Kindergarten and the 12 years of Elementary and Secondary Education
WTF WTF Katrina Angela Macapagal English 10 10 April 2013 No k in their K-12 Studying in a public elementary school and one of the largest public high schools in Mindanao, I have been immersed in a population of students from different walks of life after kindergarten.Yes, different walks of life.There were kids from extremely rich families and then there were the children of the poor as well.
But in my section, an engineering science curriculum, three quarters of the class came from prominent wealthy families, children of provincial politicians, and owners of vast farm lands.
And I belong to the remaining fourth of the section. If you take a peek in our class while we have our discussions, in every armchair, there is a seated a student with a thick book on top of the desk. We are always present in class, worried about our homework and doing our best to grasp the topics in advanced Math, Sciences and other electives. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the remaining 30 sections of our year level which belong to the basic education curriculum (BEC). The real plight of public school students is resonated by the situation of these 30 sections in my year level.
Every time I would enter their room, what always invites my attention is the absence of a large fraction of the students. In some rooms, it would seem that the class has a perfect attendance because all of the chairs are occupied, but that is not the real case. The section just simply lacks chairs making it easy for me to assume all the students are present. Also, the books they use in various subjects most especially in Science and Social Studies, provided by the government, contain massive errors in facts and lack the level of academic competitiveness suited for a senior high school.
Every time I see documentations in the television about conditions of public schools, I always tell myself that we, the students of my school, are still lucky compared to those kids in remote regions across the archipelago, and even the students in urban areas like Metro Manila. I could not grasp the thought of having a class while my classmates and teachers’ feet are submerged in murky water. I could not imagine having a Science and Health class while all of us are sitting on the ice-cold floor. I could not bear the idea of learning while we are grilled under the scorching sun.
I think I cannot survive my papers if our library lacks the wisdom it must possess. I believe we could not have a good class discussion if my teacher does not have the materials for teaching like chalks and pens. I think it would be hard having a class while your room is being used as a shelter for typhoon victims. And lastly, I could not imagine the younger students suffer from this kind of environment for two years more because of an immature and unprepared educational program implemented in an inappropriate haste.
Despite such hindrances in achieving a quality education, the Department of Education (DepEd), under the auspices of President Aquino, still pursued the implementation of “Kindergarten and the 12 years of Elementary and Secondary education” otherwise known as K to12 program last school year 2012-2013. The implemented program added two more years in the old 10-year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) of the country. Also, before reaching the elementary level, a child must have undergone the kindergarten education.
In the K to 12 program, an optional one year pre-kindergarten course is offered, and once a child reaches 5 years old, he or she must be schooled in the mandatory kindergarten curriculum. By K to 12 definition, the elementary level consists of grades one to six, just like the old system. The drastic change is seen as the students go to high school which is now divided into two: the junior and senior high school. In junior high school, the students will spend four years, and two more years in the senior high school where the core subjects Math, Science, and Language will be strengthened.
Specializations for the students will be offered to the students as well. The goal of the program is “to provide sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners, and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship,” (Official Gazette) a noble mission indeed, worthy of the Filipino people’s support. But the flaws in the way the government and the DepEd handled and will handle the implementation of the program leads to the bursting of the bubbles of hope in achieving a better educational system and producing high-caliber graduates.
They succumbed easily to international pressure and rushed things which were supposed to be planned and funded with adequate budget. It is not the right time for K to 12. Before the K to 12 program started, The Philippines is one of the three countries in the world, and the only one in Asia, with only ten years of basic education along with Djibouti and Angola in Africa. Other countries have 11-14 years of basic and pre-university education. We have been left behind in terms of the numbers, but is that really the problem as of now?
Pro K to 12 people always insist the fact that we are behind foreign countries in international tests because of the ten-year basic education curriculum. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) conducted a test in 2008 which was participated by 25 countries, including the Philippines. The results showed that the country, despite the fact that the best students from science schools took the exam, was still 23rd in rank. Also, the scores the takers got were overwhelmingly below average.
