"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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cherry-picked Pieces of Evidence Supporting DepEd's K to 12

The public cost of providing two additional years of basic education is not insignificant by any measure. It is in fact a huge investment that requires nothing less than a thorough and thoughtful analysis of costs and benefits. Designing various tracks for these additional years likewise needs to be weighed against providing a general education for all. The largely assumed smoother entry into either the labor market or higher education provided by tracks can be fully canceled by significant disadvantages in later life.  These are questions that need to be addressed especially when such a curriculum is planned to be implemented on a grand scale.

The Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd), however, chooses to focus on examples that the agency has cherry-picked to promote its new curriculum. On its website, DepEd proudly shares stories of four recent graduates of a pilot senior high school program. Two are now currently working in a restaurant, one works as a secretary in a private company, and a fourth one is remarkably employed as a financial adviser in an insurance company, earning more than a public school teacher. It is obviously easy to find specific cases that demonstrate success in a program. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidences are totally inadequate in gauging whether a program works or not. On this aspect, similar to DepEd's lack of attention to research on the other parts of its new curriculum, published studies are ignored.

The Philippines can learn quite a lot from its neighbor Indonesia. For the past ten years, Indonesia has been trying to expand its vocational track. Thus, there is now longitudinal data from this country. David Newhouse and Daniel Suryadarma, in an article published in the World Bank Economic Review, provide the following conclusion:
Most importantly, the analysis provides little evidence to support the current expansion of vocational education, especially for men. The results fail to show systematic benefits for public vocational graduates compared to public general graduates, despite reasonably precise estimates. Furthermore, the wage penalty for male vocational graduates, in recent years, has increased dramatically.
The above view is not an exception. A study on Kenya offers the following observation:
Overall we do not find evidence that the program increased the probability of employment. Examining the extensive margin we do not find a significant increase in the probability of “not being idle”. We also do not see a significant decrease in the probability of our broad measure unemployment (which we define as working zero hours in self or wage employment and looking for a job). 
The above are not isolated cases. Erik Hanushek and coworkers have examined an international sample of labor-market outcomes for workers using data from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and found:
Vocational education has been promoted largely as a way of improving the transition from schooling to work, but it also appears to have an impact on the adaptability of workers to technological and structural change in the economy. As a result, the advantages of vocational training in smoothing entry into the labor market have to be set against disadvantages later in life.
There is opposition to DepEd's K to 12 for other reasons. For example, the following photo demonstrates how some student groups perceive the labor component of the new curriculum.

Above copied from Suspend K-12 Alliance
Nevertheless, what is patently clear is DepEd's lack of thoughtfulness. Such deficiency sadly is not limited to the two additional years. DepEd likewise demonstrates its recklessness in the ten-year curriculum as shown in the following test question:

Above copied from Renato Reyes, Jr.
The above question is asking children to categorize various tasks according to gender. Based on the manner the answers are graded in the photo, DepEd is teaching children that plowing a field and driving a jeep are only for males while cleaning the house, doing laundry, ironing clothes, and grocery shopping are female tasks. It is therefore not surprising to see how little attention DepEd gives to important issues concerning the additional two years when its failure in the first ten years is obvious.

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