Revisiting the 10-point Education Agenda | Inquirer Opinion

Revisiting the 10-point Education Agenda

(First of two parts)

When he took the first steps in his journey to Malacañang, Benigno Aquino III presented himself to the electorate as the “education president.” His “Ten Things I Will Fix in Philippine Basic Education” campaign speech resonated so well that it is now known as the Department of Education’s “10-Point Basic Education Agenda.”

It helps to have a plan, so they say, so perhaps now is as good a time as any to revisit the 10-point Basic Education Agenda and see where it has brought us so far. In no order of importance, the 10 points are: 12-year basic education cycle; universal preschool; madaris education as a subsystem; technical-vocational courses in high school; every child a reader by Grade 1; improvement of science and mathematics; expansion of assistance to private education; use of mother language instruction; better textbooks; and more classrooms.

The first two items on the list are the shift to a “globally comparable” 12-year basic education cycle followed closely by universal preschool, all within five years counting from 2011. The appropriate laws have been enacted for these two measures: Republic Act No. 10533 (for K-to-12) and RA 10157 (the Universal Kindergarten Law).


I recall that during the early discussions on the 12-year education cycle, the focus was to somehow “decongest” the curriculum so that the learner would have more time to assimilate and internalize the concepts being taught. Simply put, in a 10-year basic education cycle, the learner needs to acquire about 200 concepts from five subjects in just as many school days. Presumably, the added two years would provide a little breathing room to the teacher, the learner and the school itself.

Back then, Education Undersecretary Mike Luz commented that “to compensate for the shorter basic education cycle, our schools—both public and private elementary and high schools—are cramming into 10 years what other countries are teaching their children over 12 years. The result: a smorgasbord of subject matter covered with little or poor learning by our children. A 12-year basic education cycle where the same subjects can be spread out over a longer period of time would allow teachers to go more deeply into subject matter so students can learn more completely by doing more reading, writing, problem sets, exercises, oral recitation and individual and group projects. For example, standard math for graduating seniors in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand now goes up through introductory calculus. Here, we barely cover geometry and trigonometry.”

The enactment of the Universal Kindergarten Law ensures that the learner is at least six years old when he/she enrolls in Grade 1, and that he/she has had one year of preschool.

The Kindergarten Law and K-to-12 hoped to address the overall preparedness of the graduate to join the workforce. In a 10-year cycle with no preschool, the learner is usually 16 to 17 years old when he/she graduates high school. He/She is too young to work, emotionally, physically and legally. His/her parents therefore actually have no choice but to put him/her through at least a couple of years of college (or maybe enroll him/her in a two-year skills improvement course).


Unfortunately, going by the results of the National Achievement Tests over the years, the average high school graduate is grossly unprepared for real higher learning—hence the necessity for “general education” subjects like English, science and math during the first two years before hitting the majors. This being the case, it is actually accurate to say that we’ve always had a 12-year basic education cycle, with the last two years being the freshman and sophomore years at university. (Of course, the parents have to pay for the last two years, unlike in K-to-12 where public schools charge no tuition.)

Today, K-to-12 is implemented as K-6-4-2. The last two years are now known as senior high school, where the specialization tracks come in. The intent of the framers of the new K-to-12 curriculum is that four possible exits will make themselves evident for the learner as he/she goes through senior high school. He/She could go for higher learning (which now has a very streamlined GE curriculum). He/She could immediately try to find work: the K-to-12 diploma should be enough to qualify him/her for certain kinds of jobs. He/She could explore the exciting world of entrepreneurship, or embark on middle skills improvement, and then get a job.


Now look at item No. 5: every child a reader by Grade 1. In an earlier commentary (dated Dec. 7, 2013), I said that reading is the key to everything. All the world’s knowledge is at your beck and call, if only you could read well, first in your own mother tongue and then in a global language like English. This is one of the reasons that item No. 8—use of mother language instruction—is on the Education Agenda. Global evidence compellingly supports mother-tongue-based multilingual education to qualitatively improve literacy.

(Concluded next week)

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Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines.

TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Butch Hernandez, Commentary, education, opinion

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