No going back

Dindo Manhit, President of the Stratbase ADR Institute

27.8 million learners are starting the 2019-2020 school year during what could be considered a relatively propitious time marked by four positive events.

First, the Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings upgraded the Philippine credit rating during the first week of May to BBB based on the country’s consistent economic growth, solid fiscal accounts, and good position in the external environment. The ratings mirrored the positive performance projections based on real GDP growth and headline inflation rates.

Second, this was followed by the successful conduct of the midterm elections on May 13, an orderly, peaceful and credible democratic process.

Third, the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking upgraded our country’s rating by 4 notches, from 50 in 2018 to 46 in 2019, based on economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. Established in 1989, the IMD incorporates 235 indicators from each of the 63 ranked countries.

And fourth, such favorable economic environment is simultaneously supported by another year of the implementation of the K-12 program. As reflected in the IMD ranking which factors in the GDP and government spending on health and education, the continuous implementation of the K-12 program directly contributed to the positive ranking.

One of the goals of K to 12, unlike the old 10-year cycle, is for learners to have sufficient instructional time. The curriculum is an outcome-based system focused on preparing learners for higher education, middle level skills development, entrepreneurship, and employment, and, importantly, is attuned to regional and international standards.

As a result, students in the elementary and, later, senior high level become prepared and in turn trained with a technical and student-centered teaching and learning system. In this manner, the creation of a more skilled and competent labor force is well on its way.

In the regional and international arenas, the skilled and competent Filipino students would acquire a professional posture. And at the end of the day, what we are honing under the K-12 program is a student population that possesses the so-called competitive edge both in the intellectual and practical senses.

In particular, the legal and regulatory environment under which the current effort of combining theoretical and empirical learning and adhering to regional and international standards refers to R.A. 105333, otherwise known as the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.

Today, the K-12 program is continuously implemented with full government backing and funding to arm our learners with the necessary skills and intelligence that are adept to the rapidly evolving and changing world. By developing the potential of our vast human resources, it is indeed imperative to make the Filipino student globally competitive.

Within the program and the established Philippine Qualifications Framework, the Philippine learning system is now in sync with international education standards or standard international practices. This helps to address the gap between the education sector and the industry that has caused and bred unemployment and underemployment by facilitating job availability and job creation. Senior high school graduates now have the option to immediately join the workforce upon graduation, start a business, or proceed to university.

Indeed, there should be no going back to a traditional learning system that is passive and reactive to a changing world system. With the perceived social, political, and economic strides that the Philippines has been achieving for the past six years, education is key to maintaining momentum.

However, social and institutional reforms are imperative. For the DepEd, a review or assessment mechanism with regard to the implementation of the K-12 program needs to be institutionalized. In this manner, initiatives, specific programs and projects like the last mile study program, the alternative learning system, schools in barangay, aligning competencies and curriculum standards, instruction, and assessment could be improved.

Likewise, the shifting of focus from access to quality of education could be more contextualized based on the innovation and learnings from the general assessment of the K-12 program. In this respect, the continuing training and education for teachers is a must.

DepEd, moreover, necessarily needs the help of the government in general and the agencies in particular so as to harness efforts and existing programs to serve the education sector. Indispensable as it is, political and economic support are vital to the continuation and success of the K-12 program.

And to complete the triumvirate, industry should also lend a hand in facilitating the transition. In particular, a recalibration of the hiring guidelines and required professional competence of job seekers would be a big boost to welcome the products of the K-12 program.

In a nutshell, the success or “failure” of the program embarks upon a synergized government-industry-education sector coordination and partnership.



This article was originally published in BusinessWorld.

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