Add’l 2 years to current 10-year basic education cycle opposed

The Department of Education (DepEd) released its initial draft on its plan to add two more years to the current 10-year basic education cycle amid opposition from various stakeholders.

Oppositors to the K-12 said the government should instead focus its scarce resources on addressing problems such as the perennial shortage of classrooms, teachers and textbooks.

In their consultative meeting held at the DepEd main office in Pasig City, Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres said the government should defer the implementation of the plan dubbed the K-12 until it addresses the various problems facing the country’s basic education sector.

“Although it sounds nice but when you get to the ground, it is not well received. We should keep the ten years and fixed the problems first,” Nebres told the audience composed of representatives from the academe, government agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders in the education sector.

Worse, he said the program may even distract the government from focusing on resolving the lack of school rooms, toilets and other facilities, teachers and textbooks.

Nebres further argued that adding two more years to schooling may result in more children unable to complete schooling, citing a report conducted by the Presidential Task Force on Education (PTFE) which he chaired last year showing that the plan may only benefit 20 to 30 percent of school children.

The PTFE is a multi-sectoral body created by then President Arroyo last year to come up with measures on how to upgrade the quality of Philippine basic and higher education.

Another participant in the meeting, former Sen. and now president of the University of the Philippines Preparatory School Nikki Coseteng echoed the same concerns.

“Can we just fix first what we needed to fix first not with rocket science but with basic tools because adding two more years will not fix the mess we are currently in,” Coseteng said.

“It’s nice in a Powerpoint presentation but I suggest the DepEd should firt resolve the problems of today and then we decide later,” she added.

Earlier, former DepEd undersecretary Isagani Cruz had presented a fact-filled Powerpoint presentation showing the timeline of the K-12 and other issues related to the program.

Cruz also defended the plan, saying the government would also work to resolve pressing problems cited by the various sectors.

The DepEd is set to release the draft of the program on Oct. 5 in time for the World Teachers Day celebration.

For her part, Emmalyn Policarpio, spokesman for the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC), also maintained their stance that the K-12 should wait until the problems (lack of classrooms, teachers and textbooks) are addressed.

“We reiterate our position on this matter that government resources should be focused on these issues and not on adding two more years to the education cycle,” Policarpio said.

At the same time, several participants wondered why top DepEd officials, including Secretary Armin Luistro, were absent from such a major gathering.

“Bakit wala s’ya o kahit man lang ang mga undersecretaries,” one of the participants who refused to be identified said.

Even DepEd Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs and concurrent spokesman Alberto Muyot left before the consultation after briefing the media on the protest action staged by students opposed to the plan.

About 30 students belonging to the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and Anakbayan held a protest action outside the DepEd main office gate criticizing the K-12 plan and the cut in education budget next year.

“No matter how you deodorize the K-12 program, the fact that it will aggravate the financial burden of parents and that the Aquino proposed education budget cannot resolve the shortages even under the current 10-year system clearly explains the program’s foolishness,” Ayla Garduce of the No To K-12 Alliance said.

“The education budget clearly explains why the K-12 program is a stupid move. Education budgets for the past years were unable to resolve the ballooning shortages in basic education and with the current proposed budget under Aquino, the shortages will continue to balloon. Adding two years will just add salt to the already rotting wound of basic education,” she added.

On the other hand, Terry Ridon, LFS national chairman, said instead of the additional two years, the government should allocate greater subsidy to education.

“What they need to add on to is the budget — not the number of years. Before thinking of anything else, the government should make sure that the current 8 million out-of-school youth go to school, no student has to take his classes under a tree, or climb two mountains before getting to his school,” Ridon added. –Jason Faustino, Daily Tribune