Sun.Star Pampanga - - PERSPECTIVE! -

All eyes are on the gov­ern­ment as it fully im­ple­ments the K to 12 pro­gram. Will learn­ers get the best out of se­nior high school, or will some of them end up leav­ing for­mal ed­u­ca­tion as crit­ics pre­dicted? The Philip­pines' ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor has seen quite a num­ber of changes in the past 7 years, but none of them were as dra­matic and con­tro­ver­sial as the shift from a 10-year to a 12-year ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion cy­cle. The De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (DepEd) started prepa­ra­tions for the ad­di­tional two years of high school as soon as the En­hanced Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Act was signed in 2013.

The last 4 years saw a rise in the ed­u­ca­tion bud­get, the craft­ing of a new cur­ricu­lum, the train­ing of teach­ers, and the con­struc­tion of class­rooms. To the mind of ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials, learn­ers are at the cen­ter of this ed­u­ca­tion re­form. By the end of 12-year ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, high school grad­u­ates are ex­pected to have the ba­sic skills needed in the work­force. But other DepEd of­fi­cials ad­mit their big­gest chal­lenge right now is mak­ing sure ev­ery stu­dent who com­pletes Grade 10 pur­sues se­nior high school.

Non-DepEd schools con­sist of pri­vate schools, pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, pub­lic HEIs (lo­cal and state uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges), and tech­ni­cal-vo­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. It is the cur­rent ar­range­ment – high schools are not in all barangays, un­like ele­men­tary schools. Th­ese are al­ready older stu­dents, they are the ones sup­posed to go to col­lege, so they are more mo­bile. Some stu­dents from pub­lic schools, es­pe­cially those in ur­ban poor ar­eas, they can't de­cide on a track. They're hes­i­tant to com­mit be­cause of their eco­nomic sta­tus, and ar­range­ments for the voucher sys­tem are not yet clear. Some pri­vate schools would ask the stu­dents to pay first and then they would be re­im­bursed once the school re­ceives the pay­ment from gov­ern­ment. That is al­lowed, but if the par­ents or stu­dents don't agree, they can choose not to en­roll in those schools. The DepEd has al­ready in­structed lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials to help pub­lic school stu­dents find schools where they will not be charged more than the value of their voucher.

The full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the K to 12 pro­gram co­in­cides with the tran­si­tion pe­riod of Pres­i­dent-elect Ro­drigo Duterte's ad­min­is­tra­tion. Duterte has al­ready de­cided to sup­port the pro­gram de­spite all its chal­lenges, and has since in­structed his in­com­ing ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary Leonor Briones to fo­cus on two sec­tors in par­tic­u­lar: col­lege teach­ers who might be dis­placed, and stu­dents who might drop out. For the pos­si­ble dropouts, Briones is look­ing at in­creas­ing the bud­get of the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment's Al­ter­na­tive Learn­ing Sys­tem (ALS) – a mod­ule-based, non-for­mal way to learn, de­signed for learn­ers who can­not af­ford to go through for­mal school­ing. How many stu­dents will ac­tu­ally drop out of school be­cause of se­nior high school re­mains to be seen. Fear­ing the worst, crit­ics have not wa­vered in their calls to sus­pend the K to 12 pro­gram.

But the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment is hop­ing for the best. Af­ter all, the years of prepa­ra­tion will go to waste if the re­form meant to pro­duce the coun­try's best learn­ers will end up leav­ing many of them be­hind.

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