K to 12: Charging the windmill
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - June 8, 2016 - 12:00am

Parents and teachers opposed to the K to 12 program, which adds two years of senior high school to the basic education curriculum starting this schoolyear, are said to stage a nationwide walkout on Monday, June 13, when classes open. Where were these parents and teachers years ago when K to 12 was still only on the drawing board and being talked about?

I was vehemently opposed to K to 12 myself as I still am now. I have written more than my fair share of articles on the subject. But aside from a few others who were as vocal as I was, there was really no concerted effort by anyone to at least try and block the program. Organizations that are now behind the planned walkout were all talk but never engaged in real action that would have at least compelled government to think twice about the program.

And now it is too late to do anything. The planned walkout is not going to change things anymore. If at all, it will only cause unnecessary disruptions. People have accepted the fact that, whether they like it or not, K to 12 is going to push through and is here to stay. People have taken steps to adjust accordingly and will not accept any further disruptions.

Let me qualify my opposition to K to 12, however. I am not opposed to K to 12 per se. To me, all education is good and beneficial. Adding two more years to basic education is a boon, not a bane. What I am opposed to is the implementation of the program at this time because I truly believe the Philippine education system is not ready for it.

Many teachers, especially in public schools, are not equipped to handle the new curriculum. Teaching as a profession in the Philippines is highly structured. Those wanting to teach high school take education courses geared for the purpose. Those wanting to teach grade school do so similarly. In a dearth of teachers, as when two years are added to the curriculum, you cannot just pull out teachers from where they are available and then make them teach senior high. You have to train for it.

But that has not been done because the government did not spend for the retraining. And it is a drain on the personal resources of the teachers if they do so by themselves using their own money. But all that the government wants is simply to push through with the program because all that it cares about is face value, that at last the Philippines is in with the rest of the world in having 12 years of basic education.

The problem with unqualified and unready teachers is just one of the problems. Another problem is the lack of classrooms. Last week in Central Visayas alone, more than one half of new classrooms being built have remained unfinished and will not be ready by the time classes open on June 13. This problem will be replicated nationwide.

And that is just about new classrooms. There is also the problem of entire schools destroyed by natural calamities, the most notable of which was supertyphoon Yolanda. Many schools in the Yolanda-stricken areas have not been rebuilt or repaired. Many classes are still being held inside tents. Others under mango trees. And yet, when classes open, there will be more students than before because aside from the usual complement, there will be the first batch of senior high students.

And there is more. What about the integrity of school textbooks that are to be used this schoolyear? About a week or two ago, it was in the news again that some textbooks destined for use in Luzon contained not just typographical errors, which can be forgiven, but real factual errors. One such error said Aetas live in Mountain Province. The fact is, it is the Igorots who live there.

Of what use is the addition of two years of basic education under K to 12 if it is wrong information that is taught by unqualified teachers in classes being held under mango trees?

The K to 12 program under present circumstances will never live up to its billing as the vehicle to make Filipino graduates at par with the rest of the world. Perhaps, in the future, we will catch up. But not this time because we are totally unprepared.

To be sure, there are schools, mostly private and in the cities, that can cope with the expectations of K to 12, maybe even exceed them. But small comfort that will do. In effect, having some schools ready while most of the others are not will only widen the educational divide in this country. After two years, when the first senior high students eventually go on to college, some will be truly ready will the rest will have wasted two years of their lives learning nothing the wrong way.

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