A leap in the Philippines’ education sector

Atty. Katrina Clemente-Lua, Executive Director of the Stratbase ADR Institute

The new school year has just started. An estimated 27.75 million students from kindergarten to Grade 12 are expected to march back to public and private schools.

While the K-to-12 system is yet to be refined and there are still calls to abolish said system, we must not lose sight of the benefit of K-to-12 system. As Secretary Leonor Briones stated, K-to-12 is necessary to equip our learners with appropriate skills and intelligence in order to keep up and flourish with the changing world. Contrary to what critics say, K-to-12 is not a waste of resource, but in fact a way to maximize potential capabilities of our human resources.

Readiness of Filipino high school graduates

With the K-to-12 in place, the Philippines is now aligned with the standard international practice with respect to the number of years of basic education. In fact, prior the shift to K-to-12, the Philippines was the only country left in Asia with only a ten-year cycle.

Senior High School (SHS) graduates, under said system, can opt to immediately join the workforce, go into entrepreneurship or go on further university studies. In any case, did the K-to-12 system produce SHS graduates the readiness required?

With constant innovations and disruption, it is important to promote a lifelong learning for everyone. Lifelong learning is indispensable if we are to keep the relevance of our workforce, especially in the case of changing technology and the rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To ensure and facilitate lifelong learning, it is important that there are no gaps in the quality of basic education and training while being cognizant of the different cultures and values across different regions. Department of Education’s IPEd Program which is an integral part of the K-to-12 system, squarely addresses this concern.

Likewise, the Philippine Qualifications Framework which sets the standards for qualification outcomes has been established. Among its objectives is to align domestic qualification standards with the international qualifications framework thereby enhancing recognition of the value and comparability of Philippine qualifications and supporting the mobility of Filipino students and workers.

Painstakingly however, not all Philippine companies are willing to accept SHS graduates. While these SHS graduates may be competent enough to do the job, companies require further educational qualification such as a college degree, which in some instances does not have any or little alignment to the job description. This further qualification somehow validates the argument of critics that the benefits of a K-to-12 system are purely academic.

While competency of a SHS graduate is critical, educational qualification nevertheless is a crucial factor considered by an employer.

Intervention points

DepEd has initiated programs that would enhance the employment opportunities of SHS graduates, such as holding of job fairs and campaigns for the different industry sectors to re-evaluate its hiring guidelines.

Notwithstanding DepEd’s earnest efforts to elevate the quality of education and training, the private sector has an important role to play and as such, remain to be an indispensable partner of the government.

There is a constant need for close collaboration between public and private sectors in order to fine tune the Philippines Qualifications Framework, that would truly prepare SHS graduates to be globally competitive.

To develop a responsive and outcomes-based system wherein Philippine graduates will have uncontested qualification, inputs from industry partners and stakeholders are essential. Constant collaboration is vital to achieve a truly inclusive and relevant education system.

Image Source: The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

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