DepEd's K+12 Ignores the Real Problems of Basic Education in the Philippines

Back in grade school, I had a classmate whose response to any question a teacher asks is reciting his name. The teacher would ask, "What is 2+2?" and he simply answers the question with his name. In so many ways, DepEd's K+12 is similar. What is primarily wrong with DepEd's K+12 is that it ignores what the real problems Philippine basic education currently faces.

Larry Cuban, a former high school social studies teacher (14 years), district superintendent (7 years) and university professor (20 years) at Stanford University has the following cartoon that captures what is wrong with most education reforms:

Above copied from Cuban's blog on School Reform and Classroom Practice
The above cartoon comes with a pledge school reformers should take:
Reformers’ Pledge of Good Conduct 

I will not overpromise.
I will not disrespect teachers.
I will not do anything behind the principal’s back.
I will not take part in any partisan or personal feuds.
I will not equate disagreement with “resistance.”
I will not put down other programs.
I will not expect change overnight.
I will take time to study the history of reforms similar to mine.
I will not try to scale up prematurely.
If I am not in the field myself, I will take seriously what field workers tell me.
I will give school people realistic estimates of how much time and money it takes to implement my program.
The Philippines' DepEd K+12 reform obviously missed this pledge. There is no argument that it has overpromised for example.  The second pledge, not disrespecting teachers requires so much more than just mere lip service. This point is very important unless one completely discounts the central role a teacher plays in educating our children. The K+12 program of the Philippines puts all of its faith in the curriculum as the sole determinant of the quality of education. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply defining what students should be taught hardly addresses the real problems public school education faces. One can go through each line of the above pledge and with each line, it becomes almost a certainty that DepEd's K+12 would fail. In fact, with just the first two lines, it is clear that DepEd's K+12 is wrong. Central to addressing the quality of basic education is the teacher and K+12 does nothing for the teacher.

It is well known that behind the successful education systems around the globe are effective teachers. To have effective teachers, attention must be paid to the following:

  • teacher preparation (how are teachers trained in colleges of education)
  • professional development 
  • working conditions (salaries, resources and materials, pupil to teacher ratio)

With regard to teacher preparation, Darling-Hammond has the following slide to drive this point home:


With regard to professional development, Darling-Hammond writes "One-shot workshops do not have positive effects."
Without the right working conditions, a teacher cannot be effective. Salaries that do not meet the costs of living take away the much needed attention to teaching. Lack of quality instructional and learning materials makes teaching very difficult. Large classroom sizes likewise prevent the teacher from giving the attention each student needs. In addition to teachers, there are other factors that are important. And, yes, the curriculum comes in, but only in terms of being lean. We cannot expect everything from education and we must not require everything. The curriculum is not a wish-list. 

Darling-Hammond enumerates characteristics that play a major role in defining successful education systems:

The above list is surely a good place to start. For one, it stays true to one of the pledges, "I will take time to study the history of reforms similar to mine."

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