In the wake of K-12 implementation, the debates and the problems that cropped up highlight basic education as an issue. Indeed the system of education, particularly the 10-year basic education, is an issue. Basic public education in the Philippines is far from being accessible to increasing number of families falling into poverty on one hand and that education itself has deteriorated. The haste by which the government puts in place the kindergarten and 2-year senior high school on top of a worsened state of 10-year basic education is catastrophic to the whole education system and society.
The K-12 program is premised on the recognition that basic education has indeed deteriorated. The deterioration is observable—increasing rate of dropouts relative to enrollment; the over-crowded classrooms; lack of textbooks and the worsened quality of education as measured in low and failing performance of students, especially high school students, in national achievement tests (NAT). On top of the main problems, the DepEd argued, is “congested curriculum”. Allegedly, the curriculum for 10-year basic education in the Philippines is actually hurdled in 12 years in other countries. Thus, adding two more years of senior high school would solve the problem of deterioration of education and would produce employable 18-year old graduates!
President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) is very clear on the main objective of K-12: Produce graduates who will match the demands of the global labor market. In other words, make Philippine labor competitive in the labor market—can speak and write in English, computer literate, have knowledge of practical mathematics but ready to get low wages.
The immediate argument against K-12 is: the solution does not match the recognized problem. The fact that only an average of 1-2 public high schools per city and big municipality outside NCR are ready to admit a limited number of incoming grade 11 students would underscore increasing
overcrowded classrooms! The added problem is that the incoming public senior high school students would attend private senior high schools for their academics. The DepEd seems oblivious of the fact that only a few private schools are ready for senior high school and that they would prioritize their own students. Moreover, about 25,000 members of college and university faculties would be displaced from teaching first two years of college from 2016-2018.
The basic character of Philippine education system is the basic argument against K-12
The ideals of education are that, it should facilitate the building and development of the foundations for continued development of human societies. Consistent with the basic and essential nature and character of humans as social beings with innate rational or mental, aesthetic, physical and emotional faculties and capacities that differentiate humanity from animals, education, as a social need and function, develops and enhances, systematizes and crystallizes the basic nature and characters of humans. Thus, education should be social, liberating and developmental
But established education system, in general, is always relative to the limitations and capacities of states and governments and needs of societies.
The colonial orientation of Philippine education
Philippine education system serves the needs of every period of development as shaped and designed in the interests of the US and its local allies.
The US upon occupation of the country, established a public school system as it subjected the Filipino people under its rule. Education served to win the hearts and minds of the colonized people and to quell resistance. It projected the colonizers as benevolent and resistance as banditry. It banned nationalist songs, poems and emblems in schools and elsewhere in the country as it made students sing daily the “Star Spangled Banner” at the raising of the American flag.
To sustain this colonial order, the US instituted higher learning to train generations of young intellectuals to administer Philippine society and all its aspects—economy, politics and governance, education and culture, police and military. It rallied best of the youth around scholarship grants/programs in the US and the established State University that remolded their consciousness and trained them according to the demands of perpetuating the colonial order.
The US, then a new and rising imperialist power, needed to consolidate hold on the Philippines as both captive market and base for its global designs.
The US used its optimum resources, both funds and personnel, to establish an education system and institutions that would nurture the culture and thinking of dependence on American rule and everything “Stateside”—consumer goods, culture, ideas and taste—thus, a captive and loyal market for US products and designs.
It established normal schools to train Filipino teachers for primary schooling of children while American personnel founded most of the secondary schools that later became the provincial high schools.
The colonial government upgraded the labor capacity of Filipinos even as it violently suppressed the country’s organized labor force. It put up trade and agricultural schools for this purpose. Filipino labor found employment in manufacturing and industries along ship repair, sugar refining, copra and tobacco processing, mining, logging and plantations. Some laborers were sent to the US to work in jobs reserved for Afro-Americans and Latinos such as plantations in Hawaii and California and as dockworkers or stevedores in New York.
Along with the Filipino workers were intellectuals (pensionados) who trained in the US and observed, felt and absorbed the American way of life.
When the Filipino people were deemed ready for self-rule”, the “nationalism” promoted was in forms and symbols. National hero, national dress, flower, fish, animal, later national language defined “nationalism” even as the state continued to suppress bloodily all resistance to colonial rule.
The American rulers who earlier banned the study of Philippine history allowed it from 1935 although it was history according to the re-written version by the colonizers. It portrayed the Philippine-American war as an accident or a quirk of fate. It erased from both memory and education materials the atrocities done by American soldiers. It justified direct American rule as necessary “tutelage” to prepare and guide the Filipinos for “self-rule.” As World War II loomed, however, the American rulers reinforced the culture of dependence on the US even more.
