Who’s afraid of ‘K to 12’?By Perla Aragon-Choudhury
Philippine Daily Inquirer
At the recent K to 12 (K-12) Basic Education Program National Summit held at Miriam College, top educators sought to answer frequently asked questions on the new elementary and secondary curricula that would mean an additional two years of study.
Organized by the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the summit discussed funding and classroom requirements, among other issues, for the two extra years.
Aside from making kindergarten a regular feature of all public schools, K-12 also means adding Grade 7 beginning this June.
The summit was meant to explain the K-12 program to parents and pupils in its 1,345 member-schools, and other groups to be affected by the change.
The new curriculum is in compliance with the education policy of President Aquino to improve the quality of public education by adding two more years of basic education.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro, FSC, said education was No. 1 in the President’s campaign agenda.
He pointed out that those who were able to pay for 14 years of schooling before university were getting into the best schools and getting the best jobs after graduation.
CEAP and Adamson University president Fr. Gregorio Banaga, CM, said the summit was not the first time the association had tackled the program.
CEAP sat in the K-12 Steering Committee and, with the Coordinating Council for Private Education Associations (Cocopea), organized regional consultations. Issues, concerns and recommendations of the private education sector were then submitted to DepEd.
Member schools report
Sr. Marissa Viri, RVM, chairperson of the RVM Education Ministry Commission, showed how the 50 schools of her congregation had been adjusting their curriculum to K-12 in terms of modules, activities, timetable, etc.
She said they wanted to make sure parents, students, businessmen, future employers and all other stakeholders fully understood K-12.
Fr. Ely Rafael Fuentes, superintendent of Catholic schools in Jaro, Iloilo, said they included heads of seminaries in consultation sessions. They also asked graduates about job opportunities and potential employers in the region about manpower needs.
Dr. Edizon Fermin, the first male high school principal of Miriam College, said many private schools in the country already had Grade 7 and various levels of preschool before kindergarten and grade school. In this sense, they were K-12 ready.
On the question of whether K-12 was here to stay, Luistro said: “My best answer is understandable to those with the Catholic faith. K-12 is like the reign of God. It is here but not yet here. We have an opportunity and what we feel are the most critical answers at this point. They are neither rigid nor perfect.”
Saying not one version of K-12 would fit all, Luistro stressed collaboration and communication with all stakeholders.
Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali, head of the Technical Working Group (TWG) on Transition Management, said, “In introducing senior high school, we must partner with other education stakeholders.”
He cited various possibilities for implementation. Higher education institutions (HEIs), private high schools and technical/vocational schools could fully implement and manage Grades 11-12. DepEd could lease facilities of HEIs, private high schools and tech/voc schools. A combination of both was another option.
Umali presented two programs for transition management. Senior high school could be introduced in selected institutions ahead of the planned nationwide implementation in 2016-2017. Other schools could be assessed for readiness to offer senior high school before the target date.
As for the concern about cost, Education Undersecretary for Finance Francis Varela assured summit participants both government and private schools could fund K-12.
He explained: “In real terms the education budget has been increasing under President Aquino, and can meet the requirements for teachers, classrooms and finances. For fiscal year 2011, when the administration started the budget process, DepEd got P207.2 billion, or 2.2 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product); for 2012 the figures are P238 billion, also 2.2 percent of the GDP.”
Valera said the department intended to address both classroom and teacher requirements in two years.
But Varela also stressed that the benefits of the new program far outweighed costs. Among other things, the additional years of schooling would increase the earning potential of the graduate.
While a graduate of a four-year high school course would earn P19,876 annually, Varela said the graduate of a six-year course could earn P35,280, a difference of P15,404.
“Students who complete senior high school and then work will have better income opportunities and higher income streams—the cost (of) delayed employment will be offset by these higher income streams,” Varela said.
The additional two years of high school also meant a reduction in cost of schooling for graduates who would seek employment afterwards, as the additional years would be free, said Varela. Those graduates would have to pay if they enrolled in two years of college or post-secondary education.
For those seeking college degrees, Varela said it was expected the two additional high school years would mean higher tertiary education completion rates.
Education Undersecretary for Programs and Projects Yolanda Quijano, head of the TWG on Curriculum, gave an update on materials being prepared for the different learning areas, as well as learning resources like teachers’ guides, activity packages, and student modules.
Ongoing activities include the production of mother tongue learning resources in eight major languages, preparation of implementing guidelines, and finalization of the design for training of teachers and administrators.
In closing, Luistro enjoined the schools “not to forget street children, kariton kids, our indigenous peoples, and ‘students’ in jail.”
He asked everyone, “Let us maximize opportunities while designing responses to many challenges … We will have to own the program … to craft and look for answers ourselves.”