OUR country’s educational system has been shaken more violently these past two years than in the past decade. This is because of several major policy changes that gave heart to the primary education system and raised the bar of learning.
In 2012, Republic Act 10157 or the Kindergarten Education Act was signed into law. This legislation made kindergarten an integral part of basic education and a prerequisite for a child to be admitted to grade 1.
In 2013, Republic Act 10410 or the Early Years Act was signed, which provides children eight years old and below their basic needs that include early education, health and sanitation, proper nutrition and social services. The law set up a national Early Childhood Care and Development Council system under which various government agencies led by the Department of Education and Department of Social Welfare and Development collaborate to provide basic services for young children.
Also in 2013, President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed into law Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act which is more commonly known as K-to-12 program that added two more years to high school.
But of these three laws, it is RA 10157 that has the most impact on young learners because the law addresses the special and unique needs of young students.
As far as laying a good foundation for education is concerned, RA 10157 is significant because it has compassion. The 10-month kindergarten program has several components –Headstart Program for the gifted, Early Intervention Program for Children with Disabilities, Madrasah Program, Indigenous People Education and Catch-Up program for children under especially difficult circumstances.
The implementing rules issued by the DepEd make sure that the needs of children, regardless of location, health, gender religion and station in life, are covered.
The Headstart Program is for children with superior intelligence, while the Early Intervention Program is for children with handicaps or disabilities. Those who fall under this category can expect intervention either at home, in school or in a community.
The Madrasah program provides Muslim children Arabic language learning and Islamic values education, while the Indigenous program provides education to ensure the preservation, promotion and recognition of the cultures and heritage of indigenous peoples.
The Catch-Up scheme aims to help children in difficult circumstances such as those suffering from chronic ailments, those whose families have been displaced because of disasters, armed conflict and urban resettlement or victims of child labor.
The Kindergarten law has been implemented for two years, but already, young learners are reaping benefits from this legislation, especially those who come from poor households. This law took a long time coming, but now children from all walks of life, be they poor, sickly or without permanent address, are assured of an early education not just because their parents want it or these kids need it, but because the state mandates it.
Such good laws that equalize the rich and poor, the weak and strong, the intelligent and slow, do not come often. Clearly, this country needs more laws with a heart.
(Mario Salvador Ascueta is Master Teacher 2 of the Batangan Elementary School in Gonzaga, Cagayan)