"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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why DepEd's K+12 Must Be Scrapped

Basic education fails miserably when a child drops out of school. The number of school leavers is one important data point that should be emphasized in assessing any educational system. The logic here is really very simple. No curriculum would have an effect if a child is not in school. Before one even thinks of future employment which is one thing education alone really does not determine, one must focus first on school attendance. Basic education must be education for all.

With regard to this metric, school leaving, the Philippines currently does not have a good record. In fact, the Philippines is among the top five countries in East Asia and the Pacific in terms of the percentage of school dropouts at the primary level.

To provide an insightful perspective on where Philippine basic education currently stands, it is useful to look at another country. This time, the comparison is not going to be made against Finland or any of the other Asian countries that currently excel in international standardized exams. Instead, the comparison is made with Malaysia, another country in southeast Asia.

Malaysia has compulsory education for all children 7 to 12 years old. Children at age 7 enter primary school. Malaysia has 11 years of basic education, 6 in primary and 5 in secondary. In terms of years, this is equivalent to kindergarten, plus 6 years of elementary, and 4 years of high school. Students in Malaysia have the option of taking 1 to 2 years of pre-college education in preparation for admission to a university. To compare two educational systems, taking into account simply the number of years is quite inadequate. The Philippines' DepEd K+12 curriculum, first of all, starts at age 5. Malaysia's primary schooling (defined by the new curriculum Kurikulum Baru Sekolah Rendah) requires Grade 1 pupils to spend about 1400 minutes a week on subjects in the form of three modules namely Basic Core, Thematic Core, and Elective. Grade 1 students from the Philippines spend only 800 minutes a week during the first half of the year, which increases to 1000 minutes a week upon the introduction of Oral Fluency in English in the second half of the school year. Clearly, the difference in classroom hours alone makes a comparison between two educational systems in terms of years misleading.

Malaysia has its share of school dropouts. The data and figures shown below for Malaysia are from "Dropping out of school in Malaysia: What we know and what needs to be done", a report from the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). 

One can compare the data from the third column above (dropout rate from primary) against the situation in the Philippines:

The dropout rate in the elementary level in the Philippines is 6.81 %, 68 times bigger (almost two orders of magnitude) than that of Malaysia. Although there is an obvious difference in terms of dropout rates, there are also similarities especially when one looks at the underlying reasons why children leave school. In Malaysia, here are the reasons (total percentages add to more than 100% indicating that there are sometimes multiple reasons why a child leaves school):

For the Philippines, the following describes the situation:

Above table copied from Profile of Out-of-School Children in the Philippines

Looking beyond just the reasons provided by respondents, the following correlations provide very important insights. In Malaysia, the following are the characteristics shared by school leavers:

In the Philippines, the corresponding figure is as follows:

The common denominator is obvious. Most school dropouts at the primary level come from poor families. Going one step deeper, the following shows additional information:

From the Philippines, the following is likewise highly informative:

DepEd's K+ 12 must be scrapped because it does not address one of the major problems Philippine basic education faces. In fact, it may exacerbate the dropout situation further especially at the secondary level. Malaysian parents are probably no different from those in the Philippines. Both probably share the same views on what is important in education:

It is within this perspective that I reiterate what Herbert Vego wrote in Panay News:

"Look at some of the new modules K-12 has enforced. To name a few: Handicraft Production, Bread and Pastry Production, Caregiving and Electrical Installation and Maintenance. 
Why ram them all into high school kids? Does Luisto expect high school graduates to bake cake or baby-sit for a living right after high school graduation?"

Good quality in education is one solution to school dropouts. This becomes evident when one looks at how parents in Malaysia who had at least one child dropping out view their schools:

It is really simple. Convincing parents that schooling of their children is a worthwhile activity can help reduce the number of dropouts. Sadly, DepEd's K+12 does not do this. In fact, it may actually just achieve the opposite. DepEd's K+12 stretches further the limited budget prescribed for education. DepEd's K+12 demands additional resources in terms of classrooms, learning materials, and teachers. The shorter classroom hours in the primary level, which allow for multiple shifts, may hide classroom shortages. This, however, does not send the right message with regard to the importance of primary education. When schools are not equipped with basic learning materials, it likewise gives the impression that schooling is really not a priority. DepEd's K+12 creates more problems than solutions. It gives more reasons for a child to quit school. This is one important reason why DepEd's K+12 must be scrapped.

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