[Opinion] K-12 is not a magic bullet

I am convinced that something is wrong with the country’s education system. There are scores more in our community that are similarly convinced that reforms are needed in order to enhance or uplift the state of education in the country.

The quality of instruction and knowledge input to children is a day-to-day affair of parents like me. My wife, who works as a fulltime mother to our children, invests an impressive amount of time each day to look into our children’s workbooks and notebooks in order to guide her of what has transpired inside the classroom and check on our children’s participation to class activities.

The quality of education has become a constant subject of discussion in the household especially that, as parents, we have the tendency to compare the quality of instruction implemented today from that of our time as students. It is an ever pressing question to parents why education in the country gradually deteriorated.

The quality of instruction, teachers’ competency, quality of materials, facilities in school, among others, occupy as major concerns by parents. On our case, we can both compare the quality of instruction between the private and public schools having gathered direct experience from our children who tried both the private and public elementary schools.

The parents in the respective schools that we enrolled our children have attempted to institute reforms in its capacity as members and officers of the Parents Teachers Association. The effort, however, is recognizably inadequate and limiting for it does not touches on the core elements that characterize the day-to-day activities in children’s education.

All these concerns gathered renewed interest and debate among parents after the Dept. of Education (DepEd) launched the K-12 Basic Education System at the opening of classes for the current school year. For DepEd, the purpose of K-12 is not simply to add two more years of education, but more importantly to enhance the basic education curriculum of the country. It is not a short-term effort but rather a long-term intervention to provide quality 12-year basic education program in order to put the country at par with other countries.

Data from DepEd showed that “the Philippines remain as the only country in Asia and among three remaining countries in the world that uses the 10-year basic education cycle.” The impact of this intervention remains to be seen yet DepEd asserts that K-12 is just one aspect of reforms integrated in its 10-point reform agenda.

I have always believed that most Filipino parents recognized the fact that the government intervention is urgent and necessary. The problem, however, springs from the lack of consultation among parents by DepEd and the limited public information dissemination effort by DepEd on K-12. The direct discussions regarding the K-12 program were mostly undertaken this June and many parents have approached it with mixed emotions having made aware that two more years will be added in the children’s schooling and this will entail additional cost.

While reforms in the system of education is a core concern by parents, the K-12 implementation raises questions regarding government’s capacity to finance the necessary requirement in order to fully carry out the program and sustain its implementation. Many parents points out that part of the reason why the 10-year basic education system has deteriorated all these years is the lack of government’s appropriations to education.

The inappropriate budget by the government to education has resulted to shortage in classrooms, deficient school facilities and equipment, incompetent teachers, and textbooks marred with errors.

While it is logical for government to comply with the internationally accepted standards in education system such as the K-12, our government remains non-complying to internationally accepted standards on appropriations for education; such as, the one set by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) directing governments of developing nations to allocate six percent of its Gross National Product (GNP) to education spending or the Delors Standard.

By reviewing the historical spending of government to education, we can conclude that government has been under-spending in education and has been accumulating debt to education all these years. Government’s spending would disclose that the country’s education spending as “proportion to GNP never reached 4-percent. From 3.8 percent in 1998 under Mr. Estrada, education expenditure as proportion of the total national income drastically dipped to 2.26 percent in 2007 under Mrs. Arroyo.”

James Matthew Miraflor, then a debt campaigner of the Freedom from Debt Coalition shared that “in actual terms, as of 2007, the total loss or deficit in our education spending is a shocking P1.66 trillion! This is enough money to wipe out classroom shortages, augment diminishing state subsidy to public higher education institutions, and hire more teachers. The amount lost is so big that it can fund more than 100 Comelec-supervised national and local elections and yes, run the operation of the entire government for a year.”

On government’s spending on education alone, we can conclude that the 10-year basic education system is not solely to blame why education in the country has deteriorated, but rather government’s lack of commitment to education and the inadequate exercise of political will to make education spending a matter of priority and a national policy.

If our government gradually implemented the 6-percent of GNP to education, I’m inclined to believe that a lot of developments could have taken place and uplifted the state of the country’s education.

The K-12 program might stimulate fundamental change in the country’s education system but I firmly believe that the effectivity of K-12, or any education program for that matter, is dependent on government’s commitment to allocate the appropriate budget for the program.

So if the Aquino government is serious in its reform agenda to education, he must make it a national policy to automatically appropriate 6-percent of GNP to education. K-12 although claimed as effective by other countries is not a magic bullet for a country with a debt-ridden economy like the Philippines.

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