"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." --- Derek Bok
It was the vision of no less than the President himself, Benigno Aquino, Sr., to deliver to the Filipinos one of the best education in Asia, if not the best in the region. This vision is a grand gesture of showing utmost importance to education as a vehicle to social mobility for the poor, an instrument for social reforms, and an avenue to bring about the best out of the Filipino character that will distinctively set apart the Filipino graduates from other nations of the world.
The proposed K to 12 Curricular Enhancement is a preparing a solid groundwork for the students to face the world of work. It is a means to make them better equipped with knowledge and skills and finally a greater chance to compete and find their right place in the sun. To borrow the words of President Aquino:
“We need to add two years to our basic education. Those who can afford pay up to fourteen years of schooling 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.”
This vision as articulated in the foregoing statement was given flesh and substance through the proposed K to 12 Curriculum. The International-Conference Workshop entitled “Addressing the K to 12 Curricular Enhancement in Philippine Education 2012” is a fitting occasion to educate teachers and professors from the public and private schools and universities in the country about the different aspects of curricular improvements. This writer was lucky to have listened to the speakers in the forum, some of which are reputable and well-known members of academe from other countries in the world such as Japan, Australia and the Unites States. The conference also featured workshops across various topics which include Quantity vs. Quality of Education, Funding and Resources, Benefits to K12, Economic Implications, Global Standards and Employment, and Effects on Educational Institutions.
Accordingly, the K to 12 Curriculum simply means operating under the K 6-4-2 set up. Kindergarten and 12 years of quality basic education is a right of every Filipino, therefore they must be and will be provided by government and will be free. Under the proposed curriculum, those who go through the 12 years cycle will get an elementary diploma (6 years), a junior high school diploma (4 years), and a senior high school diploma (2 years). A full 12 years of basic education will eventually be required for entry into tertiary level education (entering freshmen by SY 2018-2019 or seven years from now). An open and consultative process will be adopted in the development and implementation of K+12. Change is two-fold: (a) curriculum enhancement and (b) transition management. The International-Conference Workshop, “Addressing the K to 12 Curricular Enhancement in Philippine Education 2012” held at Sison Auditorium at Lingayen, Pangasinan last January 19-21, 2012, which this writer has attended, is precisely an effort to support the thrust of the government with regards to the first proposed change, that is, on matters of curriculum enhancement. Thousands of teachers and professors across the different parts of the country join the great flock of attendees that jam packed the Sison Auditorium to witness the momentous conference.
It could be noted that the additional two years allotted for Senior High School is intended for an in-depth specialization for students depending on the occupation/career track they wish to pursue, develop in them skills and competencies relevant to the job market, provide time for students to consolidate acquired academic skills and competencies and allow specializations in Science and Technology, Music and Arts, Agriculture and Fisheries, Sports, Business and Entrepreneurship. The good intention behind this is to tailor the two-year curriculum according to “institutional capability, acceptability to students/parents, and relevance to local context.” Dr. Isoda Masami of University of Tsukuba at Japan who spoke on “Collaborative and Proactive Lesson Planning” during the conference-workshop at Lingayen, Pangasinan emphasized that teachers play a vital role in the implementation of the program. Teachers and implementers of the proposed curricular change should adopt shared responsibility and assume proactive stance in planning their daily lessons.
What we have in our present educational set-up is a ten-year basic education curriculum. Dr. Yolanda S. Quijano, DepEd undersecretary and also one of the speakers invited in the International-Conference seminar underscored the fact that the proposed K to 12 curricular reforms is a green light to the Philippine Education as it will open the gates for better and superior education that will fare well in the international standards.
According to Katrina Maramag of Philippine Online Chronicles in her essay entitled “Is the K-12 Model Good for the Philippine Education System?” the current basic education system is also an archetype of American schooling but with a 10-year cycle. Further, the K12 educational set-up is an educational system for basic and secondary education patterned after some parts of Australia, Canada and the US. The need to conform to the international standards is strong especially so that the country is the only remaining state in the region that does not adapt this K12 educational model. Some countries do not even recognize the ten-year basic education that our graduates have. They find it hard to apply for scholarships abroad or find job opportunities. This concern was emphatically expressed by Rex Lor of the Northern Watch (August 2010) when he stated the following words: “Let’s look at the SEA level, Thailand does not consider Philippine degrees, even from the best universities, as equal those awarded by its own institutions. The reason: we have a 10 year basic education curriculum. Other countries share Thailand’s reservation.”
There are various reasons why is there a need to add two more years, the Briefer issued by the Department of Education last November 2, 2010 is instructive on this point. Accordingly, it is aimed to decongest and enhance the basic education curriculum. Insufficient mastery of basic competencies is common due to a congested curriculum. The 12 year curriculum is being delivered in 10 years. Lor (2010) added that the K-12 allows for a rational well-paced curriculum. The problem with our curriculum now is that it has too much of everything spaced in 10 years. Further, our curriculum lacks other important content like calculus and other higher sciences. We don’t even teach calculus in high school (calculus is already taught in high schools all over the world). In fact, we are already on the verge of losing against Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia as they are stepping up their K-12 English curriculum. Ramil Javier, a noted supervisor in La Salle, stressed in one of his UBD training in school, that there is a need to change from our traditional content-based curriculum to that of a rational, well-paced, thematic and student centered one. This will also allow for additional space to input skills based training thereby allowing graduates to look for jobs after they graduate.
The proposed K12 curriculum can also provide better quality education for all, and inspire a shift in attitude that completion of high school education is more than just preparation for college but can be sufficient for a gainful employment or career. High school graduates are younger than 18 years old and lack basic competencies and maturity. They cannot legally enter into contracts and are not emotionally mature for entrepreneurship / employment. Other countries view the 10-year education cycle as insufficient. (DepEd Briefer, November 2, 2010).
“The biggest resource you are adding is time. Ten years is not enough. If we’re so smart going to 10, how come we’re not rich? How come we’re not more successful? We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we can do it in 10 years,” said former Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz.
Will the society gain from the enhanced K12 curriculum? This question rings a bell to a majority of readers? Will our graduates do better if the new curriculum produces its new batches of graduates? The DepEd is strengthened by the thought that enhancing the curriculum will greatly benefit the public and the society at large. K+12 will facilitate an accelerated economic growth. It will also facilitate mutual recognition of Filipino graduates and professionals in other countries. Moreover, it will engender a better educated society that provides a sound foundation for long-term socio-economic development.
“It's a clever solution that stands a good chance of working, since DepEd is basically keeping the present system intact and will "bookend" or "sandwich" it between a preparatory kindergarten level at the start, and a Senior High School subsystem at the end,” stressed Dean Jorge Bacobo in one of his essays in the Philippine Commentary 2012.
The Philippines will be the last country in the region to adopt a K-12 basic educations system, and only three countries are left in the whole world like it. The Philippines cannot afford to lag behind while other countries in Asia and the rest of the world are speedily stepping up their educational reforms. To reiterate the words of Derek Bok posted in the first part of this article “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Working for educational reforms is much cheaper compared to the price that we pay when we are not able to provide our citizens education and enlightenment. When we invest in education, we are in effect, investing for the future of our children. We do not want to deprive this legacy from them, lest we want to perish as a nation.