Private versus Public School, Basic Education versus Higher Education

"Here in America," Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, "parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It's the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same." 
Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
-"What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success"  
The Atlantic, December 2011

Downloaded from "Private vs. Public Schools"
Both education and health care costs are skyrocketing in the United States. Costs escalate with people so willing to pay whatever it takes to get higher quality. Choice comes with a price, as long as the product stands out among the rest, the price is right. Since education and health care are basic needs, these exact an avoidable toll on society. These services also raise questions of excellence and equity.

The Philippines is likewise confronting these questions. Father Joel Tabora, S.J. recently wrote "Sweet Tweet: K-12 approved on 2nd Reading in Senate! But…" on his blog. The "But..." part reveals an angst that springs from a lack of clarity of what we really want. Here is one paragraph that describes some sort of history of the vision of Philippine leaders with regard to education:
...We’ve come a long way from the last administration’s position that the two-year deficit in Philippine education should be solved merely by adding two years to tertiary education! With the K-12 reform, we look forward to stronger basic education for all our people as the Constitution foresees.
The previous administration correctly noted that higher education in the Philippines currently does not meet global standards. Engineering and other professional degrees, their true value depends on how these programs are perceived by others. For example, Canada currently equates a four year college degree in the Philippines to two years of higher education.  To be admitted to graduate programs in the United States, it is also advisable now for students from the Philippines to have not just a Bachelor's degree but a Masters. The problem here, of course, is not simply a matter of years, but more on what courses students actually took in college. The developments in the past century are enormous that fields of study have expanded so much that undergraduate programs are simply running out of space in the curriculum. Take chemistry for example. Biochemistry used to be an elective, but now it is a required course for accreditation by the American Chemical Society. Some medical schools likewise have added biochemistry as a required premed course. For premed students, this requirement is made possible by reducing the required two semesters of organic chemistry into just one. The challenge to chemistry majors who wish to pursue medical school is  fitting biochemistry into their schedule while keeping two semesters of organic chemistry.

Tabora's paragraph takes the assumption that higher education is part of basic education, one that must be provided for all. Such stand obviously demands greater resources. Not everyone needs to become a physician. Not everyone needs to become a chemist. Yet, to make room for the additional and more advanced courses, years will be added to basic education. Since not everyone needs to be a doctor, the added two years in high school are supposed to be rich in choices. The senior years in high school are envisioned to take the students through various tracks. These could be vocational or for college preparation.

There are general education courses given in college so there is the impression that these can be assigned instead to senior high school. Such action goes against liberal arts education where college education is viewed not simply as a professional, technical or vocational training. There is a reason why even chemistry students are required to take courses in the humanities. What courses should go to senior high school remain to be answered. Tabora, later in his post, correctly anticipates a problem:

"...Unto this end, as many know, DepEd plans to hire new teachers aggressively. I guess you can accuse Bro. Armin, being a Lasallian, of many things. But timidity is not one of them. There was no timidity in his announcement that he will be hiring some 60,000 teachers this year for the public school system with a starting compensation of PHP 18,000 a month. Good news? Well, for the public school system, yes. But not for the private schools. Reason? DepEd will be getting its teachers from private schools."
The additional two years require new teachers. Tabora sees an impending dilemma between public and private schools. He continues:
As a country, we will have to decide whether we want to go in this direction. Allow the private schools to die, then, have all public schools. This is an option. But it has costs – either in the taxpayer’s pockets, or (if sufficient funding is not provided the state schools) in the quality of the education.
DepEd's K to 12 addresses problems in higher education. Doing so seems to create more problems. Unfortunately, Philippine basic education at the primary level has its own share of challenges. The poor performance in both basic math and science is a symptom of poor schooling in the early years. DepEd's K to 12 unfortunately does not address the real problems of basic education. Addressing these, as Finland has shown, requires a deep examination of what society really wants. The solutions are not merely cosmetic measures, that is, adding years to schooling or revising the curriculum. The solutions require a cultural transformation, one that recognizes what basic education really entails, an education for all.


  1. It is nice to see
    an article dedicated to this important topic. Thank you for sharing.


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