K to 12: DepEd's Wrong Priority for Public Basic Education

A very strong argument against DepEd's K to 12 curriculum is its poor quality based on what we know from education research. Another equally strong case against the new curriculum is DepEd's clear lack of competence and capacity to implement the new curriculum. There is a third equally important reason: Focusing on the curriculum sets the wrong priorities for Philippine basic education. When it comes to priorities, who makes the judgment matters. With education, the voices of teachers should matter.

Here are the voices from two teacher groups in the Philippines, Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).

Teachers' Dignity Coalition

Teachers' welfare and salaries
Classrooms, facilities, learning materials

Alliance of Concerned Teachers

Classrooms, laboratories, books and modules, chairs, and sanitation facilities.
Teacher salaries

Both teacher groups are urging the government to address first the basic shortages as well as their salaries. Perhaps, one may accuse teachers of serving only their own interests although it is very clear that teachers are only asking for what is necessary for them to fulfill their obligations to society effectively. 

When basic needs are not met, there is really not much choice on how priorities should be set. But we could imagine for a moment a scenario where the above needs are already met. In fact, we actually do not need to imagine, we could learn from the priorities of the State Teachers of the Year 2015 in the United States. In a recent survey made by Scholastic, the top teachers in the US were asked which areas should education funding go. In the US, basic shortages and teachers' salaries are not on top of the list in the minds of these excellent teachers. Thus, their priorities are quite different.

State Teachers of the Year Survey 2015

Anti-poverty initiatives
Early learning
Reducing barriers to learning (access to wrap-around services, healthcare, etc.)
Professional development/learning.

There is likewise a new curriculum in math and language currently being implemented in most of the states in the US and, but in this case, an overwhelming majority (Ninety six percent) of the top teachers are in favor of the new curriculum, yet when asked where education money should go, their response only shows what is really important in their minds. Since the teachers in the Philippines are burdened with basic needs, it is not appropriate to ask what should come next on their list of priorities. But the survey from the US informs what excellent teachers think are necessary after addressing basic needs. The very first thing in their mind is the poverty of their students. Oftentimes, people think education is a solution to poverty. No, poverty is a serious problem in education. The health of students is crucial for learning. Early childhood education is likewise recognized as well as continuous professional development and learning of teachers. In the Philippines, where poverty is so much more widespread and child health care is often inaccessible, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that these likewise will show up next in the list of priorities of teachers in the Philippines. In fact, some teachers are already sacrificing however little they have to support their poor students. On the other hand, it is actually quite stupid to even suggest that the curriculum would be anywhere found in these priorities.