K-to-11, not K-to-12
The K-to-12 program has caused certain sectors to protest and to seek its suspension by the Supreme Court. Sound policy analysis requires that any new program be adopted only if the socioeconomic benefits greatly exceed the costs, with due consideration to households’ budget constraints (particularly among lower-income families) and the government’s fiscal space (national and local budgets).
The major costs involved in the K-to-12 program are:
For the government. Additional classrooms for two years of senior high school in addition to current backlogs (50 percent more high school classrooms needed, a total of 100,000 classrooms); additional 70,000 teachers for public senior high school students (there are a total of 2 million students entering senior high school); voucher payment of about P15 billion a year for about 50 percent of senior high school students to be placed in private schools; and printing of revised and new textbooks for the new K-to-12 curriculum.
For households. Additional food and transportation allowances, school supplies (including the needed tools and kits), uniforms and miscellaneous expenses for senior high school students.
Social costs. Higher dropout incidence from lower-income families (students who started at Grade One and unable to complete elementary and high school are currently at 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively).
Other costs. Displacement of affected college faculty and nonteaching staff (layoffs); significant reduction of enrollment in private colleges and universities, the main providers of tertiary education, that can even lead to the closure of some of these institutions; students’ behavioral changes arising from longer time in school and the costs involved; and the expected increase in the army of unemployed, including a possible rise in criminality.
What are the benefits of K-to-12? The proponents have been touting these benefits: 1) improvement of the quality of education and the competencies of students, including technical-vocational and artistic skills, and 2) alignment with global education standards, which would allow the Philippines’ college graduates to be readily accepted for employment overseas.
However, fiscal constraints have been affecting the overall delivery of quality basic education for a long time, and will certainly also affect the K-to-12 program. With continuous yearly budgetary deficits and a large national debt of about P5.8 trillion, and with debt service (interest payments only) accounting for about 15 percent of the national budget (much higher than the budget for education), the contemplated outcomes will not be happening, particularly due to a serious lack in quality teachers and school facilities, as well as in the necessary support for the K-to-12 program including the voucher system.
Many countries, particularly those in the high-income category like the United States, Japan, Australia and Malaysia, have 12 years of basic education. But there are also a number of countries with 11 years of basic education, like Singapore and Russia. Why is the Philippines—one of the remaining three countries in the world with only 10 years of basic education—aligning with the rich countries with K-to-12, which we cannot afford (superhigh costs relative to marginal/contingent benefits)?
After all, the advent of the digital age has allowed Filipino students to pursue deep learning via the use of the Internet/information technology (distance/open learning), thus reducing the classroom contacts for teaching and learning.
It is hereby strongly suggested that K-to-11 be adopted as a better alternative, with relatively lower/reduced costs for the government, households and society in general. Thus, the respected Supreme Court is humbly called upon to hear the petitioners seeking to suspend the implementation of K-to-12, and Congress to amend the K-to-12 Law as soon as possible.
The program implementation may be scheduled for 2017 or 2018, when the concerned institutions are ready. In the meantime, our technocrats in the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education can go back to the drawing board for an appropriate curriculum. The Singapore model is well worth considering.
Rogelio V. Paglomutan, PhD, is a faculty member of the University of Santo Tomas and a former economist at the National Economic and Development Authority and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific.
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