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Richelle Sy-Kho

Getting ready for K+12

February 8, 2012 3:57pm

When Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC, the secretary of the Department of Education, first proposed the implementation of the K+12 program, not a few people were skeptical about it. I myself thought that it was a long shot. After all, the government, having always been ningas-kugon in its programs, would never be able to implement this. Boy, was I wrong!
A few days ago, the principal of my children’s school called a meeting of all parents to discuss so-called pertinent matters. Aside from the expected tuition increase (10% for my kids), one topic she discussed at length was the K+12 program. Turns out that our school, upon compliance with DepEd regulations, will be partially implementing this program this coming school year. Full implementation will be in 2016.

For those of you who have been living under a rock the past few months, the K+12 program proposes to add two more years to the country’s basic education. That means kindergarten, plus six years of elementary plus four years of high school plus another extra two years of high school, which they call senior high school. All in all, 12 years of basic education for all Filipino children before they are allowed to enter college.

Now I think all of us who have been products of the 10-year basic education would agree that the extra two years is simply unnecessary. We all turned out okay. We managed to find good jobs, were able to take higher studies abroad, and even excelled in other countries vis-a-vis our foreign counterparts.

But according to the DepEd, our education is woefully lacking when compared to other countries who have 12 years of basic education. Their studies show that our high school graduates are too young and immature, with most kids graduating high school at 16 or 17. And their education is not even enough to get them a decent job upon graduation.

So the solution? Add two more years to basic education to improve the quality of education and make us more globally competitive. After all, we are only one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have 12 years of basic education.

On one hand, I can see the wisdom in this program. When graduates of Philippine high schools go abroad to study college, they are not admitted to the schools of their choice even if their grades are more than enough to get them in. Instead, they have to take another year or two of high school or community college just to take up additional subjects that they need to be admitted to universities there. These additional subjects were already taken by their foreign classmates during their last two years in high school (grades 11 and 12).

With the K+12 pogram, our high school graduates can go straight to universities or colleges abroad withouth going through an additional two years in community college or high school.

In terms of employment, there are certain jobs abroad that require a 12-year basic education. So even if a Filipino has a Master’s and Doctorate degree, he/she may still not be qualified for that particular job because he/she does not have the extra two years of high school.

Now there’s no doubt that the program has its merits. And despite our protestations that an additional two years would just mean additional expenses for parents, most of us (at least those belonging to the middle class and upper middle class) would just resort to a little belt-tightening to cope with this change.  

However, I am not really sure how the K+12 program will benefit the ordinary Filipino.

Let’s face it. Most Filipino children now go to public schools. And we all know the myriad problems faced by public schools – classroom shortage, lack of books, lack of teachers, three to four shifts a day for students and teachers. All in all, not a very good start for the K+12 program.

The thing that really worries me is that most Filipino children may not even get to enjoy the extra education from the additional two years in high school. A UN report in 2000, showed that in nearly five decades since the 1960s, dropout rates at the public elementary level in the Philippines remained high, with 28 to 34 percent failing to complete Grade 6.

And based on additional data in 2008 from the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), out of 100 Grade One pupils, only 66 finish Grade Six. Only 58 of the 66 go on to enroll in first-year high school and only 43 finish high school. Of the 43 who finished high school, only 23 enroll in college and only 14 of the 23 graduate from college.

As the cost of education and almost everything else rises, the 43 who get to finish high school may even become less. So what’s the use of the additional two years of high school if less than 40% get to enjoy it?

Yes, the government has good intentions, but I think that it should address other more pressing matters first before fully implementing the K-12 program.

First, the government has to make sure that children in public schools have enough books, and not resort to sharing with other classmates. They should build more classrooms to avoid shifting and accomodate more students. More teachers should be hired, with seminars and trainings given to them so that they can improve and be more equipped to teach the children.  

More importantly, the government should make sure that students stay in school long enough for them to reach grades 11 and 12. That means improving the quality of life of every Filipino. Given that almost half of Filipinos live below the poverty level, most of these children have to drop out of school to work and help out their families. But if most Filipino children are given the chance to stay in school and not drop out and work for their survival, then the K+12 program would truly be able to benefit everyone, the way it is supposed to do.

I’m just hoping that time will come soon, before it’s too late.
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