High school graduates can be productively employed even without a college degree once two years are added to basic education, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said today.

The education chief recently announced his plan to implement President Noynoy Aquino’s agenda of increasing the basic education cycle from the current 10 years to 12 years, a plan that he referred to as the “enhanced K+12 basic education program.”

He explained that “K” refers to “Kindergarten” while the number “12″ refers to the sum of seven years of grade school and five years of high school.

He said that these reforms will be implemented gradually over a number of years and may go beyond the term of the current or even next administration.

Luistro said that the Department of Education (DepEd) is currently working on a concept paper that will outline the proposed revisions to the public school curriculum and how these will be implemented and funded. He added that DepEd will present the proposal to the public on October 5, 2010, which is World Teachers’ Day, so that all education stakeholders can give their feedback.

Luistro said that these reforms will aim to ensure that future high school graduates are ready to be productively employed even without completing college.

“The current thinking and the current culture in the Philippines is that if you don’t finish with a college degree, there is something missing in your life. What should basic education be? To me, what is basic is that [high school graduates] should be able to live a meaningful life, they should be able to be prepared to start a family, and thirdly they should be able to be productively employed,” explained Luistro.

He added that the DepEd will explore how public schools can better develop Filipino’ students skills and talents in the arts, sports, agriculture, fisheries, and in technical or vocational fields, among others.

“Perhaps our current curriculum is too academic in orientation,” said Luistro. “What are the needs of industry? You need to match that with the gifts, resources, and interests of young people.”

Re-examine reform priorities

But some educators believe that DepEd should re-examine its reform priorities.

“Our immediate focus should be just improving basic education. The dropout rate is very, very high and the quality of education is very, very low,” says Milwida Guevara, chief executive officer of Synergeia, an NGO that focuses on improving the quality of public school education through greater local government support.

Guevara said that DepEd should focus instead on improving the quality of education in kindergarten, pre-school, and in grades one to four of elementary school. She added that adding two years to the education cycle “will address the problem of the lack of quality of students in the high school, and also in the university, but it does not address the problem in earlier years of schooling.”

She said that as many as 30 percent of students who enter grade one drop out before grade six, and that these figures are higher in some areas of Mindanao. “It’s too late to have an intervention after grade six,” she said.

DepEd’s proposal also drew mixed reactions from visitors to the GMANews.TV Facebook Fan Page.

“Add two more years for high school? Para sa apat na years na high school nga lang, kulang na ang budget ng mga magulang. Dadagdagan mo pa ng dalawa? And besides, from the start,hindi naman ‘yung years ang problema, kundi ung kakulangan ng libro and materials para sa mga students, pati na rin ung kakulangan sa teachers,” said Facebook user Kevin Taboada.

(Parents can hardly afford to pay for four years of high school, and yet they want to add two more years? Besides, the number of years is not the problem. It’s the lack of books and educational materials for students, and the lack of teachers.)

Other Facebook users believed the proposal would help make Filipino graduates more globally competitive.

Dubai-based OFW Hannah Zipporah Tayo said, “Natapos ko ang 10 years high school standard sa ‘Pinas, and I had to pursue further studies in Dubai. None of the universities and colleges accepted me, kasi ‘di nila recognize ang 10 years standard. Siguro nga kailangan ng upgrade ang curriculum!”

(I finished ten years of high school in the Philippines, and I had to pursue further studies in Dubai. None of the universities and colleges accepted me because they did not recognize my ten years of education. I think the curriculum should be upgraded!)

Dennis Montas Lorejo, a Filipino who teaches in the United States, wrote, “To conform with the global standard, we must move to a 12-year basic education. Also, strengthen the teachers knowledge and skills so that they may bring better instructions to their students. Upgrade the school facilities, impose the use of technology in schools, raise teachers salary, and a lot more. But we must start with something, right?”

April Joy Cruz said, “Quality is better than quantity. Tingin ko, kahit dagdagan ng two years, pero ang situation ng mga public school students na 60 to 80 students per class, walang upuan at libro, para lang nagsasayang ng oras sa eskwelahan kung wala rin naman matututunan.”

(We can add two years, but for as long as classrooms still have to be shared by 60 to 80 students, and for as long as these students have no books or chairs to use, our students will be wasting their time learning nothing.) – HS, GMANews.TV