By Catherine S. Valente And Neil A. Alcober Reporters
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday signed into law the controversial measure that adds two more years to the basic education program.
The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, more commonly known as the K- to-12 program, covers kindergarten and 12 years of basic education—six years of primary education, four years of junior high school, and two years of senior high school.
K-to-12 aims to provide sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong
learners and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.
In his speech, Mr. Aquino said the “people’s unwavering support has allowed to establish a system of education that truly imbues our youth with the skills they need to pursue their dreams.”
He noted that it is the state’s duty to provide for the needs and ensure fair and equal opportunities for all Filipinos, especially the poor.
“The principles guiding this law are clear: upholding the right of every Filipino to live a dignified life; and fulfilling the state’s responsibility to ensure each of our citizens an equal, legitimate opportunity to succeed, especially those who have been relegated to the margins,” he said.
“A cornerstone of our poverty alleviation agenda is allowing them access to a high level of education, and by signing this bill into law, we are not just adding two years of additional learning for our students; we are making certain that the coming generations are empowered to strengthen the very fabric of our society, as well as our economy,” he said.
Aquino noted shortcomings in the 10-year basic education cycle. “Apart from our students having less time to thoroughly understand their lessons, our students will also have to compete with graduates from other countries who have had more time to learn and prepare for their careers.”
“Kung sa basic education pa lang, dehado na ang ating kabataan, paano pa sila makikipagsabayan para sa empleyo at ibang mas mataas na larangan? [If our youth are forced to shoulder such an educational handicap from the beginning, how can they possibly compete for employment in the long run?],” Mr. Aquino said.
For these reasons, Aquino said a universal kindergarten in public and private schools is established while fundamental lessons are taught in the mother tongues of the students during the first three years of elementary education.
In senior high school, students can choose specialized tracks in academics, technical education, and sports and arts, guaranteeing “that they are ready to take that next step to move them closer to their dreams,” the President said.
Under the new law, 12 local dialects shall each be used as medium of instruction until Grade 3: Bahasa Sug, Bikol, Cebuano, Chabacano, Hiligaynon, Iloko, Kapampangan, Maguindanaoan, Meranao, Pangasinense, Tagalog, and Waray.
From Grades 4 to 6, English and Filipino will be introduced as languages of instruction.
The enhanced basic education curriculum will also allow graduates to have middle-level skills that will offer them better opportunities to be gainfully employed or become entrepreneurs.
Witnessing the President’s signing were major proponents, authors and co-authors of the bill from Congress led by Senators Franklin Drilon, Edgardo Angara, Ralph Recto, Speaker of the House Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and Representatives Neptali Gonzales II, Sandy Ocampo and Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.
Aquino described the K-to-12 as “the fruit of our efforts to achieve meaningful and positive reform not only in our country’s educational system, but also in all other sectors.”
“This is a victory that mirrors our collective aim to invest in our most important resource—the Filipino citizen. This is a victory that fulfills our promise: no one will be left behind on the straight path to equitable progress,” he said.
The President said his government is on track in closing the classroom gap by the end of the year.
Under Education Secretary Armin Luistro, the textbook and table and chair gaps have been addressed while the classroom shortage of 66,800 will be fully addressed by the end of 2013.
Aquino said he hopes to “inaugurate” the 66,800 classrooms, “preferably before December 31.”
Since he assumed office in 2010, Mr. Aquino has steadily increased the budget for education. He fully supported scholarship programs such as the Training for Work Scholarship Program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), and implemented the Public Higher Education Roadmap of the Commission on Higher Education which aims to make teachers, students and schools are now better-equipped to impart and receive lessons.
“From the moment we stepped into office, we have consistently raised the budget of basic education. As a matter of fact, we have vastly increased the Department of Education’s budget from 161 billion pesos in 2010, to over 232 billion pesos this 2013],” he added.
In the field of Technical Education, the President said they have Tesda’s Industry Based Training for Work Scholarship Program, which has trained more than 150,900 scholars.
Luistro thanked all sectors that helped shepherd the measure into law.
“We are particularly grateful to the members of Congress, government agencies, the working groups, and other individuals who share with us the vision of a relevant, responsive and truly 21st century education,” he said.
He said K-to-12 is a landmark piece of legislation that institutionalizes 12 years of basic education, making it responsive to global educational standards.
Under the law, it adds two more years in secondary education and makes Kindergarten mandatory among five-year olds. The two additional years in secondary education otherwise known as senior high school are aimed to serve as a specialization period for high school students, whether in vocational skills, music, the arts or sports. High school graduates have the option to pursue jobs with a basic education diploma or proceed to college.
In school year 2012-2013, the curriculum for Grades 1 and 7 was rolled out. By June of this year, the curriculum for Grades 2 and 8 will be introduced.
The Tesda said it has completed the development of a new set of curriculum for teaching the technical vocational education and training (TVET) courses to students under the K to 12 program.
Joel Villanueva, Tesda director general, announced that more than a hundred Technology and Livelihood Education teachers and supervisors have completed the mandatory training and are now ready to teach the new curriculum.
“We want to make sure that things are in place for the successful implementation of the K-to-12 education,” Villanueva said at the signing of the K-to-12 law.
“TVET will play a central role in the new education model that prepares students for tertiary education, middle-skills development, employment and entrepreneurship,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) lauded the signing of the measure into law, saying that it was a “major step in the historic struggle to improve the lives especially of our underprivileged compatriots and would enhance the competitiveness of the Philippines.”
Dr. Jose Paulo Campos, Cocopea chairman, said people should not look at K- to-12 as a burden to students who will be required to study two more years. He explained that with the law, the state has accepted the constitutional mandate to provide young people with the education that would qualify them for work, right after high school graduation or an internationally comparable tertiary education.
“Those who continue on to college or university could focus on their respective fields of interest, because some subjects would be taught in high school instead. In sum, the reforms enshrined in the new law promise to elevate the quality of education and make young Filipinos better prepared for the future,” Campos said.
“Next, the government should increase public spending not only for school buildings and related infrastructure, but also for more college scholarships and loans to poor students,” he said.
Joseph Estrada, Cocopea executive director, said the government should work more closely with private colleges and universities because they complement state schools that often struggle with meager resources.
Cocopea fully supports K-to-12, Estrada said. Private schools stand four-square behind K to 12, despite the fact that private Higher Educational Institutions stand to lose P150 billion in foregone tuition,” he noted.
Cocopea is a federation of 2,000 private educational institutions in the Philippines that belong to its five national member-organizations, namely: Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities; Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines; Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities ; Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities; and Technical-Vocational School Associations of the Philippines.
With a report from Francis Earl A. Cueto