A major change in our country’s educational landscape is about to take place: theDepartment of Education (DepEd) is launching the K-12 curriculum this comingJune.According to President Benigno S. Aquino, “We need to add two years to our basiceducation. Those who can afford pay up to fourteen years of schooling beforeuniversity. Thus, their children are getting into the best universities and the bestjobs after graduation. I want at least 12 years for our public school children togive them an even chance at succeeding.” In line with this, the 1987 PhilippineConstitution states that, “The State shall establish, maintain, and support acomplete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs ofthe people and the society.“ Such mandate gives justice to the basic rights ofevery Filipino child: the right to quality education and the right to a quality life.What is K-12?According to the K to 12 Deped Primer (2011), “K-12 means “Kindergarten andthe 12 years of elementary and secondary education.” Kindergarten points to the5-year old child who undertakes the standardized curriculum for preschoolers.Elementary education refers to 6 years of primary school (Grades 1-6) whilesecondary education means four years of junior high school (Grades 7-10 or HSYear 1-4). In addition to this, two years are now allotted for senior high school(Grades 11-12 or HS Year 5-6).Prof. Lorina Calingasan of the College of Education in UP Diliman explains that“K-12 means extending basic education by two years, so instead of having a highschool graduate at 16 (years old), we will have high schoolers graduating at 18.”The DepEd discussion paper (2010) on the enhanced K-12 basic educationprogram explains that this new setup “seeks to provide a quality 12-year basiceducation program that each Filipino is entitled to” (p.5). Furthermore, thepurpose is not simply to add 2 more years of education “but more importantly toenhance the basic education curriculum” (p.5).What is the rationale for this program?There is an urgent need to enhance the quality of basic education in our countryas seen in the education outcomes of Filipino students and the comparativedisadvantage of the Philippines with regard to other countries. The following datawould support this explanation:At present, the Philippines is the only country in Asia and among the threeremaining countries in the world that uses a 10-year basic education cycle.According to a presentation made by the South East Asian Ministers of EducationOrganization (SEAMEO-INNOTECH) on Additional Years in Philippine BasicEducation (2010), the comparative data on duration of Basic and Pre-UniversityEducation in Asia shows that the Philippines allots 10 years not just for the basic
education cycle but also for the pre-university education while all the othercountries have either 11 or 12 years in their basic education cycle.Achievement scores highlight our students’ poor performance in nationalexaminations. The National Achievement Test (NAT) results for grade 6 in SY2009-2010 showed only a 69.21% passing rate while the NAT results for highschool is at a low 46.38%. Moreover, international tests results in 2003 Trends inInternational Mathematics and Science study (TIMSS) show that the Philippinesranked 34th out of 38 countries in HS Math and 43rd out of 46 countries in HS IIScience. Moreover, the Philippines ranked the lowest in 2008 even with only thescience high schools joining the Advanced Mathematics category. 7The present curriculum is described as congested. This means that students donot get enough time to perform tasks because the curriculum is designed to betaught in a span of 12 years and not 10 years. The more obvious result of this isthe fact that most high school students graduate without the readiness to takeupon higher education or employment. These students are not equipped with thebasic skills or competencies needed at work. Furthermore, the short duration ofour basic education program puts Filipinos who are interested to either work orstudy abroad at a disadvantage. This is because other countries see our 10-yearprogram as incomplete, which then, causes Filipino graduates to not beconsidered as professionals abroad.Given all these supporting facts, there is indeed a need to improve the quality ofbasic education by enhancing it and by expanding the basic education cycle.What is the vision of this program?Records will show that as early as 1925, there were already efforts to improvethe basic education curriculum and recommendations have been put forwardsince then. Thus, this idea of adding years to the present curriculum is not new.The K-12 Curriculum envisions “holistically developed learners with 21st centuryskills” (Deped Primer, 2011). At the core of this basic education program is “thecomplete human development of every graduate” (DepEd discussion paper, p.6).This further means that every student would have an understanding of the worldaround him and a passion for life-long learning while addressing every student’sbasic learning needs: “learning to learn, the acquisition of numeracy, literacy, andscientific and technological knowledge as applied to daily life” (p.6). In addition tothis, every graduate is envisioned to have respect for human rights and wouldaim to become “Maka-Diyos, Maka-tao, Makabansa, Maka-kalikasan” (p.6)The K-12 vision aims to have relevance in the socio-economic realm, as well. Thismeans that the students would understand their role as productive members ofthe country. Such vision can only be possible through an enhanced curriculum.
