Incoming Education Secretary Leonor Briones defends the controversial 'K to 12' program as the new school year opened for most schools today.
Briones said the program has been enacted by law since 2013 and adjustments have been made since to ensure transition to the additional two years in the mandated basic education.
"Itong K to 12 program na ito, itong senior high school na ito ay required by law. 'Yung batas ipinasa pa noong 2013, at mula noon, every year, pinapatupad na itong batas na ito. For the past 4-5 years ang curriculum ng Grade 1 to 10, binago na para mag lead to the senior high school," she said.
She likened this to a typhoon that had a "signal" before hitting the country, and not like an earthquake that hits with no warnings.
"The signal was raised by Congress, by a law in 2013. So you have time to make preparations para ma-weather mo yung sinasabi nating change in education," she said.
Over a million students enter senior high school today as Grade 11 students, as the program is implemented for the first time.
Protests were staged, however, as the new school year opened.
READ: Youth group mounts protest vs K-12
Briones came to the program's defense in the press conference with outgoing Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, saying the Philippines is only catching up with the rest of the world, where it is one of the last three countries without a 12-year basic education scheme.
She also underscored the effects the 10-year scheme had adversely affected the Filipino professionals who sought jobs abroad.
"Alam natin na yung ating mga professionals, ating mga doktor pupunta sa Europa, sa Amerika, sa Middle East, palaging hinahanapan ng kulang nila na two years lalo na sa trabaho," she said.
"Mga nurses, ang lawak na ng experience nila; mga doktor, ang lawak ng ekspiryensya dito sa Pilipinas pagdating sa kanilang trabaho sa labas hinahanapan sila," she added.
The 75-year-old former National Treasurer also noted that this program was not merely for the purpose of the overseas Filipino workers that the country can send abroad, but also for all the Filipinos as the country integrates its ASEAN neightbors.
She said, with the influx of foreigners hoping to land a job in the Philippines, the Filipinos must also up the ante to be able to compete with them.
"Halimbawa sa tourism, sa hotel and restaurant managment: makikita natin, [sic] napipili sila (foreign employees) dahil sa advanced ang kanilang training. So even right in our country, medyo matatalo tayo sa competition," she said.
However, Briones admits that there are still aspects of the implementation that need polishing, but highlighted that it is important that the new scheme be tried soon.
She then likened this to moving into a new house, wherein, she said it is customary that you move into the house while the construction is nearing its end and the contractors are still there.
"Kasi kung lumipat tayo sa bahay na tapos na, hindi natin mahabol ang contractor. Pero pag titira ka pag malapit na matapos, Makita moa ng kulang na mga bubong, mayroong hindi natapos, tubig ay hindi umaandar, ang kuryente, etc.," she said.
"It is by living in that house that you see the problems. This why sa tingin ko, magandang bigyan natin ng kooperasyon, pinag-bibigyan na tayo. Angal tayo nang angal, sabi tayo nang sabi ang baba ng kalidad ng edukasyon natin. Ngayon, may ginagawa na, may nangyayari na, may mangyayari pa. Tulong-tulong tayo para sana madagdagan natin ang mga impormasyon," she explained.