MANILA, Philippines?How will an additional two years improve basic education when schools are forced to hold classes in three shifts and students can?t understand their lessons because they are hungry?
Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, the president of Ateneo de Manila University, could not see how the Aquino administration?s proposed two-year extension of the 10-year basic education cycle would lift the quality of education.
?This all sounds very nice, but if you get down to the ground, it doesn?t make sense,? Nebres told a forum last week on the proposed K+12 (Kindergarten plus 12) program.
The Department of Education (DepEd) will announce on Tuesday the administration?s priority program to catch up with the rest of the world having a 12-year basic education cycle in spite of admitted lack of funds and the need to amend the 1982 education law.
The announcement coincides with Teachers? Day celebrations and marks the start of nationwide consultations about the plan.
The proposal aims to produce employable 18-year-old high school graduates by giving them a longer time to study and master employable skills.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro has so far declined to give details of the program other than it will involve a transition of around four to five years beginning next year.
?It?s a series of different steps,? Luistro said.
Education Undersecretary Yolanda Quijano said that curriculum details would still be fleshed out.
What will be announced Tuesday, Quijano said, would include the chosen 12-year model, identify where the additional two years would be added and detail how the cycle extension would be paced.
?At least we will see where the years will be added, like will we have a Grade 7 or will it be a linear system? It?s possible also that we will see the advantages and disadvantages of the models we considered, which model will give the most benefit,? she said.
Public consultations will then ensue, officials said.
Juan Miguel Luz, a former education undersecretary closely involved in the K+12 draft, said the extended cycle aimed to give students more time to study a curriculum that was crammed in the current 10 years.
?The biggest resource you are adding is time. Ten years is not enough. If we?re so smart going to 10, how come we?re not rich? How come we?re not more successful? We?ve fooled ourselves into thinking we can do it in 10 years,? Luz said.
Under the present system, Filipinos have to learn 20 percent more worth of lessons per year than children their age in other countries.
RP left behind
The Philippines is the only country with a 10-year cycle, according to UNESCO.
One only has to see public school students? achievement test scores to see that our system has failed the Filipino student, said Dina Ocampo, associate dean at the University of the Philippines College of Education.
?If you look at the data, achievement scores are very low. So if you think about it, it?s really not working. We can?t keep it as it is because the curriculum is too crammed,? Ocampo said.
Education Undersecretary Alberto Muyot said the scores were ?really scary.?
Average National Achievement Test (NAT) scores of elementary school students are at a failing 64 percent. The number further slides in high school, with the national average at 46 percent.
Filipino students fade even deeper into the background on the international stage, as reflected in results of the 2003 TIMMS (Trends in International Math and Science Study).
Results of the test, taken by second year high school students, placed the country 41st among 45 participating countries, lagging at the bottom with African countries. Filipino students scored an average 35 percent, barely above students from Ghana and Botswana.
No budget allocation
Muyot admitted that the DepEd did not specify allocations for K+12 in its proposed budget for next year because the program would be in a transition stage.
?It doesn?t mean that by next year, fourth year students will go to fifth year. There?s going to be a long transition,? he said.
The budget department, in fact, has slashed DepEd?s original budget proposal of P300 billion to P207 million.
The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), an education reform group closely involved in the K+12 draft, estimates that the extension will cost between P56 billion and P65 billion a year for additional classrooms and teachers, according to its president, Chito Salazar.
Another hurdle is an amendment of the education law, which mandates government to fund public education for ?six or seven grades, including preschool? in elementary and four years of high school.
?Every time you amend a law, it takes forever and ever,? Isagani Cruz, former education undersecretary and a K+12 consultant, said at a forum last week.
Salazar believes the need for major funding and an amendment of the education law won?t be necessary during the transition years.
?If ever, it will be extremely minimal and might only need redirection,? Salazar told the Inquirer. ?In all the models I?ve seen, the additional 12th year will not be in place until, at the earliest, four to six years down the line,? he said.
Salazar said private colleges and universities had expressed support of K+12 in spite of concerns that adding years would result in zero high school graduates, and thus college entrants, at certain years.
?We?re all looking for ways that will be least disruptive on the system.... There will be no blank years. We also don?t want to hurt the tertiary institutions,? Salazar said.