What is the K-12 curriculum all about?According to the DepEd discussion paper (2010), the K-12 curriculum aims toenable every child “to achieve mastery of core competencies and skills” (p.6) anddevelop tracks based on the student’s interests and competencies. The focus ofK-12 is twofold: curriculum enhancement and transition management. Curriculum enhancement – With the K-6-4-2 model, the 2 years for seniorhigh school is aimed at giving the students time to strengthen competencies andacademic skills. The curriculum will also provide specializations in the following:science and technology, music and arts, agriculture and fisheries, sports,business and entrepreneurship, etc, depending on the occupation or career thatthey intend to pursue. These two years will build on skills that are essential totheir chosen field.Transition management - The DepEd mentions in their discussion paper (2010)that they are “preparing a carefully sequenced implementation plan to ensuresmooth transition with the least disruption” in the current program.According to Education Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro, the new curriculum isfocused more on the learners and not on the teacher. Luistro said, “We aremaking it a real learning experience for the students, meaning, it will be less onmemorization and more encouraging of critical thinking”. In addition to this, amother tongue-based multi-lingual education (MTB-MLE) will be used forinstruction in Kinder to Grade 3 classes after studies showed that students learnmore when their language at home is used in discussing the lessons in school.Also, there will be less contact time as Grade 1 pupils will only attend school forhalf a day instead of 6 hours. Luistro explains, “It is important that our learnersdevelop that natural love for learning and not feel that it is something imposed onthem…we will reduce it to four hours to make education less stressful and moreenjoyable.”For the first year high school curriculum, Luistro mentions that the lessons will bemore interactive and meaningful to everyday life. This means that Science will bereflected in terms of its practical use. He further explains, “as students go up theladder, we want them to learn skills that are being demanded by employers whileat the same time giving them the chance to appreciate and enjoy the lessons”.For instance, Luistro stresses that Science is to be integrated in all learning areassince it is a complex subject. He further expounds, “the focus of early education(Kinder to Grade 2) should be the fundamental skills and literacy of the pupils todevelop better comprehension for more complicated subjects such as science”.A study done by SEAMEO points out that the current curriculum allots about1,100 minutes per week in elementary education to Science, which will changewith the introduction of K-12. Luistro says, “this, coupled with teaching morecompetencies, imply congestion in our current elementary Science curriculum.”To address this, Science will now be integrated into the teaching of the Language,Mathematics and Health under MAPEH subjects beginning at Kindergarten.Prof. Calingasan further explains that the K-12 curriculum for Social Studies willinstead center on historical thinking skills rather than memory work (of dates,
names, regions, capitals, etc) and accumulation of facts. She mentions examplesof thinking skills such as “weighing the evidence of any information, usingprimary source evidence, analyzing and interpreting information, manifestingethical standards (e.g., respect for differences, recognition of sources ofevidence/idea). The K-12 Social Studies curriculum will also teach students aboutlocal history.”Who will be affected by this program?Prof. Calingasan explains that incoming Grade 1 and Grade 7 students by schoolyear 2012-2013 are the ones who will be directly affected by the K-12 program.According to a DepEd briefer on K-12, the Department will begin implementingthe curriculum in school year 2012-2013. As mentioned in the article, “theenhanced 12-year curriculum will be implemented starting with incoming Grade 1students. Incoming freshmen of SY 2012-2013 will be the first beneficiaries of afree Senior High School education that will be made available by DepEd in publicschools beginning in SY 2016-2017.”What are the benefits of this program?Prof. Calingasan explains that “while parents may look at this as extendedexpense i.e., paying tuition for another 2 years in high school, this would offsetitself since the competencies one would learn from the additional years are thesame ones which the first two years of general education in college teach.”The DepEd primer (2011) specifies the benefits to individuals and families:1. A decongested academic workload, giving students more time to mastercompetencies and for co-curricular activities and community involvement, thus,allowing for a more holistic development;2. Graduates will possess competencies and skills relevant to the job market andthey will be prepared for higher education;3. K-12 is affordable;4. The potential annual earnings of a K-12 graduate will be higher compared tothe earnings of a 10-year high school graduate;5. Graduates will be recognized abroad.The benefits of K-12 curriculum for the society and the economy are:1. It will contribute to economic growth. Studies show that improvements in thequality of education increases GDP growth. According to the DepEd (2010),studies in the country have reflected that an additional year of school increasesthe earnings by 7.5% and that improvements in the quality of education willenable the GDP grow by 2-2.2%.2. It will facilitate the recognition of Filipino graduates and professionals in othercountries3. A better educated society provides a sound foundation for long-term socio-economic development.What will this mean for students and their future?”Definitely this will mean that they will graduate late (by present reference point),but on another perspective, will mean that they will be more mature when theyenter college, or that they will be ready for work,” explains Prof. Calingasan.The DepEd, in its 2010 discussion paper, explains further that every graduate ofthe K-12 program will have “the courage, the drive, and the relevant skills toengage in work and have a productive life” (p.6). This means that every graduate
is ready to take upon the world as he is prepared holistically to meet thosechallenges.The goal of the K-12 curriculum is to create a purposeful basic education systemthat will “produce productive, responsible citizens equipped with the essentialcompetencies and skills for both life-long learning and employment” (p.7).To summarize, the K-12 curriculum speaks about hope and change for thecountry. As our culture puts great value on education, it is about time that ournational government supports this fully. The K-12 honors every Filipino child’sright to better future as it is designed to “develop a learner who possesses ahealthy mind and body; has a solid moral and spiritual grounding; has essentialknowledge and skills for lifelong learning and self-actualization; engages in criticalthinking and creative problem solving; contributes to the development of aprogressive, just, and humane society; is proud to be a Filipino and appreciatesthe beauty around him/her and cares for the environment for a sustainablefuture.”