Opinion, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Shifting Philippine basic education to a 12-year cycle highlighted the 10-point education reform agenda that candidate Benigno Aquino III presented to the electorate at the start of his successful presidential campaign. Here’s exactly what he said back then:
“We need to add two years to our basic education to catch up with the rest of the world. Here, those who can afford it pay for up to 14 years of schooling for their children before university. Thus, their children are getting into the best universities and the best jobs after graduation. I want at least 12 years for our public school children, to give them an even chance at succeeding. My team has designed a way to go from our current 10 years (six elementary, four high school) to a preschool to grade 12 system in five years starting SY 2011-12. I will expand basic education in this country to a globally comparable 12 years before the end of the next administration (2016).”
The full migration to a K to 12 cycle is by no means abrupt. It has four distinct implementation phases. Last year, Phase I began when the DepEd announced that kindergarten will become free and compulsory for 5-year-olds. Also last year, with the help of education experts—Dr. Dina Ocampo, Metrobank Teacher of the Year, and Dr. Merle Tan of the National Institute for Science and Math Education (UP Nismed), to name just two—the DepEd began developing a new 12-year basic education curriculum.
No other than Secretary Armin Luistro signaled the start of Phase II by announcing that by school year 2012-2013, all public schools will begin using the new K to 12 curriculum, but only for Grade One and first year high school. Concurrently, the DepEd will aggressively seek the enactment of a new Basic Education Law specifically mandating the K to 12 cycle. Most likely, this new law will supersede the outmoded provisions of the Education Act of 1982 (BP 232 and 400) and maybe add a little more muscle to RA 9155 or the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001.
If everything goes according to plan, by the time President Aquino’s term ends in 2016, the entire K to 12 cycle should be in place and all public schools would already have a senior high school component (Grade 11 and 12 or 5th and 6th year high school, depending on how one wishes to view it). Note however that this is just Phase III.
The fourth and final phase occurs in school year 2023-2024, when we will finally have graduates who have gone through the entire K to 12 cycle, from kindergarten up to senior high school.
Unfortunately, the public’s attention is once again transfixed by the dramatic appeal of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona this coming January. This might explain why both traditional and new media reports on the continuing migration to K to 12 have been rather superficial. So far, we have just been treated to soundbites of parents objecting to the added cost of the extra two years and the lament of some universities that their enrollment might drop because going to university or college will become just one option for the K to 12 graduate.
I submit that the social, political and economic impact of the migration to K to 12 is much more far-reaching than that of the upcoming Senate trial of the Chief Justice’s alleged judicial improprieties. After all, once the senators cast their votes, all will be said and done and the only thing anyone can do is live with the consequences.
On the other hand, the new K to 12 curriculum will define the character, purpose and vision of our youth, as individuals and as part of a collective whole. As such, we need to know precisely what our students are supposed to be learning at what stage during the 12-year cycle. As parents and education stakeholders, we need to be assured that the minds and hearts of our children will be in the good, capable and caring hands of our schools. In short, we need to know exactly what this new curriculum really is.
In this regard, I sought the help of Dr. Ricky Nolasco, a true education reform advocate. Nolasco points out that President Aquino correctly identified Reading as a core K to 12 competency, when he said that “every child passing pre-school must be a reader by Grade One. We must build a library infrastructure in our schools, procure reading books from our Philippine publishing industry to support local authors, and train elementary teachers on how to teach reading. ”
Nolasco says this can only be accomplished by using the first language as a separate subject and as medium of instruction. However, he maintains that it takes time for teachers to imbibe a totally new approach to education, and that can only happen as they examine their old perceptions of education and educational processes.
Butch Hernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
For further reading, also see the following previously posted articles: