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K+12 : Great idea, great hurdles as well

The Department of Education under the directive of Bro. Armin Luistro is headstrong in implementing a k+12 program. All I can say is.. it’s about time!

The Philippines is the only Asian country that has 10 years of formal education compared to our international neighbors having 12. This hit close to home when my eldest daughter could not apply for a scholarship in Japan because she needed another 2 years of schooling. Meaning, she can only apply to study college abroad after studying for two years in a local college!

With the k+12 program, every Filipino student will go through Kindergarten, 6 years of elementary, 4 years of junior high school and 2 years of senior high school. The present program is cramming 12 years of skills into 10 years of schooling. The lack of time forces the schools to speed read through the curriculum in order to graduate after 10 years.

So far, the best part of what I read about the k+12 program is its seeming inclination to be a progressive curriculum. To use a Ken Robinson term, it is more organic than linear. The first coup was when Bro. Armin, declared that Grade 1 should only be 4 hours instead of 6 hours. According to Luistro, education should be fun and the number of hours would ensure quality and not quantity education. Hurray! I thought I would never hear the words ‘fun’ and ‘learning’ in a sentence coming from the Secretary of Education.

Here’s another point that would make my own father fall from his seat. The last 2 years of Grades 11 to 12 will be more vocational in order for the student to have an option of not pursuing college and still be equipped to join the workforce or ideally, pursue a passion or a strength. Not going to college in the Philippines is a taboo that make parents raise eyebrows and wonder what the hell is wrong with this picture?! Personally, I think telling your parents you’re not going to college is about the same as telling them that you’re hooked on drugs…seriously. This is because we think of college as the finishline, the coveted prize or worse, the saving grace of every student. It is not. How many people do you know are now doing things that have nothing to do with what they took up in college? I’m not saying that children should not go to college…I’m saying that there should be other options specially for those not cut out for it.

As in any national plan, the intent is pure and well-intended but what hurdles will DepEd face to achieve this gargantuan task? I purposely did not list down Cost as one of the hurdles because that always goes without saying if referring to a government program..

1. Teacher Training. I spoke to 100 public Kindergarten teachers a few months back and the hunger for training was palpable. These teachers not only teach a Kindergarten class of 60 students in the morning, they also a teach a Grade 1 class of 100 students in the afternoon! If they are not properly trained, they will not only suffer burn out but their stress and lack of training will definitely affect the children they teach.

2. Class size. If the DepEd wants a more learner-centered curriculum, the teachers should be trained how to divide these classes into smaller, skill- and level-directed groups. It is impossible to execute a learner-centered curriculum with a class ratio of 1:60 (1 teacher is to 60 students). If new classrooms cannot be built then more teachers are needed in the classroom to break down the class into smaller , more hands-on group.

3. Parent Education. Parents automatically reject the k+12 program because of the seeming additional cost. DepEd should be able to justify the importance of the program by continuous information dissemination.

4. Goals. You can’t say you won in darts when there is no bull’s eye. If the k+12 program will improve and uplift the quality of education in the country, DepEd should  set quantifiable and quality-assured goals to measure its success. This goes all the way down to having individual behavioral and cognitive goals for every student, every class and every school implementing the program.

Inspite of all the things being thrown at the Department of Education for implementing k+12, I am still hopeful that it will be the program that the department sees it to be. Let’s pray that the political will remains consistent until its full implementation.

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