DepEd reviewing K-12

A failed experiment of the administration of the late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III?

The Department of Education overseeing basic education in the country on Thursday announced that a review of the “problematic” K-12 curriculum is being undertaken by the agency headed by Vice President Sara Z. Duterte.

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa yesterday met reporters to clarify their position after Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual stirred a hornet’s nest this week by proposing to shorten the number of years needed to secure college degrees.

According to Poa, Pascual’s proposal will have to be looked into in line with the K-12 curriculum that, according to him, has resulted in skills and job mismatches.

Specifically, DepEd wants to fine-tune the technical-vocational track of Grades 11 and 12, Poa added.

“We are currently reviewing the skills matching aspect to ensure that when our graduates leave Grade 12 they will be employable as promised by the K-12 program,” the DepEd official added.

On Tuesday, Commission on Higher Education chairperson Prospero de Vera expressed strong reservations against chucking years off college itself while turning the spotlight on the K-12 enigma.

Empirical evidence

“I do not think it is productive to suddenly [and] unilaterally declare and change this drastically. It must be based on an assessment of what happened with senior high school (Grades 11 and 12) students,” De Vera said in a press conference.

“We need empirical evidence and a study to show what really happened to the subjects that were transferred to senior high school students. We need to study that first,” he added.

When it was first implemented in 2012, the K-12 program was met with strong opposition by many Filipinos who felt it merely added two more years of unnecessary studies for the youth.

Patterned after K-12 programs of such countries as the United States and Canada, local educators have pointed out that K-12, as implemented in the Philippines, was flawed as the mindset of most Filipino families has been to send their kids to college anyway and not for them to immediately work after high school.

However, World Bank indicators have shown that notwithstanding that aspiration, the college enrollment rate among school-age Filipinos in 2021 was at just 35.52 percent.

Of late, the added years imposed by K-12, coupled with the educational disruptions caused by Covid-19, had been blamed by some sectors for throwing off-kilter the career plans of many students, resulting in mental health issues.

Mental health check

Even before the pandemic struck, the World Health Organization already noted that among Filipino children aged 5 to 15, 10 percent to 15 percent were affected by mental health problems.

The WHO said that at least 16.8 percent of Filipinos aged 13 to 17 have attempted suicide at least once within a year.

Last month, Senate Bill 379, or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, was filed to counter the negative effects of pandemic school challenges.

The measure sought to “hire mental health professionals and deploy them to public elementary, secondary, and vocational institutions,” the bill’s proponent said.

De Vera on Tuesday said that CHEd is also interested in the review of the curriculum for senior high school even if that’s within the purview of DepEd, something that should be done before looking into the college curricula.

He noted that Pascual, a former president of the University of the Philippines, was there when the premier state university formulated its general education curriculum.

Hire K-12 grads

“So, the question is, why did UP not reduce their general education curriculum significantly?” he asked. “Now if the outcomes had already been achieved, then we should look at how to reduce the number of units of general education if the data actually say so,” he added.

Reiterating his position, Pascual on Thursday said employers should consider hiring graduates of the K-12 program and not be biased in favor of hiring college graduates.

“I told employers to review their standards in their hiring process because as I see [it], some companies don’t need applicants that are college graduates,” Pascual said.

“What I am saying is, we must showcase the products of the K-12 as holistically developed individuals,” he added.

The trade official cited the need to change the mindset that only college graduates can excel in life.

“Maybe we need to review our education system. The K-12 alone, if implemented correctly, can produce holistically developed individuals,” according to Pascual.

Last week, Pascual backed proposals to shorten the years needed to get a college education, citing the K-12 program of Singapore focused on general education courses.

He admitted, however, that the K-12 as implemented in the Philippines may not be up to par as those in other countries as senior high graduates may need to be trained by companies hiring them.

“It will take a long time for this to be solved. The shortcut is for companies themselves to do the training,” Pascual said.

Employable

A study by the advocacy group Philippine Business for Education said that the first batch of senior high school graduates possesses “theoretically” 93 percent of the competencies suitable to the needs of the nation’s industries, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

But a separate PBED study recently said only about 20 percent of 70 of the country’s leading companies across all sectors were inclined to hire senior high graduates.

According to PBED executive director Love Basillote, many companies accept only job applicants with at least two years of college education, which potentially excludes SHS graduates.

This hiring policy explains the discrepancy between the graduates’ supposedly high competency and their low chances of getting a job, she said.

@tribunephl_ raf


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