On World Teachers' Day, October 5, Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro presented the 12-year "Enhanced Kindergarten-Grade 12 (K+12)" basic education program that the government hopes to implement by school year 2012 to 2013.
To implement the program, the Department of Education (DepEd) has to work with Congress to amend the existing law, Batas Pambansa 232 or the "Education Act of 1982," which states that the basic formal education is a 10-year program.
To amend the law and peg the basic education program at 12 years, DepEd has to conduct consultations until the first quarter of next year.
"After consultation, the law can be passed by 2013, before the next elections," Luistro said, adding that political will is needed to make this program possible.
"The crucial part is how to insulate this from partisan politics that the education system has been subjected to," he said."What is essential is that the plan is accepted widely and that we are able to implement it soon."
"DepEd is taking bold steps to enhance the basic education curriculum. The K+12 model will provide quality 12-year education that every Filipino is entitled to," Luistro said.
The K+12 model specifies one year of kindergarten and 12 years of basic education.
The new program adds two years to the current education model in the Philippines, the only Asian country still implementing a 10-year basic education program.
DepEd's proposed education model
Luistro said the DepEd is introducing the 12-year education model based on the marching orders of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Aquino earlier said the 12-year program will help public school students gain an even chance at succeeding along with their counterparts in private schools.
DepEd's proposed model is the K-6-4-2 Model, which involves:
one year of kindergarten;
six years of elementary school (Grades 1-6);
four years of junior high school (Grades 7-10), and
two years of senior high school (Grades 11-12).
Luistro said the K+12 program will be implemented in phases. It will start next year with the offering of a universal kindergarten program.
Currently, 86 percent of five-year-old children attend kindergarten school. Under the K+12 program, DepEd aims that 98 percent of five-year-old children will be in kindergarten by June 2011.
The new K+12 curriculum will be offered to incoming Grade 1 as well as First Year Junior High School students by June 2012.
The DepEd intends to implement Senior High School education by school year 2016-2017.
High school graduates will become 'employable'
The K+12 program specifies six years of high school education composed of four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school.
Students will receive a diploma after finishing junior high school. They will be given another diploma upon finishing senior high school.
The two years of senior high school aim to provide students with skills and competencies that will help them become employable upon graduation.
The curriculum will provide "specializations" based on the career that a student wishes to pursue.
"We will make high school graduate employable, so that a tertiary education is not a necessity to get a job," he said.
"We will consult with the business sector to make sure the curriculum is acceptable to the business community," he added.
Additional HS years will not replace college education
Luistro clarified that the two years of senior high school will not replace tertiary education.
He explained that the K+12 program will actually allow more students to enroll in tertiary education.
"If senior high school [graduates] can be employable, there should be more self-supporting, working students," he said.
He added that senior high school graduates do not have to enroll in college immediately after graduation but may choose to work for a few years to save enough money for a college education.
The Education Secretary said the department will work closely with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to align the new basic education program with the existing programs of CHED and TESDA.
K+12 system will enhance quality of education
The DepEd has received flak from various groups for its alleged 'wrong priorities,' saying that the additional two years will not address the main problem: the deteriorating quality of education in the country.
Different groups have also said the lack of budget will affect the implementation of the proposed program. [Read: Pinoy Magsaysay awardees oppose 12-year basic education cycle]
However, Luistro countered that the additional school years under the K+12 system will address the problem of deteriorating quality education in the country.
He cited the problem about a congested curriculum, which crams 12 years worth of basic education into 10 years.
According to him, the new program will spread out the subjects that students are taking. It will allow them to take electives that will develop their skills in music and the arts, literature, and entrepreneurship.
He also said that in the current basic education program, high school graduates do not possess the basic competencies and emotional maturity that one needs in the workforce.
Currently, graduates of high school at 15 or 16 are not mature enough to handle higher education disciplines, he said.
Luistro also said that the program will have positive effects on the country's economy.
He cited studies showing that improvements in the quality of education increases a country's gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 2 percent.
The education secretary also expressed confidence that the department has enough time and resources to implement the K+12 program.
"If we look at what is needed by the education sector today, it really goes without saying that we have to move, and move very fast," he said.
P60-B fund needed
To implement the additional two years of the senior high school program starting by the school year 2016 to 2017, DepEd needs an estimated amount of about P60B for infrastructure, teachers, and textbooks in public schools.
Luistro said the department has enough time to look for funds for the program because its implementation is still six years away.
He said what matters is the Aquino administration sees the value in improving the basic education program of the country.
"It's not a matter of lack of budget," he said. "It's a matter of prioritizing education in the national budget." -- VVP, GMANews.TV