"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, July 16, 2012

K+12, A Seemingly Inferior & Anti-people Program

The above is the title from an editorial by Patrick Matthew B. Pooten in the Northern Dispatch Weekly, a people's newspaper for Northern Philippines. There are other example of commentaries that scrutinize DepEd's K to 12 and some have been posted on this blog. The DepEd's response to criticisms of K to 12 is summarized in the following statement:
 "The Department of Education (DepEd) hopes its critics and the public will look beyond criticisms and predictions of doom and instead give the K to 12 Basic Education Program a chance."
Criticisms against K to 12 are not confined to pointing out its large risk of failure although there have been commentaries with titles like "Will K+12 Fail?". And Pooten's editorial illustrates an example of a criticism that relates a problem with the implementation of K to 12:
This year, the failure of the K+12 of PNoy is expected to be of greater heights and proportion. For aside from the unprepared and inferior kindergarten, is the implementation of Grade 7. Added to the confusions brought about by PNoy’s K+12 among teachers, students and parents are many unclear and unanswered questions. Understandably enough, after the mass training of Grade 7 teachers last month in Baguio City, many of them find it better and more implementable the conventional teaching of the different subject areas in First Year, since students enrolled in Grade 7 are products of the old curriculum.
However, a survey of commentaries against K to 12 (and the editorial from Pooten is no exception as it likewise highlights this problem) reveals an underlying theme of wrong priorities on the part of the government. Philippine basic education faces dire shortages in teachers and classrooms and objections to K to 12 are aimed at the fact that the government is not addressing these problems first before plunging into a new curriculum which, without doubt, only stretches further its limited budget on education. Giving K to 12 a chance to succeed is not an appropriate response to this criticism.

Josh Weinstein wrote in his blog two years ago, "The Problem of Rural Education in the Philippines". In this essay, Weinstein describes factors outside of the curriculum that currently plague Philippine basic education. In the photo below, I picture that with every passing year that we decide not to address the problems directly, a generation is lost.
The Walk to School
Downloaded from  http://joshweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/the-problem-of-education-in-the-philippines/   
However, even if the government manages to fill these input gaps in education, there are commentaries against K to 12 that go far beyond the budget. There are objections against K to 12 that dwell not only on the finances but also on the substance and structure of the new curriculum. For example, Pooten cites the following:
"Module 1 of Grade 7 Science expects the teacher to say to the class: “In Grade 6, you have learned about mixtures and their characteristics…if the parts of a mixture can be identified, it is heterogeneous.” What is funny is that the 7th graders in a certain school are not graduates of the same elementary school nor had the same science teacher the year before. Why the assumption?"
The above predicament is inherent in the spiral approach, in which each year is expected to be a step up from the previous year. It relies heavily on teachers coordinating their subjects from year to year. It is drawn on false assumptions on what students have already mastered. And as described in a previous post in this blog, "DepEd K to 12 Modules, For Sale", the proper sequence of topics can be compromised. In this specific case, being able to identify the parts of a mixture is not really a good operational definition of a heterogeneous  mixture. Properly understanding mixtures requires a background in methods of separation and different phases of matter. These are supposed to have been covered in the new grade 6 curriculum explaining the first sentence in the above quote. And with the phased implementation, it will take years before this is taught in grade 6. This is an example of how a spiral approach loses the advantage of having independent outlines of study for each branch of science, that have been developed and tested for decades, and are available from so many sources. The subjects for a spiral curriculum need to be written from scratch. Furthermore, the coverage of topics are very likely not transferable from one school to the next even after completing the phased implementation.

