Friday, April 27, 2012

K12 Program

Most countries have only ten years of compulsory education. Compulsory education in the US varies from state to state, but the average requires anyone who is under 16 years of age to be either enrolled in a school or home-schooled. This means that on average, the US only has 10- 11 (including kindergarten) years of compulsory education. The last two years in the US K-12 education already include courses in tertiary education. These are called advanced placement (AP) or international baccalaureate (IB) courses. Examples are calculus (up to multivariable) and AP chemistry. Students who take AP chemistry usually have already finished one year of basic chemistry and one year of advanced chemistry, so in sum, a student could have taken three years of chemistry while in high school. Some schools in the US can not offer these, and consequently, there is great heterogeneity among US schools.

The administration’s plan is a plain insult to poor parents and students who are trying hard to make ends meet. As it is, families can barely afford to get their kids through 10 years of education. Aquino is being insensitive to the plight of majority of the Filipino people, and we may need to remind the president that unlike him, not everyone is born landlords or business tycoons.

We are aware that while there is no tuition fees being paid in public schools, there are fees and expenses that parents have to shoulder to get students through school. Last year, the government allotted only P2,502 a year, or P6.85 per student per day for education. More than P30,000-P35,000 is needed for school fees, fare and food expenses per year. Poor parents are not able to afford this as proven by the rising drop-out rates.

Addressing basic education is a matter of prioritization. Adding kindergarten and two years to high school is estimated to cost more than 100 billion pesos. On the other hand, to solve the two pressing problems, as UNESCO has advised, 6% of the GDP must be assigned to education. At the current funding (2.3% of GDP) of the Department of Education (DepEd), additional years will only lead to a greater demand for resources. Adding two years to high school essentially increases the needs of a high school by 50% – teachers, classrooms, desks, toilets, learning materials, etc. The DepEd can only answer less than half of what UNESCO deems is necessary for the 10-year basic education program. Adding two more years will stretch the budget of DepEd even further.

Implementing a new curriculum requires strong leadership at the school level. The success of a school depends a lot on the principal. A significant fraction of public schools in the Philippines currently do not have a principal or a head teacher. This clearly needs to be addressed first before any reform in curriculum is initiated. Otherwise, a new curriculum has no hope of being implemented successfully.

Instead of trying to attack the problem at the end of high school, efforts must be focused on the early years of education. This is where the dropout rate begins to escalate and these are the years where students are failing to learn as diagnosed by the standard test scores. Resources are very much needed in the first ten years of education and kindergarten and DepEd can do a better job on these years if DepEd does not have to worry about the added senior years in high school. The government should allow its citizens to work out on their own a solution for the desired two years that aim to prepare students either for college or the workforce. College preparatory schools or community colleges can do this job and TESDA could address those who are leaning towards vocational training.

During the past years, only 4 out of 10 students entering the school cycle manages to finish high school, and only one will be able to get a degree. More than 8 million Filipino school aged youth are out-of-school because of hardships.

The additional two years will mean additional burden to the poor families and will lead to more students dropping-out and more young Filipinos being deprived of their right to education.

For any overwhelming policy that involves dramatic changes and budget requirements, it is important that the policy is based on good data and statistics. The Philippines, with its financial condition, cannot afford to waste. The ten-year basic education program can work as demonstrated by a Philippine school in Qatar (see “Do Filipino schools make the grade?”. The Philippine school at Doha, Qatar participated in PISA 2009 and their scores were: Science (466), Math: (461) and Reading: (480). These scores place the Philippines near the average scores of participating countries.

It is amazing how the proponents of this program could stand firm on their twisted analysis that adding years to the current education system will solve the problem of quality.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that no matter how many years they add to education, as long as classroom to student ratio remains 1:70, as long as there are no textbooks or they are riddled with errors, as long as teachers are underpaid, and facilities remain dilapidated, no improvement in quality can be expected.

The budget for DepEd proposed this year will not be enough to address the shortages in facilities and stop the deteriorating condition of our schools. The government aims to acquire only 18,000 new classrooms out of the 152,000 needed, 10,000 new teachers out of 103,599 shortage, and only 32 million new textbooks out of 95 million shortage.

The problems concerning basic education that developing countries face are enormous and complex. A few years from now, the international donor community will look at how close governments they have funded to improve education have reached the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It is highly likely that the Philippines will not meet the second item in the MDG, universal primary education:

The K12 proponents try to further amuse the public by promising that the 12 year cycle will make the youth “employable” and that this will enable the young people get jobs. This is a ridiculous claim as the more than 500,000 college graduates annually do not manage to get jobs. There are no jobs not because there is a lack of “employable” young people but because there is no clear plan for national development which will lead to sustainable job generation.

The statements, however, expose what the real intention of the government for this project. The program is primarily designed to serve foreign needs for cheap “semiskilled” labor. The K12 project is a being pushed by foreign banks and companies for them to be able to profit by further exploiting our people.
The proponents do not deny the fact that this is in fact a foreign-recommended plan. Miguel Luz, one of the main advocates of the program, is consulting for and working for the World Bank projects in the Philippines.
Is it “matuwid” to model Filipino education system after foreign needs? Isn’t education supposed to be for the people and for national development?

1 comment:

  1. Although this project really a plain insult for poor people but for, this might be the answer for our low education in Philippines. I believe that this is the first step to grow the quality of education for the student for their future.