However, the examination was only taken by grade four and second year high school students.The number of years a student spent on BEC doesn’t dictate how high or low the score he or she would get in the test but it is the curricula and the upbringing during the early years that would greatly affect the performance of the student. Adding two years in the BEC will not do any better for the students, as long as the teaching in lower years is not mended. In K to 12, a student must be schooled in kindergarten before reaching the elementary level.
This mandatory one year kindergarten is not as controversial as the additional two years in high school since there is a universal acceptance of the significance of pre-school education in the development of a child. Studies have shown that Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is associated with better cognitive and social skills development. Students who have undergone ECCD tend to learn more and stay longer in school according to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report in 2005 (37) . Indeed, the one year kindergarten is an essential part of the implemented K to 12.
But do we have an adequate number of Kindergarten teachers who have studied the field of early pedagogy to sufficiently give the needs of kindergarten pupils? In the urban areas, there is no problem with kindergarten education since it is accessible to all in their barangay centers, but how about in the mountainous regions? Every day, does the DepEd expect mothers to carry their five year-old children while they cross tens of rivers and rough terrains just to reach the kindergarten schools in the low-lands?
And if the child did not go to kindergarten and is not allowed to be enrolled in the elementary level, is it the parents’ fault for not letting their kid go to pre-school because they have no access to it in their village at the top of the mountain? As long as we do not have the right budget allocation for this program, we could not vanquish these scruples in our educational system. Sadly, the program was hastily implemented while we still have doubts about the project allocation. Better planning with a slower pace and a higher budget for education is the solution for a program to come into fruition.
It is not the right time for K to 12. In the elementary level, the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education is to be used as a method of teaching in grades one to three. Local languages are the modes of instruction but English and Filipino are still to be taught focusing on oral fluency. During grades four to six, both English and Filipino will be used as languages of instruction in various subjects. Also, Science will not be taught in grades one and two anymore and a spiral curriculum is to be followed.
In a nutshell, this spiral curriculum is a method of covering too many topics at the same time without giving focus and priority to a specific area of study. Moreover, there would be fewer hours spent in school for a decongested academic workload, giving students more time to learn their lessons and have extra-curricular activities outside the classroom. Teaching the students with mother tongue is truly an effective way of instruction since in the early years of the children, they have already, somehow, understood the language.
But to use three languages in a very early level of grade one is similar to assuming that all of our students are fast learners, and the truth is that only a few of them are. This kind of teaching will just simply bring confusion to most students and might lead to a poorer performance. Incorporating the three languages must be gradual, not instantaneous. With the removal of Science in grades one and two curriculum, I, as a product of public school education, was shocked by this ridiculous idea because Science, in the first place, was not even taught to us public elementary students in grades one and two.
Public school students like me only started to learn the parts of the plants and the planets of the solar system when we were in grade three. How could they remove something that doesn’t even exist beforehand? Instead of removing the non-existing Science subject, it must be included in the early years of elementary as well as in kindergarten. Eschach and Fried argued that children naturally enjoy observing and thinking about nature; exposing students to science develops positive attitudes towards science and; early exposure to scienti? phenomena leads to better understanding of the scienti? c concepts studied later in a formal way (315). Regarding the spiral curriculum in science, teaching basic concepts of general sciences like biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science is highly applicable and attainable in preparing students in the rigorous approach of science in high school. But do we have a sufficient number of teachers? No. As of 2012, the Philippines still lack 61 510 teachers, which the government promised to hire by 2013 (Official Gazette).
Once the DepEd have finished hiring all these teachers, are we sure that the younger students are learning science from a science teacher and not from a language teacher? This is one of the most common faults in our BEC in public schools and would most probably be prevalent in K to 12 because of the rush in hiring teachers. In K to 12, thinking skills is prioritized more than memory work and accumulation of facts, a goal so elusive if the teacher just reads a book aloud in the discussion without even asking the students to critically examine the topic because of the lack of mastery in the subject.
