The K+12 debate
MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz () - October 14, 2010 - 12:00am

The public debate about K+12 has started. As in any debate, there is a government side and an opposition side. At this point, each side has presented its own arguments. The next step is for each side to rebut or demolish the other side’s arguments.

On the government side, in the discussion paper it disseminated during its press conference last Oct. 5, the Department of Education (DepEd) has given at least nine reasons for the K+12 project:

1. “Enhancing the quality of basic education in the Philippines is urgent and critical.”

2. “The poor quality of basic education is reflected in the low achievement scores of Filipino students. One reason is that students do not get adequate instructional time or time on task.”

3. International test results consistently show Filipino students lagging way behind practically everybody else in the world. In the 2008 mathematics exam, for example, we came in dead last.

4. “The congested curriculum partly explains the present state of education.” Twelve years of content are crammed into ten years.

5. “This quality of education is reflected in the inadequate preparation of high school graduates for the world of work or entrepreneurship or higher education.” If ten years were adequate, how come employers do not hire fresh high school graduates? How come most high school graduates flunk the UPCAT?

6. “Most graduates are too young to enter the labor force.” Since most children start Grade 1 when they are 6 years old, they do not reach the legal employable age of 18 when they graduate from high school today.

7. “The current system also reinforces the misperception that basic education is just a preparatory step for higher education.” Why prioritize the minority of high school graduates that go to college?

8. “The short duration of the basic education program also puts the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially the professionals, and those who intend to study abroad, at a disadvantage. Our graduates are not automatically recognized as professionals abroad.” The best examples are our engineering graduates, who are condemned to international jobs not befitting their professional status due to our not having a 12-year basic education cycle.

9. “The short basic education program affects the human development of the Filipino children.” If we believe that 17-year-old high school graduates are emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually mature, why do we require them to get parental consent before they get married?

On the other hand, those opposing the plan put forward the following arguments:

1. Parents have to shell out more money (for transportation and food) for the education of their children.

2. The government does not have the money to pay for two more years of free education, since it does not even have the money to fully support today’s ten years. DepEd must first solve the lack of classrooms, furniture and equipment, qualified teachers, and error-free textbooks.

3. We can do in ten years what everyone else in the world takes 12 years to do. Why do we have to follow what the rest of the world is doing? We are better than all of them. Filipinos right now are accepted in prestigious graduate schools in the world, even with only ten years of basic education.

4. As far as the curriculum is concerned, DepEd should fix the current subjects instead of adding new ones. The problem is the content, not the length, of basic education. As an editorial put it, we need to have better education, not more education.

5. A high school diploma will not get anybody anywhere, because business firms will not hire fresh high school graduates.

6. Every family dreams of having a child graduate from college.

7. While students are stuck in Grades 11 and 12, colleges and universities will have no freshmen for two years. This will spell financial disaster for many private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

8. The drop-out rate will increase because of the two extra years.

(If there is any objection that I have not yet heard, please send me a message through the Philippine STAR website or through my Facebook account.)

The government has not yet shown the arguments of the opposition to be fallacious. It is true that, when asked about the issue during his 100-day town hall meeting, President Aquino mentioned the economic benefits of the plan, particularly its expected contribution of roughly two percent to GDP. As of this writing, however, the government is still focusing largely on having its arguments understood by the public.

The opposition has been very vocal airing its arguments not only in newspapers, on radio, and on television, but even in the parliament of the streets. As of this writing, however, I have not heard the opposition rebut the arguments of the government. In fact, as far as I can see, they have refused to even listen to the government.

Since this is a public debate, we have to move from constructive speeches to rebuttal. Next week, I shall start examining the arguments of both sides to see if they are reasonable. (To be continued)

TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK: “Have a plan but be willing to trash it.” This advice from Muriah Summer is supposed to be about teaching language to two-year-olds, but it also applies to teaching any subject to adolescents and adults.

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