President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s Matuwid na Daan (Straight Path) platform is not exactly about fighting corruption where a modicum of success is a quixotic dream considering the genetic greed of politicians and the legendary vileness of bureaucrats.
Matuwid na Daan is more appropriately reforming the Philippine educational system to produce good citizens who are broadly knowledgeable, equipped with skills for them to cope during the 21st century, and yes, morally upright and fearless in the face of adversity with no more powerful a weapon than their integrity.
The man behind education reform is La Salle Brother Armin Luistro. He is one of the country’s finest visionaries in the field of education and one of the best in educational management. He probably will be the best Education secretary ever.
The Aquino Presidency will make sure that graduates of senior high school—the equivalent in the past of a second year college education— will have such qualities. And that every Filipino will have access to that kind of education.
In addition to Kinder, basic education will now be 12 years instead of 10–six years of elementary and six years of high school. Plus Kinder, the total is actually 13. Compare that in the past when a pupil had only six years of elementary and four years of high school, a total of 10. Twelve is the standard basic education in most countries.
A better education for the Filipino teener—this ultimately will be the President’s legacy and the key measure of the success of his six-year presidency.
Ironically, the first batch of graduates of Aquino’s K to 12 revolutionary program will come out of public and private secondary schools by 2018, two years after Aquino’s presidency.
They would number close to 1.8 million in 2018 and by two million every year after that.
The program is actually Kindergarten plus 12 since it adds a year to elementary education by making Kinder mandatory by law and two years to what used to be four years of high school to make high school six years by Grade 12. That’s an additional three years.
However, college, currently four years, can be reduced to three, since half of General Education units in college have been intercalated to senior high or Grade 11 and 12. So the net addition when one reaches Grade 12 is two years. Before K to 12, General Education courses in college had 51 to 63 units. With K to 12, GE courses will just be 36. The reduction of GE units may lead to abbreviating college by one year or enriching one’s degree programs.
Curricular reform and innovation are the two main objectives of K to 12 Program, according to Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Luistro.
Curriculum reform means reforming curriculum content and readying the teachers. This is done by improving the quality and volume of curriculum content in the expanded high school and by improving the quality of teachers – today, with at least P18,000 a month take-home pay, among the best paid civil servants.
The new public school education starts with Kindergarten, which is now free to children
who are five years old. This has been made possible by the Kindergarten Education Act.
The General Education in college has been cut by half so that the first half is intercalated to senior high school, enabling the government to shorten college from four years to just three. The college curriculum will comprise of a year’s worth of general education subjects and at least two years of major subjects.
Once they finish high school – four years of Junior High School and two years of Senior High School, Filipino students should have acquired basic skills and been educated enough to be able to find a job or put up a business of their own, or if they want to, pursue three years of college to become a professional.
At present, laments Luistro, Philippine college graduates are not recognized as such overseas and are made to undergo additional two years of college when they go abroad for further studies.
Hundreds of thousands of high school and college graduates are jobless, not because jobs are scarce, but because they lack the adequate education and training needed by the jobs market.
The K to 12 program tries to solve this mismatch. In theory thus, high school graduates should be employable, while those who want to pursue college education will have the necessary knowledge and training to become professionals.
The DepEd strategies include the elimination of classroom and teacher shortage, improving the quality of teachers, strengthening school-based management, reforming the curriculum and promoting good education governance.
Luistro reports that all shortages would have been mainly eliminated in number of teachers, classrooms and textbooks by next year. That has required the investment of huge amounts of money.
Between Fiscal Year 2010 and FY 2014, the DepEd budget will nearly double, from P174.8 billion to a whopping P336.9 billion, an increase of 92.6 percent in four years or by more than 23 percent per year. Still, the additional allocation brings government spending for public elementary and high school education to barely 4% of the Gross Domestic Product.
The ideal is 6 percent
Between FY 2007 and FY FY 2010, the DepEd budget nudged up from P137.3 billion to P174.9 billion, a paltry 27.38 percent gain in four years per year.
Where does the government get the money? “From the money collected from you by (Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner) Kim Henares,” laughs Luistro. So there – higher tax collections mean better human capital and more employable people, for local and foreign jobs. Pay your taxes and invest in the future of your children.
DepEd budgeted P50 billion to build classrooms last year. That budget of P50 billion was transferred to the Department of Public Works beginning this year.
DPWH promptly auctioned the job to build 9,000 63-sqm classrooms (for two million additional students) to the private sector under the so-called Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. “We would have built 66,800 classrooms by end-2013,” reckons Luistro, “that should cover the backlog since 2010.”
The shortage came from the enrolment of almost 1.9 million students (including those entering private school) per year with the population growth rate of 1.9% per year and the need to cover students who stay longer in school because of lower dropout rate.
He also hired 61,500 teachers this year.
DepEd will bid out the printing of additional 20 million textbooks for the two additional years of high school, at the rate of five textbooks per student.
Luistro is trying to validate recent findings showing an improvement in cohort survival rate (the opposite of dropout rate) with Kindergarten.
For every 100 pupils who finish Kinder and go to Grade 1, 67 will finish Grade 6, a marked 45% improvement from the previous ratio of only 46 pupils finishing Grade 6 out of every 100 Grade 1 starters.
“Ideally,” says Luistro, “we should aim for 100 percent completing Grade 6.”