program brings together teachers, parents, community members and stakeholders every third week of May in an effort to maximize civil participation and utilize local resources to prepare public schools for the opening of classes.

During the long week event, volunteers take time doing minor repairs, painting and cleaning of school campuses.

The program has become the DepEd’s model of genuine public and private partnership to curb challenges that Philippine education is facing and serves as one of its front-line initiatives.

The Gulayan sa Paaralan Program of the DepEd, which began in 2007, also helps to address child malnutrition among elementary students.  The crops harvested from school gardens, which were also planted by the students, are used to sustain the school’s feeding programs. Children lacking proper nutrients have lesser energy, physically and mentally, hence are unable to fully participate in class.

Because of significant inflation in the country and improvement of facilities, private institutions have raised their tuition in 313 private colleges and universities for the coming school year, slightly higher than the 287 HEIs allowed by the CHED last year, for an increase in tuition and other fees.

The CHED said that of the 313 schools, only 283 HEIs were allowed to increase tuition, 212 would increase other fees, and 182 out of 313 schools were allowed to increase both tuition and other school fees.

Despite the higher number compared to that of last year, the increases were lower from an average of P35.66 per unit to P29.86. Other school fees were also lowered to P135.60 from P141.55 last year.

Due to Supertyphoon Yolanda that devastated a wide swath of land in Eastern Visayas in 2013, the CHED did not approve any application from the schools affected to increase tuition and other school fees.

As no applications were submitted to CHED, no increases were imposed in the provinces of Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in Region 2; Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon in Region 5; Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Siquijor in Region 7; Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon and Misamis Occidental in Region 10.

For a program to go through, right appropriation is essential to deliver a smooth program implementation. Mandated by the Philippine Constitution, the government must allocate the highest proportion of its budgetary needs to education. As part of the Aquino administration vow, of the P2.606-trilliion national budget, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allocated P367.1 billion for the DepEd, the highest among the government agencies.  The 2015 budget increased by 18.6 percent from last year.

Among the DepEd’s programs are Abot-Alam Program, Alternative Delivery Mode Projector e-IMPACT, Basic Education Madrasah Program, Computerization Program, Redesigned Technical-Vocational High School Program and Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education.

Modernizing the higher public education system is an integral part of making school facilities a conducive environment for students to learn. Hence, to improve the country’s state universities and colleges (SUCs), a total of P44.4 billion was allocated to the SUCs, 16.8 percent higher from last year.

The P2.5-billion allocation is designed to aid 40,453 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries.

To aid students who want to earn a college degree, the DBM allotted P7.9 billion for scholarship grants and financial assistance. Under this allocation, the CHED’s Students Financial Assistance Program was appropriated a total of P763 million that will help 54,208 students nationwide.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes, Roy Domingo

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