Last point in the elementary level, is the shorter hours of every day classes. This means there would be more free time for schoolchildren, an opportunity for them to be engaged in child labor. Less hours allotted in school also means more possible time to be spent in the internet, video games, television, and all other factors that greatly affect the sound education of a 21st century kid. And let us not forget the fact that there are students who travel for hours every day just to go to school.
The half-day of school every day is not worthwhile of all their efforts just to come to school, most especially those children who have to swim rivers and climb mountains daily. Seeing these flaws in the elementary level, it is not yet time for K to 12. After grade six, like in some private schools, a student would then go to grade seven, not in first year high school. It’s not only the level name that has changed but also the duration of high school and its division into two parts: the junior and senior high school, making up a total of six years.
K to 12 promises to hone our high school students in the different areas of learning most especially in science and technical-vocational field to produce well-rounded graduates who could get jobs without getting a college degree in a university. Also, a spiral curriculum is to be followed to ensure “better” learning process for the students. In high school K to 12, the spiral curriculum, again, is to be applied. The learning of basics in elementary should not be continued in high school.
Once a student reaches the secondary level, a layered approach should be undertaken to ensure mastery in the different branches of science. In a layered approach, per year level, there is a corresponding field of science to be studied; Earth Science in 1st year; Biology in 2nd year; Chemistry in 3rd year; and Physics in the 4th year. If the spiral curriculum is to be used again in high school, the focus of the students in a particular subject might be distracted because of a sudden halt in the topic and a rough transition to another branch of science in the next quarters of the school year.
Adding two years in high school means two more years of suffering for the parents and the students. Yes, studying in a public high school is free but there are miscellaneous expenses that make “accessible education” an illusion for the poor. ”Although public elementary education is free, school-related expenses like transportation fare, snacks, lunch, school supplies and other learning materials are beyond the financial capabilities of poor parents,” UNESCO said.
These expenditures result to a high dropout rate in schools. As a matter of fact, in the year 2010, 8% percent of students leave high school and the leading reasons are high cost of expenses, lack of interest, schools are very far, and looking for work (Roces and Genito). It is true that public education is not for everyone; it is only for the poor who can still sacrifice money amidst their hunger. Does prolonging this agony for the poor produce more graduates who have undergone a better curriculum? I doubt.
As the years become longer, the number of school leavers becomes higher, not if the government would provide more facilities and services that could help our elementary and high school students in their everyday education. Out of every 100 Filipino schoolchildren enrolled every year, 66 will complete elementary education, 42 will finish high school but only 14 will earn a college degree, says the Center for Asia and the Pacific Studies. With this trend in the number of graduating students from elementary until college, one could clearly see how poorly the government focuses in educating the youth.
And now DepEd is imposing this K to 12 program without even addressing such problems in different levels. Before the implementation of K to 12, 42 students finish high school. With additional two years, it seems that DepEd expect a higher number of graduates in high school considering the current prioritization of the government to education. Taking into account all these insufficient preparations and strategies set by DepEd, it is more likely that K to 12 is bound to fail. We are not yet ready; it is not the right time for the program. If not now, when?
It is when our government would give full support to the education of our youth; when one is to one becomes the ratio between the students and the high-caliber books in different subjects most especially in Language and Science; when students in the mountains need not to travel on foot for hours every day just to reach the “nearby” school in the other mountains; when we have the right number of excellent teachers to provide the academic needs of our students; when we have already constructed the essential facilities such as classrooms, comfort rooms, tables, and chairs corresponding to the high population of students; when the class size becomes much smaller than today’s 50, 35-40 being the manageable size (Senate Economic Planning Office, 7); when the flaws in the curriculum of our current educational system are corrected to suit best the eternal search of our students for proficiency in the different fields of learning and global competitiveness and; when the government’s budget for education becomes higher than the current 2. 7% spending, preferably at least 6%2 of the Gross Domestic Product (UNESCO) or the share of education to the national budget would rise up to 20% which is the average spending of developing countries (World Bank). Knowing that K to 12 would cost as much as P150 billion, the Philippine government did not do any significant effort to increase the budget for education and while the program is being run, DepEd has been doing its preparations.
