K to 12 plan put to test
DepEd upbeat amid old problemsBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippines leaves behind its reputation as Asia’s only nation with a 10-year basic education cycle and enters the so-called K to 12 system Monday to be implemented via “creative tutoring” in the face of acute shortages and recurring doubts about the program.
The old problems persist: Lack of classrooms and overcrowding and, in some areas, learning the basics under a tree or in flooded schools.
A party-list group of teachers aired its opposition to the new program and asked the Department of Education (DepEd) to resolve first the perennial crisis in the shortages of teachers, classrooms, sanitation facilities and other school necessities before embarking on K to 12.
“There is no law yet authorizing the implementation of the full K to 12 education program. The curriculum is not yet ready. Funds are insufficient to cover the basic inputs such as shortages on teachers, classrooms, textbooks, chairs and sanitation facilities,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said in a statement Sunday.
The group said the “haphazard implementation” of Phase 2 of the K to 12 education program would “definitely bring chaos” among teachers and even students and parents.
ACT said the K to 12 project had only brought confusion to the teachers because modules and instructional materials were not complete.
The DepEd was upbeat, however, declaring that all kinks had been ironed out in welcoming roughly 21 million public school students nationwide today.
Barely a handful of parents and students either went to the department headquarters or called to voice queries and complaints on the eve of the opening of classes.
“Matumal (sluggish),” Kenneth Tirado, DepEd public information officer, described yesterday’s operation of the Oplan Balik Eskwela Center.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said Monday’s school opening marked the pilot implementation of the K to 12 basic education program, a reform project targeted for completion by 2018, although mandatory entry into kindergarten was initiated in the last school year.
“As we implement the new K to 12 curriculum for Grade 1 and Grade 7 this school year, we made sure that public elementary and secondary schools across the country are ready for the school opening” Luistro said in an e-mailed statement Sunday.
Junior, senior high
Under the new system, Grade 7 is the label for what used to be first year high school. There will be a junior high school consisting of four years—Grades 7 to 10—and an additional senior high school of two years—Grades 11 to 12.
This school year’s Grade 7 students are expected to be the first batch of senior high school graduates in March 2018.
With the Philippines embracing the international 12-year basic education system, only Angola and Djibouti in Africa will be left with the 10-year cycle. It is being implemented even as the nation, regarded as Asia’s laggard, is still struggling to improve proficiency in English, math and science.
The Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau reported that teachers had been trained in “creative tutoring” to enable them to cope with the new cycle because the government had been unable to provide substantial teaching assistance.
Annie Walang, Mt. Province division supervisor, said teaching materials for the new grade level and teacher’s guides would not be available for the first two weeks, but this would not be a problem.
“In case the materials get delayed, teachers can be very resourceful. There will be alternatives which we can use. We can use the existing textbooks,” she said.
For the first time this year under a three-year mother-tongue education program for the elementary school, the medium of instruction for first graders will be in the local language nationwide.
Next year, the program will cover Grades 1 and 2 and in the subsequent year all of the first three elementary grades.
“Studies have been made with other countries using mother tongue in the initial years of learning and it is found that new concepts learned by children using the mother tongue have been proven to be more long lasting,” said Susana Estigoy, DepEd regional director based in Davao.
Last week, Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said that children might end up holding classes under the trees because of lack of classrooms with the implementation of the new system. He is among those opposing K to 12, saying improving the quality of teaching should have been given priority.
Director General Nicanor Bartolome Jr. instructed his troops in the Philippine National Police to “ensure the general safety and welfare of our students.”
“Their vulnerability to be target of criminals and other opportunists because of their tender age is something that must be protected by our men in the field,” said Director Alan Purisima of the National Capital Region Police Office.
The weather bureau announced that Typhoon “Ambo,” the first of the Pacific season, was barreling across northern Luzon, making life miserable, especially for the Class of 2024.
The DepEd estimated that 21.49 million students will troop to public schools, a figure which was higher from last year’s enrollment for public schools is 20.48 million, reflecting a galloping population growth rate.
Of the expected enrollees this year, 5.76 million are from the high school, 14 million are from elementary, and 1.73 million are in kindergarten, in over 45,000 public schools nationwide, it said.
Asked what are the significant differences between the old and the new curricula, Galileo Go, senior education program specialist of the DepEd’s Bureau of Elementary Education, said Health would be a separate subject and Science would be “integrated in other Grade 1 subjects.”
Aimed at decongesting the students’ subjects in a day, the new Grade 1 curriculum is also expected cut down the normal class hours from six to four hours, Go noted.
“What is important is to teach Grade 1 pupils the essential skills,” he said.
Earlier, the DepEd announced that it would hire up to 13,000 teachers to partially fill a shortage of some 50,000 teaching staff this school year.
The shortage of about 47,000 teachers could be solved by the local government units hiring additional teachers who are paid under the school board funds.
Tirado said most of the questions about K to 12—about 9 percent of the total 2,302 complaints and questions the DepEd had received since the opening of the Oplan Balik Eswela Center—were “clarificatory in nature.”
The DepEd’s action center processes information and complaints from the public and will run until June 8 at the DepEd central and field offices.
“There were no protests but just questions on how the program will be implemented,” Tirado said. With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Miko Morelos and the Inquirer bureaus