Is the national government’s K-12 enhanced basic education program working?
The K-12 program covers Kindergarten and 12 years of basic education (6 years of Primary Education, four years of Junior High School; and two years of Senior High School) to provide “sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners, and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, and entrepreneurship.”
That’s the DepEd rationale for discarding the old set-up and adding two more years to basic education.
The curriculum consists of Filipino and English; Mathematics; Science; Araling Panlipunan; Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (Humanities); Music; Arts; Physical Education; Health; Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan. Under the Technology and Livelihood Education component, there’s Agri-Fishery Arts; Home Economics; Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and Industrial Arts.
What the broad scope of the K-12 program tells us is that even if students complete the program and cannot pursue higher education for one reason or another, mainly financial, they can already seek gainful employment.
But it’s one thing to wish for the moon and the stars, and quite another to actually get things right.
For ACT Teachers party-list lawmaker France Castro, a review of the K-12 program is needed to fully address the problems it created.
Castro urged Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte “to see the realities and effects of underfunding, low salaries and the shortages brought about by the implementation of the enhanced basic education program.”
The shortages, according to her, referred not only to facilities and learning materials but also to inadequate salaries and benefits for teachers and nonteaching personnel that ultimately affected the quality of education.
The K-12 program, the lawmaker added, did not enhance the basic education curriculum, but “simply mandated additional two years of high school and even condensed lessons to the pupils, leaving many behind.”
But there are other problems in Philippine education that the DepEd under the Marcos administration must address.
There’s the worsening learning poverty among children, who at age 10 still can’t read simple texts and who continue to reel from the impact of school closures and the decline in the quality of education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to “The State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update” report of the World Bank released last month.
Citing reported estimates for 2019, it said learning poverty was already 90.9 percent in the Philippines pre-pandemic.
Also last month, the Asian Development Bank said prolonged school closures, with the Philippines having one of the longest, would not only slow economic growth but also shed jobs across the Asia-Pacific region for a decade after the pandemic.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, the head of the Senate committee on basic education, has stressed the urgency of resuming face-to-face classes, subject to health protocols and improved vaccination rates, to overcome learning losses resulting from distance learning.
We fully agree that face-to-face classes should be restarted this coming school year. After all, results of three large-scale international learning assessments before the pandemic showed that Filipino children were “failing to master basic competencies and that they are being left behind by their peers abroad.”
Let’s bring back pupils and students to schools where they can gain the skills and knowledge they can use to become productive citizens later on who can contribute to nation-building.