AS we enter the last 18 months of President Aquino’s administration, it may be important to share with our readers the significant legislations on education passed by our 15th and 16th Congresses. The first on the list should be Republic Act (RA) 10533, otherwise known as the “Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.” This law provides for at least one year of preschool and 12 years basic education (six years of elementary; four years of junior-high school; and two years of senior-high school).
The K to 12 Basic Education program aims to provide “sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners,” and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment and entrepreneurship. Surely, the successful implementation of this law should define the greatest contribution and achievement of President Aquino’s administration to Philippine basic education. During the signing ceremonies of this law last May 2013, the President aptly said: “By signing this bill into law, we are not just adding two years of additional learning for our students; we are making certain that the coming generations are empowered to strengthen the very fabric of our society, as well as our economy.”
Second is RA 10157, also known as the “Kindergarten Education Act,” which makes kindergarten education the first stage of compulsory and mandatory formal education prior to Grade 1. (This was actually passed before the K to 12 law.) Before the passage of this law, a 6-year-old child may proceed to Grade 1 without going to any form of formal preschool or kindergarten education. Recognizing the importance of a good preschool education to have a good foundation “in the crucial years in the formative development of a child,” Education Secretary Bro. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, embarked on a universal kindergarten program for 5-year-olds to give our children entering basic education the proper preparation on the rigors of elementary schooling. Yes, Brother Armin did this even before the law was passed, which undoubtedly shows the kind of proactive leader he is.
Third is RA 10627, or the “Anti-Bullying Act of 2013.” This law is one of the first “anti-bullying laws” in the world. Under this law, all public and private basic-education schools are mandated to adopt anti-bullying policies and establish intervention programs for both the child victim and the child bully. Schools should also impose the appropriate disciplinary measures against the perpetrators depending on the gravity and nature of the bullying case.
The Department of Education (DepEd) may suspend or revoke the permit or recognition of a private school in case of noncompliance with the law. On the other hand, public school personnel who fail to comply may be held administratively liable by the DepEd.
There are many other noteworthy laws enacted in my personal list. And this includes, among others, the following (we cannot mention them all for lack of space):
- RA 10612 (“Fast-Tracked Science and Technology [S&T] Scholarship Act of 2013”) which not only assists in the implementation of Section 8 of the K to 12 law urging the hiring of teachers from among the graduates of science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses but also enhances the current science and technology scholarships offered by the Department of Science and Technology under RA 7687;
- RA 10618 (“Rural Farm Schools Act”) which aims to provide alternative mode of secondary education in rural areas with the establishment of rural farm schools in the country (and shall follow the general secondary education curriculum with additional courses focused on agri-fishery arts);
- RA 10648 (“Iskolar ng Bayan Act of 2014”) which mandates all state universities and colleges to admit and provide scholarship grants to the top 10 public high-school graduates subject to some requirements and conditions provided by said law and the implementing rules and regulations to be formulated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the DepEd; and
- RA 10588 (“Palarong Pambansa Act of 2013”) which institutionalizes the conduct of the Palarong Pambansa every year, making the event the “primary avenue for providing in-school sports opportunities to improve the physical, intellectual and social well-being of the youth.” While not all of these laws were originally proposed by the DepEd, we have to commend the leadership of our Bro. Armin and Education Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs Alberto T. Muyot for providing the guidance (together with the other concerned agencies) to the proper Congressional committees during the hearings on these measures so as to ensure that the laws as enacted shall be truly relevant and meaningful to our children.
- Lawyer Toni Umali is the current assistant secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs of the DepEd. He is licensed to practice law not only in the Philippines but also in the State of California and some Federal Courts in the United States of America after passing the California State Bar Examinations in 2004. He has served as legal consultant to several legislators and local chief executives. As DepEd assistant secretary, he was instrumental in the passage of the K to 12 law and the issuance of its implementing rules and regulations. He is also the alternate spokesman of the DepEd.