Because the program was rushed and most public schools are not prepared for its implementation, the aim of the added years to provide “better” learning becomes unfeasible.
By VINCENT CASIL
In his first State of the Nation Address, President Duterte mentioned his plan to increase government spending on education and to intensify the Alternative Learning System (ALS) program, but he never mentioned anything about the K12 program. He never mentioned it despite that it is the central program for education of the previous administration and despite his administration’s continued implementation of it regardless of its issues. He never clarified his stand as to how this program, at present, worsened the classroom and teacher shortage, which probably will get worse further as it enters full implementation. This neglect of K12 program of the new administration is objectionable. His administration needs to clarify its stand on the issues revolving around the K12, especially because it concerns the welfare of students and teachers and the quality of education of our nation as a whole.
The K12 education was adamantly pursued by the previous administration. The Aquino government focused on lengthening the school year, as they thought that the reform will make our education system at par with the global standard. They pointed out that the 10-year basic education program of the Philippines is backward compared to the 12-year educational system being practiced globally. For them, the added years was intended to “decongest and enhance the basic education curriculum.” The added years aim to provide specialization aligned to the job market and enhance the graduates’ academic skills and competencies. These years, for them, will supposedly result in improvement in our education that will make our graduates more prepared and globally competitive.
The plan to add two more years could certainly strengthen our education, since the added years primarily address our education’s curricular problems. But because the program was rushed and most public schools are not prepared for its implementation, the aim of the added years to provide “better” learning become unfeasible. The added school years require more classrooms and teachers, which further add burden the perennial classroom and teacher shortage. The inadequate infrastructures, lack in quality materials, and shortage of teachers to deliver the K12 subjects do more harm than good to the already dire condition of our education system. As a result, teachers are forced to teach subjects that they lack expertise in, even teaching them in overcrowded rooms that lack quality materials. The students, on the other hand, are forced to attend overcrowded classes, and some are even forced to attend classes without classroom.
If the goal of the K12 education is quality education, then such education cannot be expected with the condition it has created. The situation K12 created does not support optimal performance from our students and teachers. In an overcrowded room, we cannot expect students to learn acceptable level of calculating, writing, reading, thinking, or whatever skills they need; the same way that we cannot expect teachers to teach these basic skills effectively, given the unfavorable learning condition they are in. Both students and teachers would need superhuman effort to educate and be educated. And if they do not perform well, it is because their learning experience encourages sub-optimal performance, and worst, promotes no learning at all.
Of course, it is a different story if we talk about quality private schools. They will benefit with the new system, since they have infrastructures and man power to support the reform. But for majority of Filipino students, it is just the same substandard education and might be even worse. For most public schools, the flaw of the program is obvious. To lengthen the school year does not significantly improve the quality of learning and instruction, for the major cause of the substandard education is not the years spent in studying, but the overcrowded schools, lack of classrooms, inadequate school materials, and the lack of teachers, not to mention, quality teachers. Hence, in order to address these inadequacies, there’s a need for more buildings, classrooms, quality materials, and well trained teachers—and the additional years do not address these needs.
Only if the previous administration has used the funds, infrastructures, trainings, and tuition fee assistance expended for rushing K12 to strengthen our previous education system, then we could be in a better position to have a quality education and to prepare for the implementation of K12. However, we did not. And at this point, it seems that there’s no turning back, for either suspending the K12 or making it optional are not viable options. It seems that we just need to move forward and face the irony that while education should be empowering, the whole situation the previous administration built disempowers everyone, especially the parents, the students, and the teachers.
The issue of quality education is just one of the problems of K12, displaced college teachers and the increase in student drop-outs are other effects of this reform that also need to be addressed. With all these problems, the new administration’s early actions on addressing K12 are unsatisfactory. Its implicit agreement to the program and lack of clear stand on the issues revolving around K12 do not help mitigate the problems K12 has created. The K12 needs leadership and clear vision from the new administration. We need our president’s will to provide stronger statement to direct where the K12 program should go, like how he addressed drugs and criminality. We need his frankness on our nation’s state of education, like how he pointed the hypocrisy lurking in both self-righteous institutions – the media and church. We need his honest words to show K12’s real problems, against the false optimism of our previous leaders who are proud of the additional school years, as if, “all is well.” The K12 is not yet on its full implementation, and there are no signs that the next school year will be better. We need more of our president’s leadership to lead us why, despite all its issues, we need to keep our faith in the K12 education.
The author is a a college instructor from Lyceum, Manila and City of Malabon University.