Wednesday, April 18, 2012

K+12 Program

“We are the LAST country in Asia and one of only three countries in the world with a 10-year pre-university program.” (Source: SEAMEO Innotech 2011)
This was a statement in one of the K to 12 (K-12) slide handouts distributed by Department of Education (DepEd)  Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro at a media press conference and open forum last December 12, 2011.

This came as a shock as we still hold with pride the fact that we are an English-speaking nation and that other Asian countries used to send their children to our country in the 60s and 70s to study since the Philippines was a premier educational destination. What has happened to us since then? How did we get from being the country of educational choice to last place? Why are our students now ranked among the lowest in Asia when it comes to key subjects like Math and Science?
Here’s another thing. Why can’t our high school graduates now land any decent jobs? When I was growing up, it was always a wonder to me how Americans could get summer jobs or opt not to pursue a college education and yet qualify for work. And here we are requiring a college degree or equivalent for even the most clerical of tasks.
DepEd is trying to correct the situation and bring our educational standards up to par with global standards through the K-12 program which will be implemented in phases beginning with the school year (SY) 2012-13.
K-12 is a catch-up attempt to put the Philippines at par with the rest of the world.
The K-12 system  aims to be a catch-up for the Philippines, seeing that most other countries already have 12 years of pre-university education. We cannot continue to insist on our current 10-year program if some of our graduates are looking to working or taking further studies abroad.
According to DepEd, “A 12-year program is found to be the adequate period for learning under basic education and is a requirement for recognition of professionals abroad (i.e., Bologna and Washington Accords)”.
Countries like Singapore have 11 years of compulsory education but depending on the track that one takes, total pre-university education can be from 12 to 14 years.
The public schools will feel the change more than most private schools which, as of now, already offer at least 12 years of basic education: 1-2 years of kindergarten, 6-7 years of elementary, and 4 years of high school.
K-12 will better equip students with skills for future employment
We have always ranked in the bottom when it comes to Math and Science. Even our so-called English advantage is slowly being eroded. We see an influx of Korean youth studying English in our country. China is now encouraging its citizens to learn English. And I heard from a relative returning from a trip to Cambodia that many street people he encountered could engage tourists in English as well as other languages.
Our curriculum has been criticized as being fraught with rote memorization. K-12 is expected to change all that.
Critical thinking is going to be key in the K to 12 program  according to Secretary Luistro. The acquisition, and mastery, of lifelong skills will become the focus of teaching compared to the present congested curriculum which compresses 12 years of education into 10.
For those aiming for technical-vocational courses, TESDA plans to download some of its basic technical competencies while CHED will transfer general education subjects to basic education. Students who finish the 12 years of education then are better equipped vocationally or technically to apply for employment even without pursuing higher education.
Special schools such as science high schools and trade schools and high schools for the arts will have enriched curriculum but focus on their specializations will continue.
Implementation of K to 12 will be done in phases.
Beginning with SY 2012-13, K to 12 will be introduced slowly . Initially, the new curriculum  will be introduced only in Grade 1 and Grade 7 (High School Year 1). Every school year thereafter, another level would introduce the new curriculum. So by SY 2017-18, all levels would already be teaching the new curriculum.

The law mandating Kindergarten is still pending in Congress but once passed, it will become a requirement for Grade 1. DepEd, however, has began offering Universal Kindergarten beginning with SY 2011-12. Parents with 5-year old children are being encouraged to enroll them already so that they can develop skills they’ll need for Grade 1.