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What is Wrong With K+12 Education Program?

Everybody agrees that Philippine education is in a state of crisis. And the quality of Philippine education, the shortages in teachers, classrooms, facilities, books and learning materials have worsened year after year, even as the 1987 Constitution mandates that education should be the priority in the national budget. Also worsening is the dropout rate.

In 2008, out of 100 pupils entering grade one, only 66 finish elementary education. Only 58 of the 66 who finish grade school enroll in first year high school, and only 43 of the 58 complete their secondary education. Of the 43 students, only 23 enroll in college and out of this only 14 students finish a degree.

Among those who are able to continue studying, achievement test results are still way below the passing mark.

To address this, President Benigno Aquino III has, since his presidential campaign, been batting for an additional two years of basic education. Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro has been laying the groundwork for this, saying that it could be fully implemented by school year 2017-2018.

Will the K+12 program solve the problems confronting Philippine education? What will be its impact on the education system in the country?

The proposal to add two more years to basic education is not new. This is already contained in the Philippine National Action Plan for EFA (Education for All) 2015 Goals (Philippine EFA 2015), which was formulated in 2005.

Much earlier, one of the recommendations of the Philippine Education Sector Study funded by the Asian Development Bank in 1997 is for the government to strengthen and allot more resources to basic education by lessening its exposure in tertiary education.

At first glance, the proposal seems logical. Filipino students do not perform well in achievement tests, then give them more years of education. However, progressive students and teachers' organizations are correct in saying that it is not as simple as it seems. First, the government is not allotting enough budget for education because it is allocating more for debt servicing and military expenditures.

Kabataan Partylist revealed that in 2009, the government allotted a mere P2,502 ($57.95) per student per year. And at 2.17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the education budget in 2009 is way below the UNESCO recommended standard of six percent of GDP. By adding another two years in basic education, the government would merely stretch a very limited budget. This measure would only worsen the shortages in classrooms, teachers, learning materials, and facilities.

Perhaps, the Aquino administration is banking on local government units to foot the bill because through the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001, the management of local public schools have been devolved. Local government units allot one percent of their internal revenue allocation to education. These funds are managed by local school boards. For example, in Quezon City, the city government funds the salaries of some teachers - who are considered city-hired as differentiated from those with plantilla positions at the Department of Education - trainings and activities of teachers, and the construction of school buildings.

But what about poor municipalities? Would they have to enter into Public-Private Partnerships? This again is nothing new and was called build-operate-transfer schemes under the previous Arroyo administration. How would poor municipalities pay for it? More taxes?