THE FATE of the K to 12 education initiative hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court has given due course to the petition of the Suspend K to 12 Alliance of educators and concerned groups to stop Republic Act 10533, which mandates the full implementation of the new basic education system next year.

Teaching and non-teaching members of higher educational institutions (HEIs) who have formed themselves into the alliance described K to 12 as an “ill-designed education program.”

Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who is also the point man of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on land reform and other social justice issues, has meanwhile appealed to the government to suspend the implementation “until the real and valid concerns and grievances of our education workers are fully addressed.”

The Parents Advocacy for Children’s Education has also backed the suspension, noting unclear provisions in the new law, as well as lack of government preparation and lack of consultation with relevant sectors that will be affected by its implementation.

In the petition, the Coalition for K to 12 Suspension, headed by UST Faculty Union external vice president Rene Luis Tadle, said the K to 12 Program is against the Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution as it fails to provide teachers and non-teaching staff full labor protection and safety net employment.

With the implementation, “education workers face the risk of early separation, forced retirement, constructive dismissal, diminution of salaries and benefits, labor contractualization and a general threat to self-organization,” the petition states.

These are due to the two-year transition period by the shift from the traditional 10-year educational curriculum to 12 years. Therefore, there would possibly be two school years when there would be no enrollees for college.

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RA 10533 failed to address the issues facing education staff, as shown by reports of retrenchment of affected professors and lower compensation for college faculty members who opted to transfer to senior high school program just to keep their job.

All in all, some 60,000 college teachers and 20,000 non-teaching staff nationwide are in danger of losing their job once the law is fully implemented next year. A study by the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Labor and Employment has shown that around 85,000 HEI employees risk losing their jobs on the transition period.

Because of the looming crisis, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said DepEd is “planning” to hire 30,000 to 41,000 high school teachers for 2016 and 2017 and the department will prioritize displaced teaching and non-teaching staff.

We don’t think this “planning” is sufficient. The DepEd has given a very uncertain solution to several conditions that would definitely occur after the implementation.

We acknowledge the advantages of implementing K to 12 as it could help pave the way for ASEAN integration and global competitiveness of the Philippine education system. It would also empower high school graduates by making them job-ready even if they decided not to take up college anymore as senior high school students would be made to pursue three career tracks—academic, sports and technical-vocational.

But many of these adjustments may displace higher education faculty and workers. This has been evident for example in Miriam College, which ironically was headed before by CHEd Chair Patricia Licuanan. Many general education faculty have been given their walking papers. Apparently Licuanan and the CHEd have not fully thought of the implications of K to 12 to higher education.

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The impact of the displacement has been taken for granted by both DepEd and CHEd. In effect, government has poorly handled the transition because of its incompetence and insensitivity.

Moreover, the new curriculums being devised for basic and higher education as a result of K to 12 have been largely positivist-oriented at the cost of the humanities. Educational planners in basic and higher education seem bent on removing humanities from the curriculum.

Many of these concerns have been raised before even if the DepEd and CHEd have hardly done consultations with stakeholders in the education sector. Their incompetence, arrogance and insensitivity mean that the troubles facing K to 12 now have been largely self-inflicted.

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