Post War: Basic Education in the Cold War Period until 1970
The US emerged as the only imperialist power after WWII. Nonetheless, it was locking horns with its former war ally the Soviet Union in the Cold War that lasted until 1970s. With the changed world situation and the US’s call for decolonization, the Philippines, after more than 40 years of American tutelage, was ready for independence that was “granted on July 4, 1946 on condition that the Philippines sign the Treaty of General Relations, which in effect and in fact, kept US sovereignty over the country.
With the conditions of post-war reconstruction and the continuation of what the US had laid down during its direct rule, the US and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) closely monitored the Philippine education from 1946-1970.
Distorted social and historical concepts and sense of values
Post-war basic education until 1970 was mainly along what the US designed in 1935. Considering the social unrests in the country and the persistent calls for genuine independence, social studies for the elementary and high school included teaching distorted models of nationalism or patriotism. For instance, it equated patriotism to subscribing and being loyal to what the state promotes. Any contrary view or dissent was un-patriotic and subversive. It taught that colonialism served the interest of the colonized people like, “the Spaniards came to Christianize us; the Americans came to teach us how to govern ourselves and returned to liberate us”.
The concept of democracy was reduced to “right” to vote; to the checks and balances between branches of government and obscured reality that these branches of government and the knowledge of the formal/official functions of government, the police and military remained the domains of the moneyed elite.
Matching subjects to changing needs of the social order molded by US and US led global trends
But widespread illiteracy, in the midst of poverty, remained and the dislocations caused by the war and the balance of payments and fiscal crisis from 1948-1949 exacerbated these. Elementary, much more, high school education was beyond reach of people in barrios/barangays outside town and provincial centers. Illiteracy limited the capacity of the country as market for everything “stateside” and “modern” and for publications promoting ideas and ideals of the great “American Dream”.
Thus, English remained the principal medium of instruction, the national language and local dialects as supplementary. English remains, until now, the official language of the government and courts, of formal and business communications, of most publications and, of advertisements and product labels. The schools sufficiently equipped the young generations with basic tools to form and communicate ideas verbally and in writing, principally in English and secondarily, in Pilipino.
Post-war reconstruction, “import substitution industrialization” and government corporations needed engineers, accountants, bookkeepers, secretaries, more lawyers, doctors and other medical practitioners, more teacher and skilled workers. In this regard and because the world is modernizing and because the country had to deal with outbreaks of diseases like cholera, it was necessary to teach corporations needed engineers, accountants, bookkeepers, secretaries, more lawyers, doctors and other medical practitioners, more teacher and skilled workers. In this regard and because the world is modernizing and because the country had to deal with outbreaks of diseases like cholera, it was necessary to teach mathematics, physics, health and natural sciences and to apply these in practical, home economics, industrial arts and high school laboratory classes.
The government received foreign loans and grants from the US and other countries or international funding agencies in order to have enough funds to sustain basic education, even as foreign debt was steadily growing. Elementary and high schools maintained the proper teacher to student ratio for a length of time. The average class size was 25-30 students. The teachers were able to attend to the whole class and to each student and still had enough time to prepare lesson plans. Through such ratio, teachers got to know their students better and thus, were able advisers and counselors. Classes were whole day that afforded sufficient time for every set of subjects per day.
Funds, though, were not enough for building new public schoolhouses and classrooms. Most of the school buildings, while spacious and well ventilated, were of pre-WWII vintage, others are converted bunkhouses of American soldiers and war refugees during “liberation”.
In the latter part of 1960s, decreasing education graduates was a growing concern in the face of annual increases in school enrollment, retirement of old teachers and transfer of some teachers to private schools. The main factor to the declining interest in education courses was the relatively low salary of public school teachers compared to other professions or jobs and the tempting need for nurses in the US.
In the face of protests by teachers, the Congress enacted the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers in 1966 to ensure the well-being of teachers and encourage other AB and BS graduates to become teachers by completing 18 education units while teaching.
Neo-liberal globalization: Retrogression of 10-year basic education and 2 more years of senior high school
The Cold War thawed after US’ defeat in its Indochina war and the “détente” talks between US and Soviet Union. The mighty US economy started to decline by 1970, as Japan and Germany rose from severely war-damaged economies. The US fell into successive financial crises starting 1970. The 1970 crisis had immediate impact on the Philippines, because the US was its main trading partner. The peso value against the dollar plummeted to P6 to $1 from P4 to $1.
The crisis became full-blown when the US floated the dollar after it ended the fixed exchange rate system of US Dollar-Gold Standard in 1971; the price of oil jumped from $2- $15 a barrel from 1973-1979 resulting to crisis of stagflation from 1974-1980. The crisis ushered in the neo-liberal economic design pushed principally by the declining world superpower, USA. The huge reserves of “petro dollars”, from earnings of oil producing countries and super-profits of the oil cartel, were “overflowing” in American and European Banks.
