The Philippines is overhauling its basic education system as it aims to improve the quality of Filipino high school graduates.
Under the government’s new K plus 12 basic education programme, Filipino students will have to undergo mandatory kindergarten, six years of elementary education, four years of junior high school called Grades 7 to 10, and two years of senior high school to be called Grades 11 to 12.
The education department believes adding two years to the present 10-year basic education cycle is an essential reform to put the country’s public education system comparable and competitive with other countries.
Armin Luistro, Secretary of the Department of Education, said: “It’s because the whole world has moved into a 12 year basic education system and we’re the only one of three in the world and the only one in Asia that has retained the ten years (curriculum). I think we should have done this yesterday in terms of being at par with the rest of the world.”
But critics said the additional two years will only be an added burden to poor students who can hardly graduate from high school.
Raymond Palatino, who is a representative from Youth Partylist, said: “Out of 100 students who enter Grade 1, only 66 will finish Grade 6 and only 42 will finish high school. Students are dropping out mainly because of economic reasons. Many are forced to work or help their family. If many of our students are unable to reach high school, wouldn’t it add to the dropout rates in the Philippines if two more years are to be added? Wouldn’t it worsen inequality in Philippine society?”
Critics also wondered if the education reform programme can improve basic education, given that basic problems of classroom and teacher shortages have not been resolved.
“Currently, the government is spending about 2.6 per cent of the GDP for education or about 11 per cent of the national budget. But the global standard is six per cent of the GDP and 20 per cent of the national budget. Before we adopt this global norm, we should first adopt the global standard for education spending,” said Palatino.
The education department said that it continues to pursue alternative sources of funding to address critical shortages in education resources.
Much still needs to be done for education reforms to truly make an impact on Filipino students. The education department is seeking the help of various sectors to help ensure the success of the government’s initial steps in reforming the country’s basic education system. -By Christine Ong