Lingering Questions on DepEd's K to 12

Although DepEd's K to 12 has been overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives in the Philippines in a matter of few weeks, fundamental questions remain. The lack of clarity stems from the fact that Philippine basic education faces a wide range of problems. DepEd's K to 12 only addresses a perceived need to elevate basic schooling in the Philippines to an imagined global standard. UNESCO's program specialist in education, Anwar Al-Said, recently said the following:
“For now, I am satisfied with the direction especially since the Philippines has finally moved away from the outdated 10-year basic education system, and into the 12-year system. This would have long-term goals that will ensure increased productivity among young Filipinos and a decrease in poverty in the country.”
Anwar Al-Said
DepEd's K to 12 addresses not only problems in basic education, but also tackles higher education and employment. The addition of two years at the end of high school attempts to solve the inadequacies of college education, and at the same time, the high unemployment in the country. Unfortunately, these are not the only problems Philippine basic education faces. Sadly, the ills DepEd's K to 12 is trying to cure are quite beyond the scope of basic education. And while confronting these extraneous issues, DepEd's K to 12 fails to deal with the real problems of Philippine basic education. Yesterday's post in this blog, "Grade Repetition and School Dropouts in the Philippines", highlights one of the biggest challenges of Philippine basic education. The failing scores of Philippine students in international standard exams also provide a problematic assessment. And, of course, the lack of learning resources and poor working conditions of teachers have long been waiting for solutions. It is therefore not an overstatement when Al-Said continues:
“I saw a lot of effort being done in the Philippines but there is still a lot more to be done,”
DepEd's K to 12 does not respond to the real problems of Philippine basic education. The bill is now in the hands of the Philippine Senate and perhaps, there is a glimmer of hope that this legislative body will do a better job in discussing the proposed education reform. Minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano recently expressed concerns that DepEd's K to 12 may increase the school dropout rates of the country. Senator Cayetano was quoted:
“The question is: would we rather have just grades 1-6 [for elementary] and years 1-4 for high school [but] with all facilities complete or two more years with inadequate facilities?
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano
The senator also stressed the need to improve learning facilities and teachers' wages. The conflicting direction of DepEd's K to 12 is likewise echoed in a recent speech given Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., president of Ateneo de Davao University and chair of  the Committee on Advocacy of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines:
...Educational reform in the Philippines, if we may call it that, is being primarily driven by an effort to meet standards of education in the global world – where our graduates with only ten years of elementary education, no matter the quality of their knowledge through their engineering and nursing degrees, were disadvantaged. That is why we have already embarked on the K-12 reform, even though this is not yet legislated...

...I don’t know if anyone had any inkling about how difficult adding two years to our formally tranquil system would be. The idea was to decongest 1-10, to have more time to teach elementary level subjects well – which was a laudable idea. So to the 10 years we already had, we added Kindergarten in the front (to better insure that grade schoolers don’t drop out!), and two grades 11 and 12 in the end. Somewhere in the process the idea was added that there are many subjects in college that don’t belong there. So the years, 11 and 12, that were there to de-congest 1-10 were now congested by subjects that were pushed down from college. Add to this now the idea that one who finishes grade 12 should either be able to work or to go to college. That meant, instruction of a more technical nature needed to be introduced to prepare students to work, even as instruction of a more academic nature needed to be planned to prepare students now for the really real college....
Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J.
It is clear that DepEd's K to 12 misses the real problems and addresses problems that are bigger than itself. DepEd's K to 12, somewhere along the way, lost sight of the real problems it should address. The question now is whether the Philippine Senate will do its job in discussing the proposed education reform. I only hope that it does a much better job than the House.