Commentary

From cacophony to coherence

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With the ratification of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013—more popularly called the K-to-12 Law—by the Senate and the House of Representatives last week, the cacophony of voices weighing in on the Department of Education’s K-to-12 Program have finally begun to make sense.

The bicameral committee that worked to reconcile the provisions of House Bill No. 6643 and Senate Bill No. 3286 was made up of Representatives Sandy Ocampo, Mariano Piamonte, Magi Gunigundo, Fatima Dimaporo and Mel Sarmiento and Senators Edgardo Angara, Franklin Drilon, Manny Villar, Ralph Recto and Bong Revilla. For their efforts, they deserve our congratulations and heartfelt thanks.

The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 is by all means a landmark piece of legislation. It seeks to make every basic education graduate “an individual who has learned, through a program that is rooted on sound educational principles and geared towards excellence, the foundations for learning throughout life, the competence to engage in work and be productive, the ability to coexist in fruitful harmony with the local and global communities, the capability to engage in autonomous, creative, and critical thinking, and the capacity and willingness to transform others and one’s self.”

Inarguably, the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 gives coherence to multisectoral education reform efforts because it establishes a clear framework for quality education.

Aside from shifting to the universally recognized 12-year basic education cycle, the law provides that basic education be delivered in languages understood by the learners, including Filipino sign language for deaf students.

For kindergarten and the first three years of elementary education, instruction shall be in the regional or native language of the learners. From Grades 4 to 6, there shall be a mother-language transition program wherein Filipino and English shall be gradually introduced as languages of instruction until such time when these languages become the primary media at the secondary level.

The K-to-12 Law formally ends the bilingual program of the martial law period, which prescribed that the medium of instruction be only Filipino and English. The bilingual program has apparently been disastrous to whole generations of learners, based on the achievement test results through the years.

The law likewise upholds a research-based, inclusive and culturally sensitive learning approach that is nevertheless flexible enough to enable schools to localize, indigenize and enhance their learning materials.

To ensure that there shall be capable teachers that meet the content and performance standards of the new K-to-12 curriculum, the law mandates the training and retraining of present and future teachers and administrators, and the conduct of professional development programs throughout the schoolyear.

It is possible that with the addition of senior high school (the 11th and 12th years), there will be a significant drop in the freshman year intake of Higher Education Institutions and Technical Vocational Institutions beginning 2016-17. To mitigate this, the law provides that the faculty and physical resources of these institutions be tapped for education and training services at the secondary level.

The K-to-12 Law also provides for a curriculum consultative committee chaired by the education secretary, with representatives of the Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Professional Regulation Commission, and the science and labor departments as members.

Representatives of various chambers of commerce and industry and the IT and business process outsourcing industry will have seats in this committee as well. The committee shall “oversee the review and evaluation of the implementation of the basic education curriculum” and recommend refinements.

The K-to-12 Law likewise requires that the DepEd conduct a mandatory review by the end of school year 2014-15. The DepEd shall subsequently report on participation and retention rates, national achievement tests, completion rate, adequacy of funding requirements and other learning facilities, as well as how shortages of teachers, classrooms, textbooks, seats, and toilets are being addressed.

Finally, a joint congressional oversight committee consisting of five members each from the Senate and the House has been created to oversee, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the law.

According to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a congressional review by both chambers is a guarantee that everything will be done to assure parents, particularly the poor, that their investments in their children’s education under the new system will pay off and reap rewards from the enhanced curriculum.

The passage of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 will successfully conclude a discussion on education reform that began when then Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus launched the DepEd’s Bridge Program, which was unceremoniously scrapped because apparently even DepEd itself was not ready for this kind of innovation.

Later, in his writeup titled “Politics and Education Reform” and dated Feb. 28, 2009, the late Mario Taguiwalo galvanized reform efforts by asserting that “the benefits of these reforms are much more substantial and significantly more sustainable if done as a coherent package rather than as isolated initiatives.”

All that’s needed is President Aquino’s signature on the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013. And then the real work to qualitatively transform Philippine education begins.

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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