By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — With barely a month before school opens, various groups are amplifying their call to stop the K to 12 program, which will implement senior high school this school year.
On Friday, May 20, members of the Parents’ Movement Against K to 12 (PMAK) protested in front of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City. Youth groups Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students also held a gathering against K to 12 in UP Diliman, where they launched their petition asking incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to abolish the K to 12 program.
During his campaign, Duterte said that the two additional years of senior high school should be optional. The youths are hoping that Duterte would be true to his words.
“Across sectors, we stand firm and united in our demand to stop the K to 12 program. Today, we wish to show President Duterte that there is a growing number of youth and students, teachers, parents, and other parts of our society who are looking forward to his actions against the anti-people K to 12 policy,” said LFS secretary-general and Stop K to 12 Alliance convener Aries Gupit.
Several groups have been opposing the implementation of the K to 12 program, the flagship program of President Aquino which started in 2011. The groups cited the lack of preparation, such as lack of teachers’ comprehensive training, classrooms and laboratories, which becomes even more evident as the senior high school begins this school year. The groups also said the program only aim to produce cheap labor for overseas employment.
Voucher program futile
Obet Montes, convenor of PMAK, criticized the voucher program of the government saying that not all incoming Grade 11 students were able to avail of the voucher.
According to the DepEd website, “the voucher enables students to claim a ‘discount’ or a deduction from the cost of tuition and other fees charged by a non-DepEd senior high school (private schools) where he or she will enroll.”
The voucher costs P18,000 ($391) to P22,500 ($489) per student. However, the parents lament that tuition in private schools where senior high school is offered is more than P22,500.
Also, not all public high schools offer senior high school program. Out of the 7,914 public high schools in the Philippines, DepEd said 5,993 public schools will offer senior high school. Those who will not be accommodated in these schools have the option to enroll in private schools. However, parents lament that expensive tuition is beyond what they can afford.
“Secretary Armin Luistro has been deaf and blind to our complaints,” said Montes. She added that the application for voucher is also cumbersome and prone to red tape.
Gabriela Women’s Party Congresswoman-elect Arlene Brosas urged Duterte and his appointed education secretary to act decisively on the difficulties of the parents.
“The Duterte government should strive to be different from the insensitive stonewalling that families encountered in President Aquino and Secretary Armin Luistro. The best Mayor Digong can do at the moment is to suspend the K-12 entirely for a year, and the least he can do is allow all Grade 11 enrolees to be listed in all the available schools whether vouchers are available or not,” Brosas said.
High hopes on Duterte
Gupit said that the people have high expectations in the “change” Duterte promised. One of their expectations, he said, is that he will stand by his anti-K to 12 pronouncements during the election campaign period.
“We ask president Duterte to announce his plans of actions against K to 12 as soon as possible since we only have three weeks before classes start. His declaration, even if it is before his inauguration, will greatly alleviate the anxieties of the people and provide perspective on how to go about this school year,” said Gupit.
Gupit said Duterte can help solve the K to 12 chaos if he will grant all Grade 10 completers their high-school-graduate status. Under the K to 12 program, Grade 10 completers are not considered high school graduates. If granted, Gupit said enrollment in colleges and universities must be extended and applications must be held with utmost consideration.
“By allowing the students who finished grade 10 last March to graduate high school, it will effectively stop K to 12. With this, forcing the students to undergo additional two years in high school will come to an end,” said Gupit.
Gupit also expressed concern on the 700,000 to one million students who might be forced to drop out from school if they do not meet the tuition required in a private school that offers K to 12 program.
Gupit said the additional two years in high school is a hindrance in fulfilling the youth’s dreams for their future.
“If the students weren’t able to continue to senior high because of financial constraints and other issues, then they are not considered high school graduate. In this case, they cannot move forward to college and pursue their dreams,” he said.
Gupit said in the future, the drop-outs will have less option in looking for a job and may suffer from lower wages and contractualization.
“K to 12 only spells doom for our future,” Gupit said.
The groups encourage the public to join their call to stop K to 12. “It will never be too late especially if the hopes and futures of one million students and an entire country are at stake,” Gupit.
On May 24, the groups will hold a coordinated noise protest in different schools and communities nationwide, dubbed “Stand vs K-12, Make Some Noise.” They will also camp out in front of the DepEd office on May 26 and 27. A nationwide first day of school protest is also planned on June 13.