DEAR READER, I promise to be candid. However, I cannot be impartial. It has been a decade since the Department of Education (DepEd) started the implementation of the K-12 program. However, it is only recently they are considering a review of the program, after years of failing to deliver on the promise of producing job-ready Senior High School (SHS) graduates.
Along with DepEd’s review of the K-12 program, Former President and Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has also set the wheels in motion in congress proposing the K-10+2 bill amidst calls for a review of the K-12 program implemented a decade ago during the Benigno Aquino administration.
“The failure of the K-12 Program to provide its graduates with promised advantages exacerbates the additional burden on parents and students imposed by two additional years of basic education. In a country like the Philippines where the poverty incidence is 18 percent, there should be an option for the young to graduate from basic education soonest, after four years of high school, so that they can help their parents in their farms or micro-businesses,” read Arroyo’s proposal.
Republic Act No. 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 introduced two additional years which would be SHS to make students job-ready even in the absence of a college degree.
In an article from the Philippine Star, even DepEd Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte doubled down on this. In an engagement in Oriental Mindoro, Duterte stressed that DepEd’s mandate covers only basic and functional literacy. While higher education should focus more on specialization.
In the same article Duterte was also quoted that “Many of our learners work here and do not need K-12.” And “So one of the directions of President Marcos is for us to study how to implement this because he wants this implemented immediately.”
To put things into perspective I entered college being part of only the second batch of graduates of the K-12 program. At the time there was not a big sample size to determine the success or employability of the graduates to review the program. At 18, I was excited to experience what college had to offer but then discovered that it is most of the same.
The first two years of college consisted of mostly minor subjects with one or two majors per semester, most of those subjects were already taken during SHS and is virtually indistinguishable aside from having someone else teach it.
Now what am I getting at? Well dear reader, essentially this short sightedness by DepEd has cost me and many other young adults at least two years of our lives that we can never get back. Another two years for those who went to college, which most have. Along with this is the almost three years lost by everyone due to their lives drastically being halted by the COVID-19 pandemic as most Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) have only started to bring back face-to-face classes due to the Memorandum Order No. 16 of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
The loss of resources is one thing, but the main loss that I lament is the loss of time. Time is an invaluable resource anyone cannot afford to waste. Like prison sentences the length of time is a factor on how grave one’s offense must be. But the youth of this country do not deserve their years wasted just because of a misconstrued notion equating global competence with copying what the rest of the world is doing.
Under Arroyo’s proposal, instead of making grades 11 and 12 mandatory for basic education, it will only serve as a prerequisite for those who want to pursue higher education. That doesn’t change anything for many of us already in college after K-12, even if the K-12 program gets revised or scrapped like spilled milk there’s no use crying about it as I and many others can never get those years wasted back.
While revisions and even a revamp of the curriculum is more than welcome Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) chairperson Vladimir Quetua said a fitting description of this proposal, “Making Grade 11 and 12 voluntary is essentially an admission that the K-12 program is a failure.”
Though all sides point to the K-12 program being a failure, what it has done successfully is to rob many Filipino Youth of time and the right to experience proper education.