The banks through the IMF and World Bank (WB) loaned to many governments the huge surplus of “petro dollars”. The loans were called structural adjustment loans (SAL) for the structural adjustment programs (SAP) pushed by the IMF-WB.
The US through the IMF-WB reversed the Philippine economy from “import-substitution industrialization” to “import dependent, export-oriented, labor intensive industrialization” from 1967- 1980s. Soon, the export oriented strategy included export of labor.
Debt-driven reforms of basic education
The debt-driven re-structuring of the Philippine economy logically led to re-structuring or “reforming” of the education system. Basic education underwent a series of reforms from 1970 until very recently. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and official development aid and loans from foreign governments pushed the reforms.
The reforms the Philippines implemented from 1972-1982 focused on re-structuring and building the administrative bodies for higher education, non-formal education and the National Youth and Manpower Council (NYMC) that later became Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). The NYMC/TESDA focused on vocational and technical courses/trainings and administered vocational and technical schools. Vocational and technical courses provided for the demands of labor intensive “industrialization and labor export.
Of the instituted reforms, the decentralization of basic education was revealing. The national government passed the responsibility to ensure basic education on to local governments but the national government provided financial assistance and access to other financial resources. With petro dollar loans, the Marcos dictatorship pushed the upgrading and building of more school facilities and buildings.
The Marcos dictatorship instituted all the 1972-82 structuring of administrative bodies and their functions in the Education Act of 1982. In the same year, the WB-funded 1982-1989 Program for Decentralized Education Development (PRODED) commenced. PRODED changed the curriculum to emphasize science, technology, math, English reading and writing. It compressed subjects on social studies, history and Pilipino into Makabayan subject.social studies, history and Pilipino into Makabayan subject.
The succeeding 1991-1999 Education for All Philippine Plan of Action I (EFA-I) emphasized on non-formal and informal education programs, later called Alternative Learning System (ALS), to catch-up on the ever-increasing number of school drop-outs. EFA I also implemented the final phase of decentralization of formal basic education through fiscal autonomy—strengthening cooperation among school, home, community and local government and self-reliance on resource generation.
General impacts of “reforms”
Decentralization was stimulus to commercialized education and gave reasons for the national government to default on building new school buildings and hiring more teachers. Fiscal autonomy also resulted in stark differences among local governments’ income capacities to build new public school buildings, and grant additional cost of living allowances and hire new teachers. At the school level, self-reliance on fund sourcing resulted to the frequency of fund raising activities disrupting regular classes, which, in the first place, the schools have reduced to two sessions a day.
Over all, the 10-year basic education consistently produces dropouts and graduates who are barely functionally literate and unable to apply concretely basic math. Poverty mainly causes dropouts as an increasing number of families need every able member to join in eking out the daily income. Nevertheless, various reasons attributable to the deteriorated education do not spare even students from average and better-off families and average and bright students from losing interest in formal schooling.
The DepEd argument that top of the main problems is “congested curriculum” is not factual. It has reformed the basic education curriculum several times starting from PRODED resulting to constriction until social studies, history and other subjects that could make students socially conscious, sensitive and critical have become almost absent.
Factually congested are the classrooms and the teaching and learning time of teachers and students. The sets of classes that the reforms have reduced to ½-1/3 of the day give no allowance for recess or break times. Students eat foodstuffs sold inside classrooms while classes of 60-90 students proceed. Students ordering anything from candies to ice-cold drinks frequently disrupt teaching. Classroom congestion makes it impossible for over-loaded teachers to monitor the learning process of
It is insulting to parents, teachers and the students who went through 10 years of basic education to learn cookery, janitorial jobs or beauty and nail care in two more years! Two more years to produce graduates that fit the kind of jobs demanded by corporations that make every worker/employee do two or more tasks at a time. K-12 is also insulting to those who finish 6 months or 2 years of training to become good secretaries, automotive mechanics, precision machine operators, refrigeration and air-conditioning technicians, electronics technicians or skilled welders.
Adding 2 years to deteriorated 10-year basic education is like placing 2 big rocks on top of a dilapidated 2-storey house.
It is crazy, mindless and insensitive for the PNoy government and the DepEd to push through with K-12 as scheduled but in total disregard of actual state of Philippine education that they themselves recognize as deteriorated.
WE in the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya call on the people, especially the teachers and all members of the academic community, students and parents to unite and fight for these urgent demands:
The PNoy government to cease and desist from implementing the K-12 basic education program!
Make the World Bank, ADB, the US, Canadian, Australian, Japanese and other foreign governments and private global corporations that pushed the “reforms” pay for damages that worsened Philippine education system!
Save the present young and future generations from social insensitivity and retrogression!
Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (Kilusan)
June 4, 2015