A major change in our country’s educational landscape is about to take place: the Department of Education (DepEd) is launching the K-12 curriculum this coming June.
According to President Benigno S. Aquino, “We need to add two years to our basic education. Those who can afford pay up to fourteen years of schooling before university. Thus, their children are getting into the best universities and the best jobs after graduation. I want at least 12 years for our public school children to give them an even chance at succeeding.” In line with this, the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that, “The State shall establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and the society.“ Such mandate gives justice to the basic rights of every Filipino child: the right to quality education and the right to a quality life.
What is K-12? According to the K to 12 Deped Primer (2011), “K-12 means “Kindergarten and the 12 years of elementary and secondary education.” Kindergarten points to the 5-year old child who undertakes the standardized curriculum for preschoolers. Elementary education refers to 6 years of primary school (Grades 1-6) while secondary education means four years of junior high school (Grades 7-10 or HS Year 1-4). In addition to this, two years are now allotted for senior high school (Grades 11-12 or HS Year 5-6).
Prof. Lorina Calingasan of the College of Education in UP Diliman explains that “K-12 means extending basic education by two years, so instead of having a high school graduate at 16 (years old), we will have high schoolers graduating at 18.”
The DepEd discussion paper (2010) on the enhanced K-12 basic education program explains that this new setup “seeks to provide a quality 12-year basic education program that each Filipino is entitled to” (p.5). Furthermore, the purpose is not simply to add 2 more years of education “but more importantly to enhance the basic education curriculum” (p.5).
What is the rationale for this program? There is an urgent need to enhance the quality of basic education in our country as seen in the education outcomes of Filipino students and the comparative disadvantage of the Philippines with regard to other countries. The following data would support this explanation:
At present, the Philippines is the only country in Asia and among the three remaining countries in the world that uses a 10-year basic education cycle. According to a presentation made by the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO-INNOTECH) on Additional Years in Philippine Basic Education (2010), the comparative data on duration of Basic and Pre-University Education in Asia shows that the Philippines allots 10 years not just for the basic education cycle but also for the pre-university education while all the other countries have either 11 or 12 years in their basic education cycle.
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Achievement scores highlight our students’ poor performance in national examinations. The National Achievement Test (NAT) results for grade 6 in SY 2009-2010 showed only a 69.21% passing rate while the NAT results for high school is at a low 46.38%. Moreover, international tests results in 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science study (TIMSS) show that the Philippines ranked 34th out of 38 countries in HS Math and 43rd out of 46 countries in HS II Science. Moreover, the Philippines ranked the lowest in 2008 even with only the science high schools joining the Advanced Mathematics category.