By ACT Philippines
October 23, 2019
QUEZON CITY – The Congress and the Department of Education’s (DepEd) recent push to review the K to 12 program is five years late. The education agency is directed by the Implementing Rules and Regulation of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 to conduct a mandatory evaluation review of the program by the end of school year 2014-2015. The Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, on the other hand, is mandated to oversee, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the K-12 program.
While long overdue, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines expects that the DepEd and Congress will conduct an honest-to-goodness review that would expose the failures of the program in improving the access to and the quality of basic education in the country. Teachers, parents, and students suffer everyday the catastrophic experiment that is the K to 12 program as it has only managed to worsen the crises in the Philippine educational system.
The addition of two years in basic education has only resulted to worse shortages in the educational system given the government’s consistent tack to scrimp on the education budget. Deficiency in classrooms now number to more than 100,000, which is the main culprit to ballooning class size and the adoption of class shifts in schools with big enrollments. DepEd’s request for 40,000 new teaching items for 2020 reflects the grave shortage in the number of teachers. Worse is the inadequacy in the number of education support personnel in schools that force teachers to take on non-teaching duties.
Six years after, K-12 textbooks for a number of subjects and grade levels remain absent. Farther from reach is DepEd’s illusion of attaining 21st century education through the extensive utilization of technology in pedagogy and learning. These glaring shortages, coupled with DepEd’s pressure on teachers to deliver on the demands of the K-12 program have rendered the underpaid mentors more cash-strapped and overworked.
Privatization of basic education worsened as the government depended primarily on private schools to provide senior high school education. Instead of investing on the construction of public senior high schools, the government has expended heavily on the E-GASTPE program to send senior high school students to private schools under vouchers. As vouchers do not cover the whole cost of private school education, more and more seek to transfer to the limited number of SHS, while others are forced to become highschool dropouts.
The bid to produce ‘holistically developed Filipino learners with 21st century skills’ and ‘employment-ready high school graduates’ have caused the heavy experimentation of the curriculum. The purported ‘integrated, spiral, and outcomes-based’ design of the curriculum have actually resulted in a basic education curriculum that is rather muddled and fragmented. Teachers can attest to the growing number of non-readers among learners who are promoted to highschool. The results of the National Achievement Test or NAT can speak as well on the declining quality of education. Teachers are always blamed for this problem when it only reflects what and how the education agency has made them teach.
Misgivings on the effectiveness of K-12 program center on its failure to produce ‘employment-ready’ graduates. While the program obviously fell short of this avowed objective, it would be more meaningful to assess the program vis-a-vis the attainment of education objectives as set by the Constitution. The 1987 Philippine Constitution sets the ultimate objectives of education as “fostering nationalism and patriotism, accelerating social progress, and promoting total human liberation.” K-12 program’s push to produce an army of employable cheap and skilled labor that satisfies the demand of the global market sidelines the important role of education in nation-building and national development.
The study of Philippine History and social science was the first casualty in the K-12 curriculum restructuring. Study hours for Araling Panlipunan were shorter than those of other major subjects wile Philippine History was stricken off the junior high school curriculum and was downgraded to elementary level, split between Grades 5 and 6. The study of Mathematics and Natural Science, which is crucial in the development of analytical, scientific, and critical thinking, was rearranged in a manner that has fragmented the study of knowledge development. Outcomes-based approach translated to output-centric student evaluation that rely-heavily on submitted works, as how laborers are pressed to produce commodities.
Changes in the basic education curriculum equally hit tertiary education. Filipino language and Philippine Literature subjects were removed from the list of required subjects in tertiary education. Study of humanities and social sciences in college general education was weakened as the drive towards specialization and development of technical skills intensifies.
To be truly meaningful for the Filipino people and our aspiration for national development, the K to 12 review must question the program to its core. Has it served to foster nationalism and patriotism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation?