"The Costs of the Aquino Government's K to 12 Program"

Anne Marxze D. Umil delivers yet another report on the present state of Philippine basic education in bulatlat.com. The report entitled, "The Costs of the Aquino Government's K to 12 Program", sadly, is probably not going to be widely read. And if the article is read, it is probably going to be ignored. And if not ignored, one of its important messages is very likely to be missed.

We all prefer to hear messages like the one above (These hearts were prepared for me by elementary school teachers in Paete when I visited them in 2004).
However, we need to listen to messages that may not be pleasing to hear, if we are truly committed to improving Philippine basic education.
Umil, in June 2012, already cited how unprepared the government was in the implementation of DepEd's K to 12 in her article, "K+12, Worsening Shortages to Greet School Opening". This had been pointed out by others but the Aquino government and the Congress pushed ahead even with the obvious lack of resources as well as the poor working conditions of teachers. Even among Filipino Americans, objections to DepEd's K to 12 were perceived as hollow criticisms. These people seemed to be irritated by efforts to wake everyone up to reality. Somehow, lofty goals were enough, never mind if these goals were not founded on evidence. It was no longer important if these education reforms were properly planned, efforts were seem adequate. It was already inconsequential to people if the education reforms were in fact going to exacerbate the problems of public school education in the Philippines. At least, people were satisfied enough that the Philippines had a government that was now pretending to be tackling problems in education.

Umil writes in her recent article:
Despite strong opposition from progressive groups, the K to 12 program was still implemented. It worsened the shortages in the public school system: lack of books, chairs, classrooms and facilities, and teachers. Classrooms were divided in half to accommodate the big number of enrollees. Teachers have to stretch working hours to mitigate the shortages. Some students were forced to transfer to the home schooling program to decongest classes.

“Our situation is already difficult. The implementation of K to 12 made our lives even more difficult,” Miss Jane said. She said because there are no regular teachers for Kindergarten, grade one teachers are forced to teach Kindergarten classes. She said teachers are overworked, some are already getting sick and some have opted to resign. Out of frustration, Miss Jane once told her principal, “I would rather be a domestic helper than a teacher to lessen my problems.”
Miss Jane said when the school opened in June last year, 18 sections of kindergarten classes were opened for enrollment. Because there is only one permanent kindergarten teacher, they, grade one teachers, had to take on the load. She said they are being paid P3,000 ($73) for the extra load. Their teaching hours were thus increased from six to eight hours a day. This does not yet include the time they have to spend for preparations. “It is really exhausting. My time for my family is also suffering – I could no longer tutor my own child because of time constraints.
There are also other chores that I still have to do at home.” 
To mitigate the shortage, the DepEd hired voluntary teachers. Some have not yet passed the Licensure Exams for Teachers (LET) and some are licensed teachers who are left with no choice but to grab the job. Because they are either considered as volunteer-teachers or are contractuals, they are underpaid. ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio criticized this as a violation of RA No 7836 or the “Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994.” Section 27 of the said law provides that: “No person shall practice or offer to practice the teaching profession in the Philippines or be appointed as teacher to any position calling for a teaching position without having previously obtained a valid certificate of registration and a valid professional license from the Commission.” The P3,000 honorarium is even inhumane, Tinio said. 
Miss Jane also said in their school, there are no new books being distributed to grade one pupils. She said they had to make do with the old books and from there get activities that are applicable for grade one pupils. Worksheets for students also came late; the said materials were only distributed to them last August 2012. “The worksheets came late. We had already taken up the topic when it came,” she said. She added that the pages of the worksheets are so thin, it gets easily torn. Worksheets for the third semester have not yet been distributed.
To most of the readers of this blog, the above is old news. However, the more important point of Umil's article that I hope would not be missed is related in the paragraph preceding the above cited section:
Miss Jane (not her real name) another grade one teacher from an elementary school in District 6 also in Quezon City said the K to 12 curriculum made teaching more difficult. This teacher requested Bulatlat.com not to identify her and the school where she is teaching because of fear of being reprimanded by her principal.
Incompetent authority is one thing. Being abusive is another. It does not bode well for Philippine basic education if its teachers are afraid to speak. This is perhaps the biggest cost of Aquino's K to 12 program, the silencing of the opposition. How can we teach critical thinking to our students if we do not allow teachers to think?

Umil has additional points that warrant our attention. To read completely her article, please visit "The costs of the Aquino government's K to 12 program". I highly recommend it.