Starting next June, the Department of Education (Deped) will begin its implementation of the Kindergarten Plus 12 program which seeks to prolong the basic education of the Filipinos and purport to “get them into the best universities and best jobs after graduation and give them an even chance at succeeding.”
Under this program, the Kindergarten level will be offered in elementary schools among five-year old children. Then, starting the school year 2012-13, a new curriculum will be applied at the elementary level which will remain at six years. After this, four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school will complete one’s basic education. According to the administration, this program shall make every Filipino graduate have a “meaningful life” and be “productively employed.”
On the surface, the goals of this program seem desirable. However, there are factors that need to be considered in relation to this program but are usually left undiscussed. To begin with, the situation of the education sector in the country is presently in the dumps. The easiest manifestation of this is the fund that is allocated to the sector. In the 1.64 trillion total budget this year, only 23.4 billion were allotted for education. This is far from the recommendation of the UNESCO: the budget for educations shall be equal to at least 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This deficit has led to an estimated shortage of 152,569 classrooms, more than 95 million textbooks and 103 thousand teachers for the upcoming school year. Before the KPlus12 can achieve its lofty ambitions, the Deped first needs to address the problems these shortages pose.
Another issue is the framework of this program. The President keeps on emphasizing that the KPlus12 will make Filipinos “globally competitive” as they will be trained well in the course of their education. This “global competitiveness” seems to go well with the neoliberal path that the Aquino’s administration strives to tread. KPlus12 is being pushed only to encourage the current trend of Filipino graduates working abroad for a shot at a better life. As the idea behind the 12-year basic education cycle is patterned after the United States, this new program can also more justifiably westernize our curricula and subtly reinforce colonial mentality among the Filipino students. Slowly, it becomes deeply ingrained to every Filipino graduate to work abroad and seek “greener pastures” instead of staying in the country and pursue a career that can help towards national development.
This leads us to another point: the “productive employment” which is also being highly touted by the proponents of KPlus12. If what they deem to be productive in terms of employment is working abroad, then their ways of thinking are undeniably in awry. Encouraging its citizens to work abroad not only deprive them of the chance to gain a decent living within their own country but also conceal from them the real problem that compel them to work off shores at the first place. The real problem is that there are scarce job opportunities in this country since we do not have our own industries and we only depend on foreign investors who exploit our natural resources and cheap human labor on the blind side. For instance, instead of developing the shoe industry in Marikina, we keep on supporting foreign shoe brands like Nike and Adidas. In that sense, we are more in favor of a foreign industry than that of our own. As a result, the growth of our own industries is always stunted and the chance of having greater employment opportunities in the country is foiled as well. Presently, an estimated 4.23 million of the work force population do not have jobs. Not yet included here are the cases of underemployment: jobs that do not match the skills and educational attainment of individuals and do not compensate them enough to have a decent living. With the boom of the call center industry, most graduates fall under this occupation. However, this job, aside from the drastic lifestyle changes needed to survive in it, also does nothing significant in contributing to the country’s progress since these companies are mostly foreign-owned.
Ultimately, we give no thumbs up for the KPlus12 program that is to be executed starting next month, at the opening of classes nationwide. The intertwined issues in education and employment cannot be solved by more time spent inside classrooms that are supposed to train students better. These can be addressed by giving the priority the education sector deserves, and sufficient funds that will kill age-old textbooks, lack of facilities and underpaid teachers who are the more direct instruments of learning. After which, decent and well-compensated jobs shall be available in the country. This can only happen if we have our own industries and we encourage our graduates to work in the country and help in its development. And despite of all the ambitiousness and the seeming good intentions of the KPlus12 program, it simply does not promote the preceding premises.
COLLEGE EDITOR’S GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES BAGUIO-BENGUET