K-12: Not whether we are ready, we must


It amazes me that whenever President Aquino and his top advisers are asked what are the major reforms undertaken by his administration, they cannot come up with a list. All they do is point to President Gloria Arroyo in detention, and to the vague slogan, “Good governance is good economics.”

They never mention the far more significant act of political will in launching and implementing the K plus 12 program for the reform of basic education in the country.

In my book this is a more pervasive and far-reaching reform, because it touches at the core the lives and welfare of our over 100 million people.

It took some doing to get it passed by Congress, and it will take a lot of determination, effort and funding to get it done.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara helped open my eyes to K-12’s huge significance, when he declared at a recent breakfast forum in Quezon City, that K-12 was proposed as early as 1938 (during the Commonwealth period), and it has taken us all of 60 years to undertake this major change in our basic education.

I started reading up a little more on the K-12 program when I read of the adverse position taken by Business leader Teresita Sy-Coson of the SM group against the program at an international conference. She laid out the case for vocational education as a better approach than K-12 to the educational challenge in the Philippines during the Forbes Global CEO conference last week.

Ms. Coson’s view deserves study and consideration, coming as it does from a top employer, business leader and business innovator in our country. She speaks from long years of experience and from looking at Filipino needs and skills firsthand.

But it is hardly the whole story. And it should not rush us to retreat from K-12, and substitute vocational education for the reform program. The merits of vocational schooling cannot cancel or replace the larger merits of a K-12 basic education.

K-12, if implemented competently and effectively, will bring our country and our people up to speed with the rest of the world, especially the more developed world.

Are we ready for K-12?  
At the Forbes forum, Ms. Coson said: “I’m not in favor of that (the K-12 program). The Philippines is not a developed country and we do have a lot of poverty around. I was hoping we would have a lot of vocational schools that would train for the different skills needed by the industries to grow.”

She went further to say that the Philippines is not yet in dire need of special skills, although she noted that many information technology people working in the SM Group are going abroad to train. Vocational schools would serve to improve people’s skills, allowing them to qualify and work in industries here and abroad.

Ms. Coson is joined by teacher groups and Sen. Antonio Trillanes, of all people, in opposing K-12, on the ground that the nation is not ready for the radical reform of our system of basic education. Collectively they want the system to remain the way it is. They worry about the jobs that will be lost, and the added cost for parents in enabling their children to complete the basic course.

Examined carefully, the arguments raised against K-12 are fundamentally reactionary. They attempt to scare the public into opposing the reform program.

I disagree.

A fundamental and needed reform
In defense and support of the K-12 program, I say this. K-12 is essentially a fundamental and necessary reform of basic education in the Philippines, which over the past decades has fallen behind that of many countries.

The K-12 program comprises Kindergarten and 12 years of basic education, which broken down consist of (1) six years of primary education, (2) four years of junior high school and (3) two years of senior high school.

The goal is to provide our young people more time for mastery of concepts and skills and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment and entrepreneurship.

The government is slated to start implementing senior high school in 2016.

When the K-12 reform was first proposed by the Aquino administration upon its accession, it was essentially envisioned as a ladder out of poverty for poor young people who are able to complete the program.

For the nation, K-12 was envisioned as an important step to making our country and our people more competitive in the global economy.

It would enhance our people’s known proficiency and intrepidity in seeking and filling important jobs here in our country and in foreign lands.

And it would help sustain the indispensable remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) to the national economy, which over the last few years have averaged $26 billion annually.

Rehashing the old argument against independence
The best answer, I submit, to the objection that we are not yet ready for the K-12 program is this:

When you say, “We are not yet ready, because we are not yet developed,” you are rehashing the old argument of readiness against Philippine independence over a century ago, when it was first raised by our national heroes and forefathers. Had they waited until our people were ready, we would never have become independent. Our revolution of 1896 and our independence proclamation of 1898 would not have happened.

Transported into the educational challenge today, the issue in my view, is not whether we should adopt K-12, but whether we can afford not to. We must.

As a people, we have to strive beyond certainty, and transcend timidity and trepidation. Or else we will be left behind farther and farther behind in the relentless march of mankind to progress.



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  1. With out “Free Transportation”, school “Breakfast and Launch” eating program, adequate school infrastructure and real learning textbook. The K+12 program will just create more poverty and more dumb students and much much more poverty to already dirt poor Filipinos. Skills of intelligence can not be dictated but must be funded adequately to be acquired by the brain. S2pid BS Aquino, dictating S2pidity.

  2. Daniel B.Laurente on

    We live in crazy world really. We always adapt what other developed countries do to become competitive accordingly. To become famous we adapt qoutations from other famous people. Once done some will criticise one as not really original. We study from books created by other intellectuals. We live in a world interdependent with each other . But everybody wishes to be independent from others. Our economy is hugely contributed by global OFW. Our development in infrastructures are also copied from other developed countries. So what else? there are more…Philippines is not alone in doing all the copying. Almost countries do it because we want to progress and be developed. This means K+12 is not bad after all because it manifest future massive progress and developedment into our future leaders mind which happened to be our children. . I agree with you Mr. Yen.

  3. There is no problem with K-12 if the country has already enough classrooms to accomodate the students but the public school system in the 1970’s used to place a premium on using the English and Pilipino language as its medium of teaching. But now, our public school system uses each and every dialect of every province as a medium of teaching. How can public school students ever graduate college if they were not taught to speak and spell in English? So what goes first, a higher quality teaching or two more years of special subjects? We have not even computed how every family for every child has to spend two more years of additional schooling to make the students more intelligent?

