Enhanced K-12 basic education

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines - The debate continues on whether the government should put its limited resources on the Enhanced K-12 Basic Education Program which will add two years to our present 10-year basic education. The enhanced K-12 program as many now know, will have kindergarten, 6 years of elementary education, four years of junior high school (Grades 7 to 10), and two years of senior high school.

According to the 2010 Department of Education Briefing Report, the last two years (Grades 11 and 12) will provide time for the student to consolidate acquired academic skills and competencies. Universal kindergarten will be offered starting 2011 after which DepEd will begin unclogging its basic education curriculum by 2012. It plans to complete the enhanced 12-year curriculum and start with incoming Grade 1 students of SY 2012-13. The rationale for the two years is to decongest and enhance basic education curricula, provide quality learning, and be at par with other countries in Asia which provide more years for basic education. It is also based on studies which show that improvements in the quality of education will increase the GDP growth by as much as 2 percent and will have a positive impact on society.

Today, we have a 12-year curriculum that is being delivered in 10 years. The negative consequences, as studies show are, that high school graduates are shown to lack basic competencies and maturity.They are yet legally unable to enter into contracts and are found emotionally immature for entrepreneurship employment.

At the Lower House, the representatives are divided on the issue. Rep.Edgardo Angara welcomes it, saying that the high unemployment rate is caused by lack of skills and competencies.

K-12 then could open doors for more jobs for youth without a college diploma. Rep. Karlo Nograles and several others disagree. The former notes that while it is ideal, it is unrealistic and may drive more youths to drop out of school. Rep. Raymond Palatino of the Kabataan Party Youth Party-list thinks that it is whimsical for a country that has one of the lowest budgets for education. It is also extra expense in a society where a majority is impoverished. It could also reinforce cheap semi-skilled labor for foreign markets.

The Fund for Assistance to Private Education or FAPE sees no clear correlation between length of schooling and students' performance. It cites the example of how students from Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong - all with shorter education cycles - were able to obtain higher scores than American students who go through a 15-year basic and secondary education cycle. I had the same experience during the early seventies while teaching at the University of Hawaii. Most of my students in the top ten were foreign students or immigrants from Korea, China, and Japan. In a future column, I will cite Time Magazine's cover essay, ''The Truth About Tiger Moms,'' which relates the experiences of a mother's memoir of ''tough love parenting.'' I thought this could partly explain the high achievement rate in these tiger economies.

Meanwhile, we trust that the debate especially among the young, would continue. Much of it does focus on the cost which is estimated at P150 billion for the following additional requirements: 152,569 new classrooms, 103,599 more teachers, 956 million more books, and 13.2 million seats. In any case, UNESCO recommends that government spend at least 6 percent of its GDP for education. But last year, our investment in public education was only 3.3% of our GDP as compared with Malaysia which was 7.4%, and Thailand, 4%. This is sad because while today, we are 7th in the ASEAN, in 1990, we were fourth and ahead of Thailand and Indonesia. This explains why among all the 8 Millennium Development Goals, we lagged the most in education.

This alarming deterioration in our educational system explains my support for the K-12 program which, however, must be viewed within a comprehensive context and related with other problems such as health, poverty, and corruption. Poor health, nutrition, and poverty are also the main causes for the high percentage of school dropout. The current pursuit of means to end corruption in the AFP and other government institutions must continue. The scams which have become a regular practice in our bureaucracy, have prevented the flow of funds to where they should be channeled - education and other development reforms. My e-mail is florbraid@yahoo.com.