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First wave: Assessing K to 12 in CAR’s premier educational hub
by Louise Maniego

A new school building is under construction within the Baguio City National High School compound. Once completed by October, it will house the first batch of Senior High School students under the K-12 curriculum. -- Louise Maniego

Education is one of the legacies we Filipinos value most. During former president Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s term, our basic education system took a turn when the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 or the K to 12 program was introduced. From the previous 10 years of basic education program, the new curriculum includes kindergarten, grades 1 to 10, and Senior High School (SHS), which consist of grades 11 to 12, totaling 13 years of basic education. In 2013, the K to 12 was enacted into law and implemented nationwide, mandating all public and private educational institutions to adopt the new curriculum.

The K to 12 program brought changes in our education system, but it also earned protests and criticisms from various groups who wanted to prevent the implementation of the program.

In Baguio City, one problem that arose from the K to 12 implementation is the Mother-Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education or Mother Tongue – the use of a language which a child is most used to as a medium of instruction in teaching lessons.

The Department of Education mandated schools in Baguio City to use the Ilokano language as their mother tongue, but this has proven to be difficult not only for the students but for the teachers as well. Baguio is the melting pot of cultures. Many of its residents are migrants and only few of them can understand or speak Ilokano. Many of the students in Baguio City use Filipino in their daily conversations and socialization instead of Ilokano. To solve this problem, some schools are using English or Filipino as their medium of instruction for lessons in other subjects such as English, Math, and Science, with the exemption of the Mother Tongue subject.

“We cannot totally enforce the use of Iloco in teaching the children in the different subject areas. The children could easily grasp the lesson in Filipino. It is in the Mother Tongue subject that we really help to teach Iloco in toto,” said Esther Litilit, Baguio Central School principal.

Some student textbooks and teaching modules are also criticized for containing errors and typos, which might cause problems. Litilit admitted that they are faced with some challenges with the implementation of the new curriculum.

“Our textbooks are insufficient. We have many textbooks right now that do not tell the truth, especially about the Cordillera. There are also changes in the organization of the different subjects and grade levels and so some teachers are still not too confident in teaching them. We are still adopting, learning, and adjusting to this new curriculum. I can say it is effective, but in terms of quantity, I cannot tell the level of its effectiveness,” she said.

Start of Senior High School

The latest addition to the implementation of the K to 12 program is this year’s kick-start of the SHS. The pioneer batch of grade 11 students started coming to class last June. Some started this month. As of July 4, the number of enrollees for grade 11 in Baguio City already reached 7,321, according to DepEd-Baguio. Non-DepEd schools in the city which offer SHS reached 6,251 enrollees compared to schools under DepEd with 1,070 enrollees.

Atty. Agustino Laban III, City Schools Division superintendent, said the influx of students who enrolled in non-DepEd schools could be attributed to the voucher program, which grants a grade 10 completer financial aid once the student enrolls in a private high school, private college/university, or in a state college/university for SHS. The amount given varies on the location of the SHS the student enrolls in and on the percentage of the voucher value that a student is given. For Baguio City, the voucher that a student can receive amounts from P10,000 to P20,000.

Some 560 students are currently enrolled in grade 11 at the Baguio City National High School, one of the eight public high schools in Baguio that offer SHS and the biggest public high school in the city in terms of population.

Romulo Flora, BCNHS principal, said he is glad that their enrollees for grade 11 almost reached their target of 600 enrollees. He added that the start of SHS from enrollment to the opening of classes was smooth. BCNHS’ SHS offers the four specialized tracks: academic, technical vocational livelihood, sports, and arts and design tracks.

The academic track offers Accountancy, Business and Management; Humanities and Social Sciences, and the General Academic Strand. Next year, Flora said they will offer the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math strand.

Under the technical vocational livelihood track, schools offer automotive servicing, which gained the most number of enrollees, and bread and pastry production.

“Ginagawa pa ‘yung ibang mga buildings for SHS. Siguro by September or October ay tapos na ang paggawa sa mga bagong buildings. Mas marami na tayong maa-accommodate na mga estudyante. Hinihintay din natin na mai-deliver ng DepEd ‘yung mga tools and equipment na gagamitin for the different subjects,” said Flora.

Aside from pre-school, elementary, and secondary education, the implementation of the K to 12 program also gravely affects the state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the city. With the additional two years of basic education, SUCs will experience a great decline in the number of freshmen for two years.

Dr. Mariano Marchan Jr. of the Commission on Higher Education-Cordillera said it is not true that there are no first year enrollees due to K to 12, but only a small number of students are expected to enroll as first year students this year until 2017. Only students who graduated in high school but stopped their schooling to work instead, or those who were not able to complete their first year in college in the previous years are expected to enroll as first year students in SUCs.

