WILL K to 12 boost Filipino graduates’ marketability?

President Aquino signed last May 15 the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, the law mandatory to the K to 12 program, extending basic education to 12 years.

Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Commissioner Cynthia Bautista said the new law will somehow “level” Filipino students with students in other countries. Filipino students usually fall short in terms of competency due to lack of education, she said.

“Filipinos will get jobs in Asia but they will be vulnerable to sub-optimal conditions because they lack two years,” said Bautista.

The additional two years will allow Filipino graduates to continue their studies abroad, she added.

“Part of the reason [for the K to 12] is [the] recognition of our [university] degrees,” she said.

Adjustments

K to 12 will require Filipino students to undergo one year of kindergarten and 12 years of basic education—six years of primary education, four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school.

The Philippines is the last country in Asia to implement the K to 12 system, leaving Angola and Djibouti the only ones practicing the 10-year pre-university cycle in the world.

According to the Official Gazette, the K to 12 Program requires additional years in basic education to provide sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners, and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.

K to 12 should lead to better prepared college students, professionals, employees, and entrepreneurs.

It, however, drew criticisms, particularly from activist groups, due to supposed lack of preparedness of the education system.

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Season of discord

But Department of Education (DepEd) Assistant Secretary for Planning Jesus Mateo said in a statement that the 34,131 classrooms the government was constructing would address the classroom shortage this year.

Out of the deficit of 145,847 public school teachers in 2010, 34,953 have already been hired since last January and an additional 61,510 will be added by the end of the year, according to DepEd.

UST all set

For her part, UST High School Principal Marishirl Tropicales said there were no problems with lack of teachers, classrooms and budget.

“Our big challenge is addressing what to teach and how to teach it,” she said.

Tropicales said science teachers need the most preparation.

CHEd Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said teachers will have to be trained to adapt to the K to 12 program.

“It will also affect the teacher-education programs because we now need a lot more teachers trained for K to 12,” she told the Varsitarian.

Tropicales said the high school department made preparations to ensure a smooth transition from the old curriculum to the K to 12 system.

“Even before its (K to 12) implementation, we already attended seminars on the K to 12 program to have a good grasp of it,” Tropicales said.

The department also coordinated with the Office of Academics Affairs, Office of the Vice Rector Finance, and the Santo Tomas e-Service Providers.

Tropicales, however, admitted UST High School had yet to fully implement the assessment or new grading aspect of the K to 12 program.

“We are still using the numerical grading system, but we included the proficiency level range to guide parents and teachers in the interpretation of grades,” she said.

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Isang tahanang masisilungan

Backlogs in the future

Along with DepEd’s rushed training of teachers and the long delays in the delivery of the learning materials, colleges and universities will inevitably face several changes.

Birth pains of K to 12 Basic Education program will lead to a domino effect on tertiary education, Bautista said.

“A lot of [college] courses will be taken in senior high school. Which means even our programs might not be four or five years long anymore. They will be reduced,” she said.

But Licuanan said cutting the length of undergraduate programs was not something CHEd would impose.

Bautista admitted the basic education program would have financial implications on tertiary education institutions.

“How much loss will these private universities that rely on tuition incur? That is something that is still being found out,” she said.

However, Elvin Uy, the DepEd coordinator for K to 12 said a segment of the population will continue to view a college degree as an absolute must and part of their aspiration as students.

“K to 12 would like to change the notion that one must first be a college graduate to land decent jobs or make it as an

entrepreneur,” Uy said.

On a positive note

Meanwhile, Licuanan said the tertiary curriculum would also undergo changes.

“The university may have to be somewhat adjusted because a number of courses in general education were brought down to grades 11 and 12,” she added. But the new curriculum will help students become better prepared for tertiary level.

Meanwhile, DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said the second year of the program’s implementation should be better than last year’s experience.

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Loving in silence

“It is not generally understood and quite hard to explain that the K to 12 is a curriculum reform that involves changes in textbooks, changes in classrooms and retooling of teachers,” Luistro told reporters early June. “Even if there is no K to 12, we have to address the backlog in classrooms, toilets and teachers.”

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