Badly needed reform
The noise that politicians and activists have been making about the K-to-12 Enhanced Basic Education Curriculum whirls around two contrasting scenarios.
One is the higher education institution (HEI) setting where empty chairs and empty tables signify zero enrollment and faculty layoffs because there are no first-year enrollees in 2016 and no first-year and second-year enrollees in 2017, the years when Grades 11 and 12 are scheduled to be first implemented. The other is the senior high school (SHS) scene where there are too many students but not enough classrooms, teachers and books because the Department of Education, given its perennial shortage problems, is ill-prepared to meet the requirements of the additional two years.
Both are valid concerns, but stopping the implementation of the K-to-12 program is not the answer. The sooner this is realized, the sooner everyone can pitch in to ensure the success of this most massive change in our education history.
The cue should be taken from the business executives and captains of industry who, as employers, have also been losing sleep over K-to-12. Management Association of the Philippines president Greg S. Navarro says they lose 33 percent of their staff every year to foreign jobs, and that’s just their organization. Where will they source their workforce in 2021 and 2022 when there will be few college graduates because students will have been held back two years in SHS?
The business sector has come up with a proposal on how to fill the university classrooms that will otherwise be vacant upon the full implementation of the K-to-12 reform in 2016—a solution that will also benefit about 15 million out-of-school youth and ensure businesses of human resources.
Each year, the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) says, HEIs receive some 840,000 freshmen and enroll an estimated 300,000 sophomores. How to stop personnel displacement and school closures as a result of the huge revenue loss that HEIs are facing as students transition into SHS?
Corollary to this, the 840,000 new enrollees at HEIs are only 60 percent of the total number of high school graduates. The rest are forced to forego college education because of lack of funds.
Through PBEd, the business sector is proposing a government voucher system for pre-2015 high school graduates who have not been able to enter college for financial reasons. This will not only give out-of-school youth from poor families access to university education but also widen the pool of talents that can contribute to economic growth and social progress.
This cohort of HEI enrollees will avert the displacement of professors, instructors, lecturers and other staff. In other words, it will be business as usual for tertiary schools instead of the fallow prospects they are facing now.
The students will be free to enroll in their school of choice, so it is expected that there will be keen competition among HEIs. It is highly likely that the universities with quality academic programs, strong performance at professional exams, and innovative marketing strategies will draw the biggest number of voucher-holders.
For sources of funding for the vouchers, PBEd has looked at two bills pending in Congress: the Tertiary Education Transition Fund and the Unified Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education (UniFAST).
The first is meant purposely to support development and activities during the K-to-12 transition period, with an initial funding estimated at P12 billion for 2016. The second has a proposed appropriation of P25 billion to cover all government scholarships, grants-in-aid and loan programs. PBEd, says its president Chito Salazar, has recommended that the UniFAST bill be used for the voucher program at least during the K-to-12 two-year transition period.
Good ideas are out there, and reverting to the old 10-year basic education system is not an option.
Forget that the additional two-year SHS will make our students more competitive for study grants abroad for specialization purposes; that the new 12-year curriculum will make public education more equitable for the children of the poor who cannot afford the private schools that, for decades, have been offering the extra years; or that we have the highest youth unemployment rate in Asean because our jobseekers are unqualified to fill the open positions in our labor market.
Forget all that and consider just one compelling reality: The old 10-year curriculum rolled out public school graduates with reading, writing and other basic skills at a fourth-grade level. It’s pretty obvious that the K-to-12 reform is badly needed.
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