Outgoing Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro supports his successor's plan to expand the alternative learning system (ALS) to provide equal opportunities to those who will not be covered by the K-12 program.
"I think any additional budget item for the alternative learning system is a wonderful resource that could be used so that we could actually universalize education up to 18 years old," he said in an interview with ANC's Headstart on Tuesday.
Professor Leonor Briones, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's appointee to the education portfolio, has said more funds should be allocated to the ALS in order to aid learners outside the formal education system.
"Right now, may ALS tayo but it is not funded enough. Maliit lang siyang program. Dapat palakihin iyan para sa maiiwan," Briones said.
READ: Incoming educ chief to boost alternative learning system
Luistro said the biggest challenge for the Department of Education (DepEd) was not the K-12 program, but the creation of a "program for those that are still out of the system."
"We have started during this last year of DepEd our last milers. Included in those in our Abot-Alam are really (for) those who are not yet in school," said Luistro.
According to the DepEd's guidelines on the program, Abot-Alam is a convergence program that is being undertaken by a consortium of various national government agencies, and non-government organizations (NGOs) and institutions under the leadership of DepEd and the National Youth Commission (NYC).
It is a national strategy to locate the out-of-school youth (OSY) nationwide who are 15 to 30 years old and who have not completed basic/higher education or who are unemployed.
ON THE K-12 PROGRAM
In the interview, Luistro praised Briones for backing the continuation of the K-12 program. He said the department has been working on the program for five years.
"Is it practical to stop a program that is already at its last stage? I don’t think so. It would be illogical to throw away all the investments of government," he said.
Briones has highlighted the benefits of the K-12 program, saying Filipino job seekers are often given lower positions because their 10 years of basic education does not satisfy global educational standards.
"Compared sa mga bata sa ibang bansa, kulang talaga tayo ng dalawang taon. Iyung ating engineers na napupunta sa abroad, bibilangin nila iyung years ng background, mababa ang position na ibinibigay. Ang mga dentist, ginagawang dental aide; ang mga doktor, ginagawang hospital aide kasi nga kulang ang years ng pag-aaral nila," she said.
However, Luistro assured the public that DepEd is working on plugging the remaining loopholes in the program, such as the alleged displacement of university instructors because of the drop in the number of freshman enrollees.
He said the 13,000 teachers that are supposed to lose their jobs because of the K-12 implementation pertains to the maximum possibility over the next five years, not just this year.
The DepEd, he added, opened the "Green Lane" which had to hire 30,000 new teachers and 6,000 new non-teaching staff for the incoming school year.
“In our records, at least a thousand [teachers] from universities have already been hired in our 200 or so divisions nationwide,” he reported.
Luistro said the teachers hired for the Green Lane had competitive monthly salaries that ranged between P19,000 to P43,000.
He also highlighted that some private universities took it upon themselves to put up their own senior high schools, and transform the freshman classrooms for the usage of the incoming Grade 11 students.
He said the voucher system they have instituted was to assist the parents and students who wish to transfer to private schools where their desired K-12 track is being offered.
He clarified, it was not because the public schools cannot handle the volume of enrollees.
"It’s not that we cannot absorb them; but it is important that students at that level already begin to make a choice of the institution and the program they want to go to," he said.
TEXTBOOKS AND CLASSROOMS
Luistro also urged the next administration to build more classrooms to make sure there is no backlog.
"We should have been building at least 25,000 [classrooms] every year. The average number of classrooms that were built in the previous decade was around 4,000 to 7,000 per year," he cited.
"Even if there are classrooms that we need to [build] and are building, ang hinahabol natin, hindi yung backlog; ang hinahabol natin, yung for the program this year," he noted.
Meanwhile, Luistro said the reported cases of errors in the textbooks are minimal. He said those who have noticed textbook errors must come forward so the department can make the corrections.
He also reported that DepEd has fixed its previously controversial procurement process, saying "every single student now has a textbook from kinder all the way to Grade 11 by this year."
"We bought textbooks at around 27 pesos. Exactly the same textbooks, exactly the same paper bought by the department five years prior to that at 87 pesos or something," he said.
He added they also have a textbook to systematically change the textbooks after every five years.
He also said he wishes the next administration will see the expansion of the digitization of textbooks.
He said the DepEd has so far supplied computer packages to 47,000 schools in the country.
"Increase the number, the ratio of usage of the students and then move from a textbook-based, hardcopy into digital resources," he said.
"We have started all of the K-12 curriculum and resources digitized now. So it's a matter of making sure that all of the schools now have access to portal," he added.