NO YOUTH LEFT BEHIND FOR SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL?
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.