DepEd's K+12 plan: Learning from the Netherlands

By Dheza Marie Aguilar, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Nov 17 2010 03:05 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2010 04:13 AM

NETHERLANDS - Time and money. These are the two main issues why a lot of Filipinos, lawmakers, parents and students alike, are questioning the feasibility of the K+12 proposal of the Department of Education (DepEd).

Many believe that adding 2 more years to basic education will be more expensive, both for government and the parents, and will take additional years away from students, which they can otherwise use in looking for a job.

While Oscar Sañez, member of the Presidential Task Force on Education and President of Business Outsourcing Association of the Philippines, admits that it is a Herculean task to pass and implement the K+12 proposal, it actually targets to solve, in the long run, these problems. Parents will have to spend less money in sending their children to school, and graduates will easily get a job in a shorter period of time.

The K+12 proposal will involve a complete overhaul of the educational system in the country, from adding two years to the basic education, re-training of the teachers, increasing the number of classrooms, acquiring new software and knowledge from other countries and involving companies into providing the right kind of jobs for new graduates.

“The prospective is that we need an education reform. If we don’t do this, in the long term, many of our graduates will continue to fail relative to the other students in other countries competing with the Philippines for the same talent. This is a good step in improving the competitiveness of the Philippines in the area of skills and workforce development,” said Sañez in an exclusive interview with Balitang Europe in the Netherlands.

Targeting skills’ gaps

According to Sañez, there are three main things that are missing from our graduates. These are communication skills, not only in English but in effectively communicating ideas across in a professional and persuasive way, critical thinking in solving complex issues and the level of maturity of students towards the appreciation and love for their country.

To achieve these, Sañez said the government should be committed not only in terms of budget allocation but in carrying out the implementation of the reform. This means bringing in new technology and knowledge from other countries, and changing the methodology of teaching in the country which has been very structural or lecture-type from the beginning.

The K+12 educational reform proposal has a budget requirement of approximately P200 billion, which will be implemented throughout a 4-year period.

“You don’t have to spend the additional P200 billion in one year. If you can get a grant plus regular government budget, mga 50 or less billion pesos a year you will be able to implement,” said Sañez.

The reform, he added, will also be gradually implemented in 4 years to avoid colleges and universities from closing down due to lack of enrollments.

More years in high school

Cora Dee, former professor and lecturer at the Ateneo de Davao University and Erasmus University in the Netherlands, supports the proposal of increasing years in the basic education in the Philippines. According to her, adhering to the international standard of education is the only way that the Filipinos can compete even more in the global work field. She also agrees that a lengthened educational system will be more economical for parents.

“Whether we like it or not, the world has become so small that wherever you are, there are Filipinos all over the world. Kung mag-improve and educational system natin, all the more na magiging competitive tayo hindi lamang sa ibang bansa ngunit pwede din natin itong gamitin sa ating bansa,” said Dee.

But as opposed to the one year additional in elementary and one year in high school, Dee thinks that it is better to increase the years in high school all together. She said that the Philippines can be inspired by the Dutch, 9th in the rank of best educational system in the world by the Program for International Student Assessment.

In the Netherlands high school education is divided into 4, 5 or 6 years based on the skills and abilities of the students, from vocational study, applied or technical courses and research or scientific field, respectively. The type of high school that a student will go to is determined by their performances in the elementary level.

According to Dee, focusing and developing the specific skills of students in high school will make them perform better in the tertiary level. This will also help students and parents on deciding whether to pursue a degree which will take a longer period of time or finishing a study that will give them jobs at the soonest possible time like vocational and technical education.

Mixed reactions

Filipino students in the Netherlands have mixed reactions to the proposed educational reform.

Mylene Abarquez, a student from Mindoro who migrated to Canada, experienced first-hand the disadvantage of the 10-year basic education system that the Philippines currently has.

When she was applying for a course in the university, she had to take two additional years of high school in order to qualify for university. This is why she supports the K+12 proposal.

“I think it is a very good proposal. But in my experience, dapat two years na lang iyong high school. Sa atin kasi, all the subjects are given na ng teacher. When I was in Vancouver, dahil gusto kong maging nurse, I have to choose more sciences na classes so its up to me kung alin ang kukuhanin kong pre-requisites sa college,” said Abarquez.

But more than the reform, Abarquez thinks that the government should focus more on giving the teachers a bigger salary and more incentives. She said that if the teachers are more motivated to educate, a better quality of education will follow.

Another student from The Hague University, Queenly Tolentino, believes that educational reforms will put the Philippines at par with global standards.

“Ang labanan kasi ngayon intense na eh. Since ang Pilipinas 10-year pa rin ang education, left behind na tayo. Kailangan dagdagan nila para internationally competitive tayo,” she said.

Tolentino also opposes the current lecture-type of teaching in the country. She said that this does not really enhance the talents and skills of the students.

Meanwhile for Mick dela Rosa, another Pinoy student in the Netherlands taking up International Business and Management Studies, the money that will be spent on educational reform should instead be put to improving teaching conditions like more classrooms and books.

“Sa tingin ko hindi na. Yong curriculum na meron tayo, ok na eh. Sa implementation ang nagiging problema. Kahit napa-ideal ng curriculum once ilagay mo na sa sistema, wala kang enough na facility hindi din magagamit,” said dela Rosa.

Despite differences in opinions, these students believe that the Aquino government should focus on improving the educational system in the country, whether through educational reform or improved facilities and benefits for teachers.