The SHS also affects SUCs teachers for being out of work due to the decline in the expected number of first year enrollees this year. Many teachers in Baguio and members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Cordillera held multiple protests against the K to 12 program. Shortage in materials such as textbooks and classrooms, and the displacement of contractual and tenured teachers in SUCs are the reasons they cited why K to 12 should be stopped.

Marchan said CHED-CAR is still waiting for the submission of the list of displaced teachers from Cordillera, so that the Commission could verify the number of affected tertiary teaching and non-teaching personnel that will be displaced due to K-12.

Kung tutuusin wala sanang madi-displace kasi nagtuturo sila sa SHS,” he said.

DepEd, CHED-CAR, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Department of Labor and Employment formed an interagency and issued joint committee guidelines to help prevent or address the problem on displacement of public and private teaching and non-teaching personnel from higher educational institutions.

“We accept teachers from colleges and universities to teach SHS. Of course, as forecasted, there will be displacement due to SHS. In Baguio City, colleges and universities offered Senior High in their respective campuses. This is one way to mitigate the effect of the initial implementation of SHS,” Laban said.

CHED’s K to 12 transition programs includes provision of full scholarship grants to applicants from HEIs. Eligible teaching and non-teaching personnel are given the opportunity to pursue their master’s and doctorate degrees here and abroad. Through this, CHED hopes to lessen the impact of the two years of vacancy of first year students in SUCs.

Pupils of Baguio Central School eagerly try out for the first time the tablets provided by Samsung Electronics Corporation Philippines to their school. -- Joyce Pascua

Different point of views

Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist, together with Rise for Education, League of Filipino Students, and other youth groups in the city, strongly campaigns for the non-implementation of the K to 12 program.

Bazoo de Jesus of Kabataan Partylist said Baguio is not really ready for SHS and for K to 12. For de Jesus, the additional two years added to the basic education system is an additional burden for the students and their parents.

Kasinungalingan na ito ay tutugon sa problema ng educational system ngayon at na ito ay makakapagpabuti pa ng ating mga high school at college graduates. Mapipipilitan na lamang silang magtarabaho imbes na magpatuloy at magtapos ng pag-aaral sa grade 11, grade 12, at kolehiyo. Sa una pa lamang, tinanggalan mo na ang kabataan ng karapatan na mag-aral sa high school at college,” de Jesus said.

De Jesus said K to 12’s implementation and its policies do not help the youth nor the working sector or the nation as a whole.

Atty. Laban countered, “The children are the ones who choose the career path that they want to pursue. It is not the choice of the department but it is the choice of the children. We are opening our doors for our children to have a say on their career.”

“Maybe the problem is masyadong maaga na nasimulan. Hindi na-reach ‘yung grassroots. Pero kung ititigil natin ngayon ang K to 12, mas lalo lang iyang magiging problema para sa lahat,”said Marchan.

In an interview with Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, he said he recognizes a few setbacks with the implementation of K to 12, specifically on the financial aid offered to SHS enrollees in Baguio.

Totoo nga na may subsidy na ibibigay ang gobyerno sa mga papasok sa private schools ngunit maximum of P20,000 per student lamang. At ‘yung tuition sa private schools, karamihan ay mas mataas pa rin ang halaga na inaabot. May iba na hindi masyado ang diperensya sa iba. May iba na mataas ang diperensya. In short, it might not be affordable for some families of these graduates.”

Still, he added that the public should support the implementation of the K to 12 program, not only in Baguio but in the whole country as well as it is now a law.

Basta sa atin, ito ay batas, suportahan natin. Resulta ng pinag-aralan ng madaming tao rin iyan. Matagal din sa Kongreso bago naipasa. Why not try it and see what it can do? We have to do our best to implement and see its effect,” said Domogan.

According to the DepEd, the Philippines is the last country in Asia, and one of only three countries worldwide with a 10-year pre-university program. A 12-year program is said to be the best period for learning basic education and the recognized standard for students and professionals globally.

The DepEd also said the college general education curriculum will have fewer units. Subjects that have been taken up in basic education will be removed from the college general education curriculum.

Before the K to 12 program was approved by Congress, several consultations have been conducted for the crafting of the implementing rules and guidelines of the new curriculum.

There have long been debates over the implementation of the K to 12 program. Since it started, people are divided between supporting and stopping the program. Two years from now, we will meet the first batch of SHS graduates. Let us wait and see what the future holds for the youth of tomorrow.
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