Another reason to overhaul K-to-12
The findings of a recent Commission on Human Rights (CHR) report that fresh graduates are having difficulty landing jobs not only highlight the urgent challenges faced by the so-called “pandemic generation,” but also put in question the efficacy of the K-to-12 program in ensuring that those finishing senior high school (SHS) will find work.
The Department of Education (DepEd) had said that it recognizes the issue of the employability of K-to-12 graduates following the CHR study. DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa cited the Basic Education Report of the agency earlier this year which indicated that the department will engage with other education agencies and industry partners to deal with the skills mismatch among SHS graduates.
More than this, however, is the bigger problem involving the educators themselves. If teachers do not have the right skills, students cannot be expected to get the required education they need to get employed. The DepEd is in the right direction by addressing first the poor “skills in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation” of entry-level educators, as well as the unfilled teaching and related positions and the ancillary tasks assigned to them.
The CHR report attests to this in that it found that much of the situation is rooted in systemic challenges such as the mismatch of teacher competencies to SHS programs. For example, a participant in the CHR study noted that the biology subjects in one institution’s K-to-12 program were dropped because they were being taught by an English teacher.
Aside from addressing the educators’ side, the DepEd must at the same time speed up the overhaul of the K-to-12 curriculum, which has been more of a failure even after a decade since Republic Act No. 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, was passed.
The DepEd has promised to revise the K-to-12 curriculum, which Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte said was found to be “congested,” and with some prerequisites of “identified learning competencies missing or misplaced.” The revision of the curriculum, according to Duterte, aims to produce more job-ready and responsible graduates.
This problem is reflected in the findings of the CHR report that several programs and courses did not necessarily match available jobs, citing a political science major interviewed for the report who shared that she only learned belatedly that job opportunities for political science graduates were few.
The DepEd said that among the revisions is a reduction in the number of learning areas in kindergarten to third grade from seven areas to five. These learning areas will focus on foundational skills in literacy and numeracy in the early grades. DepEd will also strengthen its literacy and numeracy program and revitalize reading, science and technology, and math programs.
According to Jocelyn Andaya, director of the DepEd’s Bureau of Curriculum Development, enrollment in the technical, vocational, and livelihood (TVL) track for SHS students has declined over the past years since K-to-12 was implemented. Based on DepEd’s 2021-2022 data, the majority of SHS learners, or 70.59 percent, chose the academic track while only 28.93 percent were in TVL. In short, the majority of K-to-12 graduates still choose to pursue college degrees.
Improving the K-to-12 program will be solving part of the problem. The DepEd also needs to discuss the issue of employability with employers to find out what they actually require for new graduates to be hired. Employers may have to veer away from their college diploma mentality, and in requiring new hires to have experience in the jobs they are applying for.
As Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. admitted in an interview with the Inquirer, companies are prioritizing the rehiring of previously laid-off employees and that “if there are many applicants for the position, employers prefer those who have experience already.”
If all job vacancies need applicants with experience, what opportunities will the new graduates have? Employers need to help out by funding training programs for fresh graduates. The other CHR recommendations are also worth looking into, specifically, the need for the national government to form more partnerships with industries and human resource executives from the private sector to easily link graduating students to job opportunities.
Duterte previously said that the promise of the K-to-12 curriculum to produce employable graduates still remains a promise. Working on improving the teaching profession and overhauling the K-to-12 curriculum will hopefully allow DepEd to realize this promise as employers cannot be faulted for preferring to hire those who graduate from four years of college if K-to-12 graduates remain ill-equipped with the skills required of them.
The solution, therefore, is for DepEd to have skilled teachers and an overhauled K-to-12 program to produce qualified K-to-12 graduates, and for employers to be more open to hiring these graduates and help the DepEd work out solutions to the skills-jobs mismatch.
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