The Philippines currently offers a ten year public school system to provide basic education, namely six years of tuition-free grade school and four years of high school. Since most children begin entering school at six years old however, those who do finish the entire program end up graduating from high school at around 16 years old. Many critics and educators point out that at this age the high school graduate is not old enough to execute legal contracts such as for employment or business so that those who want to work immediately after high school are hard pressed to find productive occupations. Perhaps that is why even the best of them drift into ... politics! through the SK system (but that's another topic.) At the same time, even among those intending to go to college many are emotionally and academically unprepared at 16 to effectively undertake college level study. In part this is due to our short ten year elementary and secondary school curricula.
A major agenda item for the Dept of Education (DepEd) is the proposed K-12 Basic Education System (PDF) which would represent a major expansion of the present ten year public school program to thirteen years. The PDF file above discusses the rationale, design and implementation plan of DepEd. In this post I consider some of the problems and challenges attendant upon the K-12 proposal.
The Philippines will be the last country in the region to adopt a K-12 basic educations system, and only three countries are left in the whole world like it, according to the DepEd discussion paper. As a result, graduates of the Philippine public school system are at a competitive disadvantage as overseas workers because they do not have as much education, at least on paper, as counterparts from other countries which do have K-12.
Of course the mere fact that everybody else does it is not the only justification for adopting K-12-- although the dismal showing of Philippine students in such global testing surveys as the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (where she is consistently near the very bottom) may be a good indicator that something drastic must be done. Much was fortunately learned from participating in TIMSS about the possible reasons for the poor showing. TIMSS analysis clearly pointed out the insufficiency of our ten year public school system--with its necessarily congested basic education curriculum.
It appears that we have been teaching 12 years worth of learning in the space of 10 years. What other countries take 12 years to do -- we attempt to accomplish in 10 years. DepEd suggests this is a partial explanation for the ill preparedness of our high school graduates to undertake college level study. The Commission on Higher Education (Ched) which oversees tertiary education in the Philippines has already pointed out that most colleges are spending too much time providing remedial courses to entering students because of that deficiency in the secondary school program.
Most private schools already offer thirteen years of basic education (2 years of Kindergarten, 7 years of elementary school, 4 years of high school). For example: the Christian Brothers' De La Salle network of schools from which Sec. Armin was recruited by President Aquino.
But attempts by Deped under the Arroyo administration to add a seventh elementary grade between grade school and high school in the so called Bridge Program collapsed under a storm of protest from parents and students who, rightly or wrongly, felt unobliged to defer entry into high school on such short notice, as it were.
The lesson of that ill-fated Bridge Program of a few years ago does not seem to have been lost on the present management at DepEd.
For the public schools DepEd now proposes the addition of a Kindergarten or Pre-school level for five year olds ahead of the existing six year Elementary School program. Then the Secondary School program would grow to six years long by retaining the present four year high school program as "Junior High School" and adding a 2 year "Senior High School" program at the end of that.
It's a clever solution that stands a good chance of working, since DepEd is basically keeping the present system intact and will "bookend" or "sandwich" it between a preparatory kindergarten level at the start, and a Senior High School subsystem at the end.