DepEd K to 12: Wrong solution to wrong problem?

Wrong solution to wrong problem?

By Val G. Abelgas
IN 2004, the Department of Education tried to add one year to the Philippines’ basic education curriculum, but was stopped by massive protests from teachers, students and parents. Last Monday, despite more protests against the K-12 plan, which adds two years to basic education in the country, it went on with the implementation of the controversial program anyway.
The K to 12 program follows the K-6-4-2 Model where basic education equates to Kindergarten plus six years in elementary (Grades 1 to 6), four years in junior high school (Grades 7 to 10) and introduction of two years in senior high school (Grades 11 and 12).
The government said the “K to 12 will facilitate an accelerated economic growth” and “will facilitate mutual recognition of Filipino graduates and professionals in other countries.”
If adding two more years to the curriculum were that important to the country’s economic growth, why has the government not done anything in the last eight years to respond to the parents and teachers’ concerns that there are not enough classrooms and teachers to implement the program?
And now after doing nothing about the problem, why the haste in implementing the K-12 program?
“We are not yet ready,” said a Grade 1 teacher in Quezon City, adding that she was still confused on how to teach her subjects. She described a training program she attended from May 28 to June 1 as “hastily done.”
Another teacher said they were never given textbooks or handouts for the new curriculum. “So my problem now is to photocopy the instructional materials for the 200 students. It might cost a lot,” she said.
Members of the Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) said the K-12 was “a wrong solution to a wrong problem.”
“We are calling on DepEd and PNoy to stop the K to 12 program because it is not a solution but an additional burden. The program has no legislation and has no fund appropriated for it. We lack preparation in retooling and training for teachers, and we don’t have textbooks and teaching modules,” MPSA President Benjie Valbuena said.
The MPSTA said that the department lacks 101,612 teachers, 68,000 classrooms, and 135,847 sanitation facilities and the “haphazard” implementation of K to 12 “will just worsen the situation.”
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio warned that this school year will be “more chaotic and disastrous” because the government is not yet ready to go full-blast with the program.
Tinio gave an even worse number in shortages for the whole public school system that he said stands at 132,483 teachers; 97,685 classrooms; and 153,709 water and sanitation facilities.

He warned that the influx of around 1.6 million five-year-old enrollees in Kindergarten this school year would result in a shortage of around 20,000 teachers and 25,000 classrooms solely for the Kindergarten component of K-to-12.

To solve the teacher problem, the education department hired 16,000 teachers and volunteers on a one-year contract for the measly wage of P3,000 a month, which is lower than a janitor’s salary, to teach kids in their most vulnerable stage in life. Many of these new hires, according to the MPSTA, are not even licensed teachers and may not be properly equipped to teach 5-year-old kids.

“There is no law yet authorizing the implementation of the full “K to 12” education program. The curriculum is not yet ready; funds are insufficient to cover the basic inputs such as shortages on teachers, classrooms, textbooks, chairs and sanitation facilities. But our calls and demands continue to fall on deaf ears,” Tinio said.
Why do Philippine education officials insist that the solution to the country’s fast-sliding standard of education is to add two more years of schooling?
Of course, we acknowledge that the country’s educational standard has fallen abruptly. Although the Philippines churns out the highest percentage of college graduates every year, many of these graduates sometimes cannot even make simple arithmetic calculations nor understand basic science principles.
But will two extra years for Filipino students solve the problem? I don’t think so.
The two extra years will only discourage thousands of parents, who are already saddled by the high cost of sending their children to school. This would be even more disastrous because it is not just the proficiency rating in math, science and reading that would suffer, but the very future of millions of students.
The two extra years will further aggravate the dismal classroom situation, and there will be more students cramped in the already overcrowded classrooms, making it even more difficult for both teachers and students to focus on teaching and studying. If they are serious in implementing the two extra years, they better build more classrooms first.
The DOE has to look at the deteriorating standard of education in the Philippines on a wider perspective. There could be a hundred reasons why students are not as good as they were, say 20 or 30 years ago.
For one, good teachers are lured into going abroad, to work as maids or chambermaids in Hongkong, Singapore, the Middle East or in Europe. Secondly, fewer people are enrolling in education courses and thus, schools don’t have much choice in selecting teachers.
Inversely, the number of students in public schools has increased many folds. Teachers have to teach to a class that sometimes number more than 50 students, certainly not an ideal environment to make students learn. School facilities are old and wanting, and many public schools are in rundown condition. The increasing number of students has also resulted in some public schools forced to having two to three shifts of classes, thus cramping so many subjects in so few hours.
Both the teachers and the students are often not in the right frame of mind while in school. Many teachers worry about financial problems at home, and many students are also distracted by family and financial problems.
The government needs to increase the budget for education. While a big chunk of the budget goes to the military, education, which ultimately affects a nation’s future, gets a measly share. The UNESCO advises that at least 6 percent of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) should be allocated to education, but the Philippines’ current budget only allots 2.5 percent of the GDP to education. A law should also be passed allocating a big portion of the lawmakers’ pork barrel funds to build more classrooms and repair existing ones in their respective districts.
What the country’s education system needs at the moment are more and better teachers, more classrooms, more textbooks and better learning environment, not two extra years. When these needs have been met, the students probably wouldn’t even need those extra years to have a better education that is at par with the rest of the world.