A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues phoned me from an event she was attending. My name had apparently come up in a conversation she had with an official of the Department of Education (DepEd).
“DepEd is a little disappointed you’ve been so hard on them concerning the K-to-12 program,” she informed me, going on to explain that while the official understood that I am not against the goal, my criticism of the manner in which it is being implemented was, from his point of view, a little unfair.
If I had a dime for every time someone thought I was being unfair, I’d have to hire a truck to carry them all.
At least the unnamed DepEd official (I know who it was, of course, but his identity is not vital to the point of this story) correctly understood my position: K-to-12 is an excellent initiative, one that is long overdue here, but the manner in which it is being converted from a good idea to a reality seems inept and unnecessarily stressful, and has caused a great deal of confusion among education stakeholders—students, educators and parents.
That stress and confusion has been further aggravated by the histrionics of those who are against expanding the basic education program—the so-called “progressives” whose ironically conservative perspective is that allowing the Philippine education system to remain below unquestioned global standards is preferable to moving out of an unimpressive comfort zone. The greater implications to the quality of the Philippine workforce, the country’s economic potential, and its ability to take advantage of knowledge transfer matter not at all, so long as jobs are not lost and families do not have to devote temporal and material resources to two extra years of school for their children.
Being dumb, apparently, is preferable to growing up.
Earlier this week, Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro paid a visit to The Manila Times’ offices, and shared with us a frank assessment of the K-to-12 implementation.
While I am still not entirely satisfied that the DepEd has handled what has been a five-year effort to bring the new paradigm to life in the most efficient way, Secretary Luistro did clarify many of the apparent problems, and in doing so eased most of my and my editorial teammates’ concerns about whether the K-to-12 program will be a success.
Any major change in a fundamental institution like the country’s basic education system is going to create some discomfort; that is unavoidable. Education in particular has a tremendous influence on the country’s social make-up, and any significant change to the education system risks pushing some people out of the way. Despite the best efforts of the government and the education sector to ensure K-to-12 benefits everyone, some are going to be left behind. Secretary Luistro acknowledged that, but also pointed out that eliminating or reducing the negative effects of K-to-12 implementation requires a little effort on the part of other education stakeholders besides the DepEd. The effort to implement K-to-12 has been ongoing for five years, Luistro pointed out, and for all practical purposes begins on Monday—any rational challenge to it should have been presented and resolved long before now.
Resistance to K-to-12 is foolish, although sober discussion of problems encountered along the path to implementation is not; Luistro stressed that he would rather be informed of the problems sooner rather than later. While there is likely some room for improving the manner in which the program is being rolled out, stopping it completely would be disastrous. If the Philippines wishes to even approach the lofty goal of becoming a “first-world country,” as President B.S. Aquino 3rd suggested last week, it absolutely must meet conventional global standards of education. As just one example of how the current system handicaps the Philippines’ human capital, professional certificate holders—engineers, accountants, healthcare workers and others—often encounter resistance for the sole reason that their education is two years shorter than everyone else’s.
K-to-12 may be a challenge, it may create practical difficulties for some, but it is an absolute necessity. Any effort applied by anyone that is not an effort to make it happen more effectively is an effort that is wasted, and ultimately harmful to the country and its livelihood.