By: Artchil B. Fernandez
PHILIPPINE education has been a mess. It is plagued by perennial ills – substandard quality, inadequate budget, incompetent
teachers and personnel and lack of clear vision and direction. Add to these woes the shortages of teachers and classrooms and poor facilities and it does not come as a surprise that Philippines rank among the low performing countries in education especially in math and science.
To remedy the pitiful state of Philippine education, numerous educational reforms were launched by past administrations through loans from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other multilateral funding agencies. Despite those programs aimed at reforming the educational system, its problems remained and some noted have even worsened.
The current administration of President Noy made reforming the country’s educational system as one of the core thrusts of the government. Educational reform as envisioned by the present administration comes in the form of the K to 12 Basic Education Reform Program.
Among the reforms K to 12 prescribes are the mandatory kindergarten, the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 2 and the most controversial, the additional two years of basic education. There will be Grades 11 and 12, known as the additional senior high school.
Those opposing the K to 12 Program usually zeroed their objection on the extra two years of basic education. Is the additional two years necessary? It is important to bear in mind when considering the question that prior to this year’s implementation of the K to 12 Program, Philippines is the only country in Asia and among the three remaining countries in the world that has a 10-year basic education. The other two are Angola and Djibouti in Africa.
Twelve years of basic education is the global standard. The choice for the Philippines is either to retain the old system or join the rest of the world in observing the 12-year basic education system. Being on the level of the two African countries mentioned is already bad enough for the country.
Retaining the 10-year basic education will only put the Philippines in a disadvantageous position. The Bologna Accord is about to take effect. The Accord is an agreement among European Union countries not to recognize professionals whose basic education is not 12 years. The Washington Accord, on the other hand, binds its members (United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia) to accredit engineering system with 12 years of basic education.
The implication of the Bologna and Washington Accords to the country’s professionals is evident. Once in place, professionals produced by the Philippines will be in a prejudicial situation unless the 10-year basic education is discarded. The implementation of the K to 12 Program sets the country in the right course. Philippines can ignore the global standard at its own peril. The world will not wait for the country. It is the country that must adjust to global reality, not the other way around.
There are those who argue that the problem is not the K to 12 Program but its premature implementation. Solve first the immediate problems like lack of teachers and classrooms before setting K to 12 in motion they contend. If this mindset is followed, it will take forever before adopting the global standard of 12 years. These problems won’t be solved in the immediate future and postponing the much needed educational reform will bring more harm than good for the country.
It is possible to tackle the problems simultaneously. Addressing the recurring twin problems of classrooms and teachers deficit and implementing the K to 12 Program can be done at the same time. Totally eradicating the former is not a condition sine qua non for the putting into operation the latter.
People, however, should not have a mistaken notion that the K to 12 Program is the panacea to the maladies of Philippines education. The myriad of problems besetting the educational system won’t disappear with the implementation of the current educational reform. Its adoption, however, puts the country on the right track, finally casting off its status as the remaining Asian country with a 10-year basic education cycle. This in itself is a good start.
Change is always disruptive and the K to 12 Program is upsetting things in the educational system. This should not be used as an excuse to derail or prevent reform from taking place. Troubles and confusions are natural consequences of change.
The public must give the latest educational reform a chance to work. Birth pains are normal. K to 12 Program after all is a work in progress. Along the way numerous adjustments will have to be done. If the country’s educational system is to be rehabilitated, these changes are necessary. Unless old patterns are broken, no new world will emerge.