  4. >>> Ang panig at inilahad ni Ms Teresita Sy-Coson ay maliwanag at may “concrete ” na batayan, samantalang ang panig ni Mr. Juan Angara ay isang maituturing din naman maganda, kung ang babasehan mo ay ang developed countries like USA & some countries in Europe.

    Ang kay Ms Sy-Coson ay base sa totoong nangyari, nangyayari at mangyayari sa ating bansa. Samantala ang kay Mr. Juan Angara ay base sa naman sa nangyari at nangyayari sa ibang bansa.

    Ang kay Ms Sy-Coson ay isang analysis base on actual geogaphical, environmetal, social & political situation, condition and experienced ng ating bansa. Samantala ang kay Mr. Juan Angara ay base naman sa ibang bansa na may kaibahan sa geographical, environmental.social & political situation, condition and experienced of their countries.

    Ang usapin “Kindergarten and K-12 basic education program” ay halos katulad ng usapin “ANO ANG NAUNA o MAUNA, ITLOG O MANOK”?

    In my humble opinion, I disagree to this Kindergarten+K12 program.

  5. Gusto ko lang pong malaman, kung ano anong new academic subject ang idadagdag sa K-12?? pero kung pahahabain lang ninyo ang oras ng bawat subject pero ganuon pa rin subject, ang K-12 will be useless and nothing. During my elementary and high school times mayroon na kaming subject na vocational.which is a part of preparation of what skilled you are belongs…Kung ang K-12 ay panibagong subject tulad ng mga IT, space program, why not have K-12 in our educational system. It means additional knowledge and advancement of technology. Pero kung ang subject ay the same sa high school na fourth year ay pahababain lang ang oras sa K-12, it is nothing.. Maguubos lang ng time and waste of money ang gobyerno na wala rin matutunan ang mga student kung ganun ang kanilang aim..This is absurd and ridiculous ..Remember time is gold.

  6. I am not against K-12 if it will be timely implemented. Let us make our citizens have a better living first with poverty effectively alleviated if not totally eliminated. I consider it a big burden to a middle class like me, much more to the lower class citizenry.
    By the way, is the author a product of K-12? If not, what do you think then is the quality of education that you achieved. After all, you’ve been a successful individual in your own field,perhaps your children as well under the existing system of education.

  7. the philippines will never be ready!! in war, we won’t. during and after clamities, we won’t. natural disasters like earthquakes, super typhoons, and all kinds of diseases that will kill our population, we won’t. we are a people solely at the mercy of other governments. we are a people with very slow reactions to just about everything. we kicked the americans out of the philippines after the second world war thinking we were ready to stand on our own. and we were wrong!!! 70 years after the war, we are still a struggling country. a poor country. a corrupt country. 2016 we will elect a new president. as a country, are we ready to choose wisely? and if we are not, i am sure we will elect a president who is nether ready.

  8. Elmar Cahambing on

    Thanks Yen for supporting the K-12 program. I know there are a lot of parents who are against it because of economic reason. But at end of the day, I am sure they will realize the importance of raising our educational standard to the level of a develop nation. For our country to prosper we have to adopt to a changing world and K-12 program is just one of the backbones the Philippine need.

  9. dito sa middle east lalo na saudi, ang pilipino ang pinaka da best kahit kaninong bansa mo ikumpara lalo na tungkol sa technical works o saan man trabaho ilagay. Ang talagang kailangan ng pilipino ay maging propesyonal hindi vocational,madalang kang makakakita pilipino ang nasa managerial o ano mang nasa mataas na posisyon.
    Dapat alam ito ng gobyerno,kapag skilled o technical o construction job kahit buong mundo ,pilipino lagi ang hinahanap.check ninyo ang labor office kung saan tayo magaling,walang bansa ang naghahap ,ng doktor ,manager o ano mang nasa high posisyon. Dapat ito din ang pinagtutuunan .k-12 puedi para sa maykaya.
    malamang mas mababawasan pa ang makakatapos ng kolehiyo,at ang mga elite lang ang magpapasasa .

  10. We are not ready. But, when are we ready? What are the criteria when we are ready?

    On the other hand, it’s not really the number of years that matters most. It is the quality of education, especially in the elementary and high school. As I say this, it has to do more on the quality of teachers in imparting knowledge and guiding students in their studies. There is a need for more dedicated and passionate teachers in what they do. But, then again, how do you expect better teachers when there are no stricter requirements to be one, coupled with ‘measly’ salary.

    There is also a general conception that the brighter or smarter students should not be teachers, as the profession is for the less gifted. What an irony?

    The so called “brain drain’ tells us that Filipinos, generally, with 10 years pre-college education, can compete in the world labor market, and in post graduate studies, even in the United States.This maybe due to stricter school discipline then. This is still true these days, but they are those who usually belong to the cream. Many Filipino professionals belong to the mainstream, even without taking further school subjects before taking board or bar examinations.

    Considering the global labor market, the K-12 time has come. It must start somewhere, sometime. Additionally,the development of vocational skills is a “MUST”. With the aging population and low birthrate in Europe, etc., there is a need for skilled workers sooner or later. The fact that there is dignity of labor in western countries, should be emphasized, to encourage the young about the importance of vocational training. After all, the blue-collar worker can gainfully be employed, locally or abroad..