“Even if the curriculum is changed but the existing problems of shortages are not addressed, quality education will still not be attained.” – France Castro, Alliance of Concerned Teachers
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA –To save the ailing education system in the Philippines, President Benigno S. Aquino III and Education Sec. Armin Luistro declared that their education reform agenda would center on the implementation of the K + 12 program. Patterned after the education system of other countries, the K + 12 program aims to increase the number of years of basic education.
According to a primer produced by the Department of Education (DepEd), the K + 12 program would require students to undergo universal kindergarten, six years of elementary education (Grades 1-6), four years of junior high school (Grades 7-10 or 1st year to 4th year high school) and two years of senior high school (Grades 11-12 or 5th year to 6th year).
This was precipitated by the low scores Filipino students got in national and international achievement tests, especially the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Developed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), the TIMSS is an international assessment of the math and science knowledge of fourth and eighth grade students around the world. First administered in 1995, the TIMSS is being conducted every four years.
The mandatory universal Kindergarten was implemented this school year (2011-2012). In school year 2012-2013 the new curriculum under K to 12 program will be introduced to incoming Grade 1 and first year high school students. The senior high school will be implemented in school year 2016-2017.
However, progressive teachers and student groups remain skeptical that the K + 12 program would save the ailing education system in the country.
“What the government should prioritize are the shortages in the basic education system like classrooms, books, chairs and teachers,” France Castro, secretary-general of Alliance of Concerned Teachers said.
Even DepEd’s data shows that there are thousands of shortages of chairs, classrooms, books, and most importantly teachers. The mandatory kindergarten made the 152,569 shortages in classrooms more pronounced. Worse are the shortages in teachers. Currently, there is a shortage of 103,599 teachers.
ACT calls the implementation of universal kindergarten a disaster because in schools such as the Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Batasan, Quezon City, the five-year old pupils lacked chairs to sit on and were cramped in the few classrooms made available.
Castro said ACT also wants Filipino children to have quality education. But she finds no reason to be optimistic because of the perennial shortages.
“They [Dep Ed officials] won’t listen anymore. It’s like they’re deaf,” Castro said disappointed. Castro said a summit was held last Dec. 12 on the K to12 curriculum attended by DepEd officials and public school teachers. She said they raised the problem of shortages as an obstacle to the orderly implementation of the K to12 basic education program but to no avail.
According to ACT, the implementation of Kindergarten was not included in the 2011 budget of P207 billion ($4.7 billion). Because the program was not made into law, according to ACT, there was no allocation for its implementation. And because there was no fund allocation, instead of hiring regular teachers, the DepEd hired volunteer teachers who they paid a meager P3,000 ($69.76) per class.
To address the shortage of classrooms, pupils were put in whatever space was available in elementary schools. In DepEd order No. 37, libraries, science laboratories, home economics buildings, resource centers and other available spaces were identified for use of kindergarten classes.
According to Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, there should be one chair per pupil, one comfort room per classroom since the children are not yet toilet trained and one teacher for a maximum of 25 pupils. “These are the prerequisites of a Kindergarten program. But since there is no budget for this program this is not happening in many elementary schools in the country obviously because, first and foremost, the DepEd did not really prepare for this program,” said Melissa San Miguel, spokeswoman of Salinlahi.
Government’s neglect of social services like education is reflected in the budget. Though DepEd had the biggest allocation for 2012, the P234 billion ($5.3 billion) budget is still insufficient to address the shortages.
Under the Aquino administration, the budget of DepEd was increased. From P175 billion ($4 million) in 2010, Aquino increased the budget to P207 billion this year. “For 2011, it is a welcome development that there was a slight increase in the budget for basic education. Yet, despite this increase, it is crucial to note that the increase remains grossly insufficient in addressing the needs of basic education,” Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymund Palatino said.
The following table shows the shortages and the plans of the Aquino administration to address the shortages.
This lack of budget, regrettably, did not ensure a smooth school opening as shortages in textbooks, chairs, classrooms and teachers continue to plague basic education, said Palatino. “The insufficient government spending to basic social services like education remains to be a major issue that paralyzes the qualitative functioning of our education system.”
Not for free
Suzzana De Jesus, principal of Demetrio Tuazon Elementary School admitted that not everything in public schools is for free.
“Since what we need here in school like books and other learning materials are not provided to us ahead of time we really have to sell these in order to provide the students their books,” De Jesus said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Even as the DepEd announced time and again that no fees would be charged to students, the insufficient budget allocation forced teachers to sell not only learning materials but also pad papers, pencils, even snacks.