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K-to-12 and inclusive growth

My son, Pierre, graduated last Saturday from eighth grade, as will many other students. He is one of a privileged few in the Philippines who have gone through 11 years of basic education—three in preschool and Grades 1 to 8. Next school year, he will begin high school—Grades 9 to 12—and after the four years he would have done a total of 15 years basic education, preparing him for university studies and affording him various competitive advantages not just to get into a good university but also to complete his degree with flying colors. He may even become eligible for a scholarship if he is lucky and works hard enough. After providing him guidance and love through the years, I can only pray that he does not suffer any setbacks or make wrong choices. What is important is that a road to success has been created for him.

This administration’s move to institutionalize K-to-12 basic education for all as soon as possible is aimed precisely at giving millions of Filipino youth the same advantage that Pierre and a few other kids enjoy today. The 13 years of basic education will make our students better equipped to enter the university or even jump into the world of work, prepped for gainful employment. With free K-to-12 education in the public school system, the government is leveling the playing field more than most understand—a fact that one of our good senators seems to have lost grasp of. This piece of education reform is part and parcel of the inclusive growth that we all aspire for. I daresay it is a key component of the inclusive growth agenda that will create roads to success for millions of Filipino youth.

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The Philippine Business for Education highlights five reasons why the K-to-12 system makes a lot of business sense. It explains those reasons based on a statement from the National Industry-Academe Council:

Improved quality of graduates. The K-to-12 curriculum streamlines the present cramped system, giving students an additional two years to understand lessons that they are now learning in only 10. This allows the students to gain the necessary knowledge, form values, and learn skills to either pursue higher education, enter the work force, or start their own business.

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Skilled, specialized and job-ready labor. Labor is arguably the most important input in any economic enterprise. With the academic, technical-vocational, arts, and sports tracks offered in the K-to-12 curriculum, students can specialize in a field that they are most interested in. Upon graduation from senior high school, most will be 18 years old, making them eligible to join the workforce. With these, business would have a plethora of multiskilled workers to employ in companies.

Lower unemployment and higher wages. With improved competencies even without a college degree, senior high school students are expected to be readily employable after graduation, lessening cases of unemployed out-of-school youth. The prospects of a better-trained workforce may also potentially encourage new and additional investments, create jobs, and dramatically decrease the unemployment rate in the Philippines. Moreover, ample studies show that personal lifetime income and societal influence increase when more years in school is coupled with high quality education.

Globally competitive graduates. The K-to-12 system answers the need for a 12-year basic education cycle, which is now the fundamental requirement for entry in most universities and companies abroad. Once they return to the country, these students would be able to contribute to their company’s—and country’s—success with the fresh perspectives and skills they acquired from overseas exposure.

Innovation and overall economic growth. Numerous studies show that a skilled human resource component positively affects the growth of an economy. A better-educated society may translate into higher rates of innovation and overall productivity. These studies show that a one-year increase in the average educational attainment of a country’s population increases annual per capita GDP growth from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

In an effort to downplay today’s positive economic indicators, many people say that our hungry brothers and sisters cannot eat numbers. That is true because economic reforms, coupled with the good governance that leads to improved competitiveness rankings and ratings upgrades, are only the foundations upon which an equitable society can be built. Education is another foundation and provides additional building blocks. As the economy strengthens, more investments flow into the country and more jobs are created. Education complements this by producing graduates with the right skills to fuel and expand the engines of growth.

K-to-12, along with better teachers, books and facilities, is needed to make our education system responsive to a growing economy that will ultimately help feed the hungry.

Aside from education, inclusive business is another key component of the inclusive-growth agenda. Inclusive businesses are commercially viable, profit-making private companies providing decent jobs and income-generation opportunities, as well as relevant, affordable and accessible goods and services for the people at the base of the pyramid. As more and more companies adopt inclusive-business models, inclusive growth becomes more attainable. But this is for another column altogether.

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To our 2015 graduates, congratulations! May you all become drivers of inclusive growth!

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: education, inclusive growth, K to 12
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