Published on Business Mirror on July 21, 2016 (link here)
One of the lasting legacies of the Aquino administration was its resolve to overhaul the country’s ageing basic education system. R.A. 105333 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 was the embodiment of that resolve. The Act, which unveiled the “K to 12” basic education program, sought to provide the next generation of Filipinos ample time for mastery of concept and skills, which in turn will prepare them for either tertiary education or employment.
The new program is expected to decongest the curriculum as it will now be spread out to 13 years instead of just ten years. Being the last Asian nation to advance from a 10-year pre-tertiary education system, the Philippines have long been at a disadvantage in terms of educational qualifications. Graduates of the previous system are mostly barred from immediately taking up employment or applying for tertiary education overseas. With this change, graduates shall no longer be disqualified from employment due to age and the country’s basic education system will be pushed to the same level with the rest of the world. Moreover, it will improve the advantage of the Filipino labor force in the ASEAN Economic Community, where stiffer competition among professionals and skilled laborers will be more pronounced due to the mutual recognition espoused by the free flow of professional services.
Clearly, the K to 12 program is a step in the right direction in terms of upgrading our legacy education system and ensuring the competitive advantage of our labor force, but it’s still far from being perfect. Critics view the program as a mere band aid to the more deep rooted problems such as teachers’ compensation, chronic classroom shortages, bloated teacher-student ratio, and others. The most pressing among them is the additional expenses to be incurred by the parents. They also fear that the added burden of two more years in school could worsen dropout rates in the long run. Albeit the points raised are valid, the government has already made strides in addressing some of these major concerns. As of 2015, the DepEd was able to construct 86,478 classrooms closing the 66,800 classroom shortage. Moreover, the agency shall hire 39,066 additional teachers to meet the personnel requirements of the program. To answer the clamor of the ailing parents, DepEd launched the Senior High School Voucher Program. The voluntary program is a government-backed subsidy offered to graduates of junior high school to cover their senior high school education in a DepEd approved school.
Indeed there is no silver bullet in ensuring the future of this nation. However, we can take solace over the fact that the government has taken the necessary steps to align the country’s education system to global standards. Cognizant of the importance of education to economic development, President Duterte has included the development of the country’s human capital as well as promoting science, technology, and the creative arts in his “ten-point” socio-economic agenda. A few years from now, when the first cohort of the K to 12 program will march to their graduation we can say rightfully say that “change has truly come”