Monday, June 13, 2016

Birthing pains of the K-12 education reform program

It's the first day of the implementation of the senior high school program in the Philippines. It happens to be the day after the commemoration of the 118th anniversary of country's independence from Spain, and around 1.5-million students are expected to attend their first day of Grade 11 classes in their old schools, or in another public or private school.

But alas! "glitches mar [the] senior high program," the Inquirer reported today with only some 600,000 having enrolled for Grade 11.  Some sectors aver that the K-12 program severely handicaps Filipino families financially to send their children for two more years of schooling.

Elementary school graduating class 1931-1932, San Narciso, Zambales. From Lilia Galace's collection. 

We were informed that in one of the barangay national high schools in our hometown San Narciso (Zambales), the senior high building has yet to be completed. This means that the Department of Education (DepEd) would have to rent a place to house Grade 11 or to stagger classes in all the high school levels to accommodate the senior high in the existing classrooms.

We think that the infrastructure problem is remediable. What we are more concerned about is the preparedness of teachers to tackle the senior high curricula even if DepEd conducted trainings on the "specific tracks (similar to college courses) based on the four disciplines:  Academic (includes business, science & engineering, humanities & social science, and a general academic strand), Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (with highly specialized subjects with TESDA qualifications); Sports; and Art & Design."

Another nagging question is how the town's first Grade 11 students picked their personal tracks, and how prepared and ready are their teachers and advisers in guiding them.  DepEd says that "specializations or tracks to be offered will be distributed according to the resources available in the area, the needs and interests of most students, and the opportunities and demands of the community."

Many look at the K-12 program as another burden, and believe that finishing Grade 10 is enough. But it's not. Some of those who went into graduate programs in universities abroad spent two years of undergraduate level studies before they got into their major courses. It's all because they did not go through K-12 in the Philippines.  In a forum in the University of the Philippines last year, we heard one professor advising the engineering students to get their masters as soon as possible. He said that with the ASEAN 2015 Integration, they would be equivalent to technicians because they did not go through K-12, which all other ASEAN countries have.

This discussion brings back historical memories.  When the Americans introduced their brand of public education in the 1900s, they started with a core curriculum that comprised reading, writing and arithmetic. Initially, completion of Grade IV was enough qualification to teach English.

Zambales High School class 1937-38. Photo from Lilia Galace's collection.

The elementary level was up to Grade VII. Not all towns then had high schools; hence, those who aspired for higher education had to go to the provincial high schools in the capital towns. Many high school graduates went to the Philippine Normal School to take up education. Looking at it now, it was sort of a missionary assignment from the Bureau of Education to teach in far-flung corners of the archipelago after graduation.

We were reading the editorial on 'compulsory education' in the June 1909 issue of the "The Filipino Teacher" of the Philippine Teachers' Association, and the arguments against it (from the teachers!) ring somehow similar to those who oppose K-12 (non-teachers!).

They were happy with the first education law enacted by the Philippine Assembly:  the Gabaldon Law that appropriated one million pesos for constructing school buildings in the barrios.

A bill was passed by the Assembly with a narrow margin of five votes: establishment of compulsory education in the country.  While they appreciate the "lofty purpose" of spreading public education, they found it severe, unnecessary and not justified.

There's no need to compel anyone to go to school because, they argued, "the Filipino people are and have always shown profound love for instruction." They cited that the people flocked to the schools when these were declared open to everyone right after the United States military took control of the country.

What they really wanted to say at the end was that they would be "confronted by the economical side of the question."  According to them, "the present number of schools and teachers and other necessary personnel must necessarily be increased which will involve the expenditure of more money, which, judging from the economical condition of the government, cannot now be granted,"

It's also the 'economical side' as far as the parents of senior high students and the general education faculty of universities and colleges are concerned. Regarding the latter, we heard about the possibility for them to teach senior high part time for the next two years, when there will be no college freshman and sophomore enrollment..

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