Wednesday, April 26, 2017
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K-to-12: Ready as we’ll ever be

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has called for the suspension of the implementation of the Department of Education’s “overly ambitious” K-to-12 program.

Citing national interest and drawing from the responses to his nationwide consultation on the matter, Senator Trillanes said the poor quality of the Philippine education system would be solved by first addressing fundamental problems such as “the lack of classrooms and school materials, high student-teacher ratio, and low salary of teachers,” together with “the government’s unpreparedness for the threatened retrenchment of around 85,000 college professors and employees when the program commences in 2016.”

Presumably, he isn’t calling for an indefinite suspension because “once we provide a conducive learning environment, it’s going to reflect on the student’s performance in school.”

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The good senator may have commented that people turned out okay under the present education system. That’s splendid, but being a student of history, he likely already knows that in terms of access, quality or education philosophy, our public education system has not been as good or as relevant as we want it to be.

De La Salle University professor Carlo Magno’s “A Brief History of Educational Assessment in the Philippines” cites a number of studies, some of them conducted prewar, in this regard.

The Monroe Survey to assess the state of Philippine education in 1925 found among other things that: 1) the public school system was highly centralized and needed to be humanized and made less mechanical; 2) textbooks and materials needed to be adapted to Philippine life; 3) secondary education did not prepare for life, and training in agriculture, commerce and industry was recommended; 4) the standards of the University of the Philippines were high and should be maintained by freeing it from political interference; 5) higher education should be concentrated in Manila; 6) English as medium of instruction was best and the use of local dialects in teaching character education was suggested; 7) 95 percent of teachers were not professionally trained for teaching; and 8) private schools except under the religious groups were unsatisfactory.

An Economic Survey Committee formed by the Bureau of Education in 1927 to determine “the best means by which [public school graduates] could be absorbed [into] the economic life of the country” asserted that: 1) vocational education was relevant to the economic and social status of the people; 2) the work of the schools should be, not to develop a peasantry class, but to train intelligent, civic-minded homemakers, skilled workers, and artisans; and 3) secondary education should be devoted to agriculture, trades, industry, commerce and home economics.

The Prosser Survey of 1930 recommended the improvement of phases of vocational education, such as seventh-grade shop work, provincial schools, and practical arts training in the regular high schools, home economics, placement work, gardening and agricultural education.

The Unesco Mission Survey of 1949, The Education Act of 1953, the Swanson Survey of 1960 and the 1970 Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education (PCSPE) all recommended a basic education cycle of at least 11 years, while the 1991 Congressional Commission on Education recommended either seven years of grade school or five years of high school. In 2000, the Presidential Commission on Education Reform (PCER) called for the inclusion of a one-year prebaccalaureate system, effectively creating a 12-year basic education cycle at par with the rest of the world.

In her book titled “The Nation’s Journey to Greatness,” former education secretary Mona Dumlao-Valisno wrote: “From the PCSPE to the PCER, it took 15 secretaries of education to strategize on how to implement [the recommended reforms], until finally the current secretary made the bold move to launch this highly sensitive major policy change, now dubbed as ‘K-to-12.’”

Dr. Valisno herself is sensitive to public apprehension toward the smooth transition to K-to-12, but viable solutions are evident. Before the passage of Republic Act No. 10533, pioneering higher education institutions conducted pilot senior high school classes for partner public schools using various curriculum models.

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The Department of Education in fact encourages the emergence of such partnerships between public schools and universities and technical vocational institutions as an implementation strategy of senior high school.

A notable example is Asia Pacific College, which implements a senior high school curriculum with a solid information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) track, complete with provisions for at least 200 hours of internship. APC’s senior high school model is clearly designed to provide learners with a sharper view of the competencies they need for successful careers in the IT-BPM industry, where the demand for competent talent far outstrips the supply, and meaningful compensation and benefits packages await those who do make it through the fairly stringent hiring process.

It is true that there are certain unresolved issues attendant to the implementation of K-to-12, but then again it is rare that conditions will be exactly the way they should be, especially for something as complex as education. I am certain that workable solutions will be found, because no one among us would want to put a new generation of learners at risk. Again.

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the IT & Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

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TAGS: Antonio trillanes, DepEd, education, K to 12
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