Anakbayan statement-critique on the proposed additional two years to the basic education cycle
Based on the statements of Education secretary Armin Luistro last Wednesday, youths have every reason to be wary of the proposed additional two years in basic education.
One of the major problems of basic education in the Philippines is the huge students’ drop-out rate. Last year, the Dept. of Education (DepEd) announced that there are 5.6 million youths from the ages 6-15 years old (in other words, the age for elementary and high school students). Additionally, the DepEd said that for every 100 students who enroll in Grade 1, only 25 will reach a college or university.
A major factor is the lack of school facilities and resources, which in turn contributes to schooling environments which are not conducive to learning. According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, there is a shortage this year on the following resources: 54,060 teachers, 4,538 principals, 61,343 classrooms, 816,219 seats, and 113,051 water and sanitation facilities. All in all, these shortages amount to 91.54 billion pesos.
Without even eliminating the current shortage of supplies in the basic education system, adding two more years will worsen it. Compounding the problem is the lack of any verbal or written commitment on the part of the administration to allocate 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the education budget, the minimum amount recommended by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization).
More troubling is the framework guiding the proposed ‘reform’.
The addition of two years is an extension of two current gov’t policies: the continuation of a commercialized, deregulated, and inaccessible tertiary education sector; and the reliance on OFW (overseas foreign workers) recruitment as the main source of employment opportunities.
According to Luistro, the aim of the additional two years is to produce a curriculum that would ‘produce professionally competent and skilled high school graduates’. The education secretary reasoned that producing high school graduates who can already land employment would in result in making college education more affordable. Additionally, the secretary said that the curriculum would include foreign language education so that high school graduates would ‘have an edge’ in regards to finding employment abroad.
But there is no alternative to increasing the budget of public schools in all levels to the point where it can provide affordable education to any number of students. Even the Commission on Higher Education has said that a whole 50% of all working college students do not graduate at all, an obvious refutation of one of the points for the addition of two years.
Additionally, this program will contribute to the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’, or the loss of highly-skilled professionals from our economy.
The real solution to the education crisis has long been repeated by many youth and education advocacy organizations, including Anakbayan: First, an increase in the budget in public schools on all levels, allowing them to provide a proper learning environment to any number of students for free or at low cost. Second, an emphasis on courses which will increase the number of professionals in many important fields such as in agriculture, industrial sciences, meteorology, etc. There is no need for ‘new-fangled’ proposals when the basic time-and-tested solution is available.