Philippines K-12 program could leave many school-less

Up to 800,000 underprivileged students 'will become drop-outs' when additional two years added to education
Philippines K-12 program could leave many school-less

Schoolchildren in Laguna province hold classes in makeshift rooms due to a shortage of classrooms (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

Only half of the Philippines’ 1.6 million students currently in their final year of high school will be able to continue their studies when the government next week extends national education by two years.

Under the “K-12” education program, which will be launched next week, the country will add two years to senior high school. Currently, basic education only goes through Grade 10.

While the program has been lauded for improving educational opportunities, groups that work with poor communities say the program will render nearly one million students “drop-outs”.

"The possibility of having more out-of-school youth with the implementation of the K-12 program is high," said Fr Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Public Affairs Committee of the bishops' conference.

He told that the poor will be particularly impacted by the changes in the country's educational system because it will mean an "additional financial burden for poor families that are already struggling to make ends meet."

"Do you think they will still be capable to absorb all those extended financial difficulties with regards to education?" Secillano asked.

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced last week that the country is "K-12 ready” and said that up to 1.6 million students from public schools are expected to enter senior high school. 

Education Secretary Armin Luistro, however, admitted in a statement that the schools could accommodate only between 800,000 and 1.1 million students, a deficit of up to 800,000 students. 

The Education Department said that up to one million students will have to enroll in private schools, which have higher tuition compared to government-run institutions.

"Many students are in public schools precisely because they cannot afford to study in private schools," said Vencer Crisostomo of the youth group Anakbayan. He said K-12 is turning into a "money-making scheme for capitalist educators".

Crisostomo told that private schools are using the K-12 program as "pretext to implement increases in tuition rates and collect various fees".

The Education Department said it is planning to give scholarship "vouchers" for those set to study in "non-DepEd schools". These vouchers will range from US$180 to a maximum of $400 per student. 

The amount, however, is not enough to cover fees and expenses in private schools that cost up to $2,000, not to mention other expenses like transportation, food and miscellaneous costs.

Crisostomo said the implementation of the K-12 system will "definitely worsen the already alarming drop-out rate in the country".

A study done by independent think-tank IBON shows that youths aged 15-24 make up the highest number of unemployed, of which, seven out of ten are high-school or college graduates. 

At present, half of the youth population aged 11-15 are out of school and only 20 out of 100 entering Grade 1 are set to finish college.

"The government must indeed seriously rethink this policy. Otherwise, instead of helping students and families it may even close the door on opportunities for the poor," said Secillano. 

In a statement, the group "Coalition for K to 12 Suspension" estimates that as many as 56,771 out of 111,351 college teachers and 22,838 non-teaching staff are likely to lose their jobs due to the dramatic decline in the number of college enrollees when the K-12 program is implemented. 

The Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP), however, said in a statement that the Philippines should implement the program and cautioned patience from critics. 

"We have to make this happen. Our nation, our people cannot afford to delay this any further," said La Salle Brother Jun Erguiza, CEAP president.

He said that "like any other forms of transition in life", the implementation of the K-12 system "cannot be free from any form of disruption and confusion".

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