It is easy to claim on a poster that a particular education program is for the underprivileged. One can simply grab a photograph showing a group of children and paste a couple of sound bites like "The right to education is for everyone. Not implementing K to 12 is anti-poor." However, whether the claim is true or not depends on evidence. To gauge whether DepEd's K to 12 is pro-poor, it boils down to one issue, equity. In this aspect, it is not difficult to see that DepEd's K to 12 fails in so many ways with regard to addressing the gross inequities in Philippine basic education.
Addressing poverty through social programs is not something totally uncharted territory. There have been numerous attempts in the past in so many countries and thus, it is now possible to see which ones are effective. In the United States, for instance, there are a few interventions that are strongly supported by evidence
. These are:
- Nurse-Family Partnership (A nurse home visitation program for low-income, pregnant women)
- Child FIRST (A home visitation program for low-income families with young children at risk of emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems, or child maltreatment)
- Success for All for Grades K-2 (A school-wide reform program, primarily for high-poverty elementary schools, with a strong emphasis on reading instruction)
- Annual Book Fairs for High-Poverty Elementary Schools (Book fairs providing summer reading over three consecutive years, starting at the end of first or second grade)
- Child Immunization Campaign With Incentives (Monthly immunization camps in poor Indian villages, combined with small incentives for parents to have their children immunized – e.g., $1 bag of lentils)
The above first of all exemplify programs that directly target the poor. The above programs emphasize addressing the specific needs of struggling students. Socio-economic disadvantages in education are real. A child comes to school, already shaped by what is happening at home. Huge achievement gaps are already present right on the first day of school and these gaps only increase if disadvantaged children are not provided greater resources and support. The right to education is for everyone, but the children of poor families have a right to quality education. This is the reason why it is imperative that all schools are provided all the necessary resources. Struggling students who mostly come from poor families need more effective teachers. Children who lack exposure to educational experiences outside school are in greater need of learning opportunities in school. When laboratories especially in schools attended by poor children are ill-equipped, education can not be regarded as pro-poor. When libraries are not able to provide the required resources to inspire reading among poor children, education can not be regarded as pro-poor. When not all schools are able to offer enough classrooms and years of basic education, education is in fact anti-poor.
The question of resources cannot be disregarded. It is central to delivering quality education to all. If an education program siphons the best only to serve those who are already ahead, if a curriculum cannot be delivered to where it is most needed, if not all students are provided access to basic education, we do not have a pro-poor education. Resources are limited and for this very important reason, prioritization is key. Basic needs should come first. Failing to do so, an education program only magnifies the inequities that are already present in society. DepEd's K to 12 is not pro-poor for one simple reason. The program stretches the already limited resources of the Philippine public school system making it impossible to answer the needs of those who need the most.
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