With these kinds of arrangement being done to fulfill the goals of K to 12, one could clearly see that it is not the right time for the Philippines to add two years to its current 10-year BEC. In 2003, the South Asian country of Bhutan, which is much poorer than the Philippines, has undergone the transition from four-year BEC to six. Two years before this transition, Bhutan has increased its public expenditure for education to 5. 9% and in 2003, it rose up to as much as 7. 2 percent of the country’s GDP. Also, from an average class size of 39, it lowered down to 23 even with the additional two years in secondary education. This is a preparation that should serve as an inspiration for the Philippines’ K to 12, not hurried and given much planning.
Truly, two years of extended BEC is another worry for parents and students but if the government would give an undying support to the education of children from kindergarten to high school, it is more likely that the additional two years will not lengthen the burden of the students but will strengthen their knowledge in technical-vocational and scientific fields. Adding two years to the BEC should not be treated by the government as just mere compliance to international standards on paper, but as an essential means of boosting the skills and knowledge of our students to produce graduates that could survive the grueling challenges of life after high school.
With two years more, students will be exposed to the field of their interests, and will have a chance to be trained in their chosen elective that could give them a higher chance of having a job or business after finishing high school. TESDA could give examinations to graduating senior high school students to grant them a National Certificate, proof of a student’s competence in the chosen tech-voc discipline. On the other hand, for the students with an unending pursuit of excellence in Science and Language, the senior high school is an avenue for them to hone their knowledge in the chosen elective. This could also serve as their pre-university education and might lead to the diminution of the number of years of taking up a course in universities like in other countries with K to 12. Good education is expensive but lack of education costs many times more,” this is clearly stated in the Philippine Education For All plan (7) but with the government’s actions in undertaking the K to 12 program, they are contradicting what is wisely expressed in their EFA plan. The state must prioritize education above all, thus giving much more budget for the training of our teachers, accumulation of better facilities, construction of more classrooms and schools in far-flung regions, printing of high quality textbooks, and distribution of school supplies to the have-nots. When we have already fed the hunger of our famished educational system, then we are ready for K to 12, but not their K to 12. Works cited “Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2005: The Quality Imperative. ” UNESCO. 2004. Web. April 2013 < http://unesdoc. unesco. org/images/0013/001373/137334e. pdf> “Functionally Literate Filipinos: An Educated Filipino. ” National Action Plan to Achieve Education for all by the Year 2015. October 2005. Web. 7 April 2013. Haim, Eschach and Michael Fried. “Should Science be Taught in Early Childhood? ” Journal of Science Education and Technology 14. 3 (2005): 315 TCNJ. Web. 8 April 2013. <http://www. tcnj. edu/~minogue/Course%20Materials/Should%20Science%20Be%20Taught%20in%20EC. pdf> “K to 12: The Key to Quality Education? ” Policy Brief. Senate Economic Planning Office. June 2011. Web. 6 April 2013. < http://www. senate. gov. h/publications/PB%202011-02%20-%20K%20to%2012%20The%20Key%20to%20Quality. pdf> Roces, Lilia and Deogracias Genito. “Basic Education Information System (BEIS). ” 2004. Web. 7 April 2013. < http://www. nscb. gov. ph/ncs/9thncs/papers/education_BEIS. pdf> “The K to 12 Basic Education Program. ” Official Gazette. n. d. Web. 6 April 2013. <http://www. gov. ph/k-12/> ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Refers to the 155 member countries of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). [ 2 ]. Reflected in the Senate Economic Planning Office’s report “K to 12: The Key to Quality Education? ”