Of the many programs of the Philippine education system, nothing is probably more controversial than the K-12. Despite being implemented about four years ago and produced its first batch of graduates in 2018, some of its critics say it is unnecessary and ineffective.
Meanwhile, its proponents and pundits believe that this program can make Filipinos more competitive in the global market. But why is it important for students to add more years to their learning?
What Is the K-12 Program?
To understand its vitality is to know more about the K-12 program. It refers to the full years of primary and secondary education a Filipino child needs to take before they can proceed to college or university.
It covers the kindergarten period, followed by 6 years of primary education. Then there are the additional six years of high school. The program spells out the difference between junior high school and senior high school, however.
Junior high school is what was once called the standard high school years that immediately follow the grade school period. This lasts for four years. Senior high is extra two years, in which students choose their specialty tracks:
- Technical, vocational, and livelihood
- Arts and design
These tracks then focus on the eight core learning areas of senior high school. These include language, mathematics, communication, science, philosophy, and humanities, among others.
The extra two years have been the bone of contention, particularly among its opponents, students, and parents. It means more time in school and higher educational expenses, although senior high is still free in public school and they can apply for a Voucher Program if the child wishes to enroll in tracks offered by private schools.
But there are a couple of reasons the country needs K-12:
1. Before Its Implementation, the Philippines Is One of the Very Few Countries with 10 Years of Basic Education
Prior to the K-12 program, the Philippines lagged behind the rest of the members of the ASEAN region in the length or duration of basic education. In Singapore, students spend at least 12 years in both elementary and high school before they move on to university.
Even East Timor has the same number of basic education years. Meanwhile, developed nations like the United States, Canada, and Germany follow the K-12 program. Following the same program can, therefore, provide the following advantages:
- Students may not need to go back to school if they wish to study in other countries like Canada or the United States to compensate for the “missing basic education years.”
- In his speech at the Commonwealth Education Conference in 2003, Amartya Sen shared that widening basic education can help reduce human insecurity. The extra years provide more time for comprehensive learning that enhances a person’s literacy.
2. It Could Provide Other Avenues for Learning and Earning
One of the primary education-related issues in the Philippines is the low participation rate in college. According to J. Prospero de Vera, chairperson of the Commission of Higher Education (CHED), the average college enrollment rate in the country is only 33%.
In other words, for every 100 Filipinos who can proceed to either college or university, fewer than 35 do so. That’s such a small percentage compared to that of Thailand or Malaysia, where college participation rates are over 40%.
Poverty remains one of the main reasons students skip higher education. Although there’s the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, it covers only state universities and colleges. Even if they have free tuition, other needs are not free. These can include housing, study materials, cost of a thesis, and a lot more.
The K-12 program doesn’t guarantee that a student who completes it can move on to college or university. It will always be the discretion of the child and/or the parents. However, because the kids spend more time in school, the specialty-based education in senior high can offer other avenues for learning.
For example, they can apply for a certificate of competency or national certificates from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). These can allow them to seek related work opportunities in the country and overseas.
Further, some strands like accountancy, business, and management (ABM) may also give the students the skills to pursue entrepreneurship before college.
The K-12 program in the Philippines needs to beat many challenges to be truly successful. For example, most employers still prefer to hire those who completed a college or university degree. However, it also opens doors for more learning opportunities, increasing a Filipino student’s competency.