Pooten also criticizes the mother tongue based multilingual education component of K to 12. The use of the regional language as medium of instruction for the early years of education completely misses the important points of including the mother tongue in formal education. Pooten also writes:
Then comes again the issue on the use of the “mother tongue” or multi-language teaching. In the case of the people of Mountain Province where there are various ethno-linguistic groups, is the community dialect considered a mother tongue? Is the Northern Kankanaey the mother tongue of the Applai tribes? Is it not that DepEd and Malacanang identified eight mother tongues? Since Ilocano is one of them, does it mean that Ilocano becomes the mother tongue in the Cordillera Administrative Region?... 
During the administration of Congressman Max Dalog as governor of Mountain Province, he supported a group of professionals who advocated the writing of local history in support of the government’s thrust of indigenous peoples’ education or IPED,...a welcome move so that some public schools started integrating local history and culture in their classes. But here comes the contradiction in PNoy’s K+12 because the time spent for Araling Panlipunan is greatly reduced. Yet it is in this subject area where the values of patriotism, nationalism, cultural preservation, and feeling of identity are absorbed by the learners. It is in this subject where geography, history and civics are learned and are first rooted in the minds and hearts of the future citizens of the land. And it is in this subject that cultural roots, folklore, mores, and tradition are appreciated.
DepEd is more concerned in its belief that instruction in the mother tongue works better. As a result, DepEd fails to see the real importance of saving and nurturing one's culture. Otherwise, DepEd's efforts would have been more in line with Dalog's vision, where indigenous materials are in fact part of what is being learned and taught inside the classrooms. Subjects on the mother tongue and culture are needed and using these as media for instruction is tangential to the objective of preserving and nurturing the cultural heritage.

Commentaries against K to 12 also focus on the two years added to high school. From the vague outlines DepEd has provided regarding these two years, it seems there are two tracks - vocational and pre-college preparation. The first four years in high school seem to be drawn along these lines as well - these will contain subjects that target both vocational and pre-college tracks. Since there are two additional years for pre-college preparation, the first four years will no longer fully prepare students for tertiary education. As a result, both science and mathematics subjects will be treated in a superficial fashion. Subjects that will provide mastery in the science and math fields are going to be confined in the two senior years of high school. The huge error in this thinking is that biology, chemistry and physics are not only for those who intend to go to college. These are basic sciences that need to be covered in any country's basic education program. Subjects in basic education are not supposed to be selectively provided to students based on what we perceive as the student's future inclination. Along this line, Pooten's comments are:
In a Teachers’ Congress held at Sagada, Mountain Province, a consultant on PNoy’s K+12 explained that Grades 11 and 12 or “senior high school” would be a choice between skills development or academic tertiary education by the concerned students. This brings the question if PNoy’s K+12 purpose is to produce semi-skilled or skilled workers to join the ballooning number of OFWs. If the last two years of high school education would provide the learners technical/vocational training, shall we not be adding problems to the fast growing number of underemployed and unemployed? 
Are we made to understand that tertiary education is now for the rich and well-to-do? Could this be the reason why the government is reducing the budget of state colleges and universities where the greater majority who comes from the lower classes can afford to get college education?
Proponents of DepEd's K to 12 always insist that the Philippines is one of the few remaining countries with only ten years of basic education. International standards or agreements which have nothing to do with basic education are often cited. Claims are made that graduates from Philippine education do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as graduates from other countries because of the shorter pre-university education system in the Philippines. This has nothing to do with years. Adding two years does not solve the problem if the underlying reason behind a low accreditation of Philippine programs is quality and substance, and not years of education. If a transcript of a student does not show the subjects admissions officers of colleges and graduate schools in other countries expect as prerequisites then adding years does not solve the problem. 

The above are some of the points raised by Pooten in his recent editorial. There are other points. This blog likewise presents other commentaries on K to 12, which discuss additional important considerations regarding Philippine basic education. DepEd has no response to these commentaries except that people should stop criticizing and simply give K to 12 a chance. 

Articles like the one described here by Pooten provide the public with a deeper perspective of K to 12. These are necessary. As pointed out by Pooten, the public has not been given an opportunity to scrutinize K to 12. Some orientation or discussion meetings on K to 12 in the past month degenerated into general sessions of Parents Teachers Associations, in which K to 12 was hardly discussed. 

These commentaries, unfortunately, do not appear as simple sound bites. These do take time to read and digest. These commentaries are dismissed by those who support K to 12 as mere annoyance and a refusal to change. These indeed can be annoying since these commentaries not only say that K to 12 is doomed to fail. More importantly, these commentaries say "K to 12 is wrong".

A reader of this blog writes the following comments in a forum where updates to this blog have been regularly posted:
"The philbasiceducation posts were like dishes on a platter ready for enjoyment without fishing or hunting first, served with appetizers so one can decide whether to read on or not. Not every one has the ability nor luxury of time to find those arguments, let alone digest them.

They are reminders of the current struggle we are going through affecting not just our educational system and economy but in shaping the future of our children and community as a whole. Such information need to be heard in every household. One can choose to argue or not to read them at all, but posting them is a big service to our people. Only a few interested parties will be likely to follow the blog, but posting them here provides the opportunity for everyone."

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