NELSON MANDELA once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world." Last June 3, 2013, over 23 million elementary and high school students in more than 45,000 public schools nationwide started, or continued, their journey to change the world.
Markedly, however, most of them began the school year not only with new uniforms and new classmates, but with an entirely new curriculum.
Republic Act No 10533, otherwise known as the "Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013”, was signed into law by President Aquino last May 15.
With the passage of RA 10533, the K to 12 basic education program was formalized.
From the former 10-year basic education curriculum, the K to 12 program mandates one year of kindergarten and 12 years of basic education, comprising of six years of primary education, four years of junior high and two years of senior high school.
The shift from 10 to 12 years of basic education is more than just a numbers game.
According to the Department of Education (DepEd), the rationale for RA 10533 is to address the poor quality of basic education provided by the current curriculum as reflected in the low achievement scores of Filipino students and the Philippines' unemployment rate.
International test results, like the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), rank the Philippines not only below the international average, but also as the last in Asia.
The salient features of RA 10533 seek to: strengthen early childhood education; build proficiency through language; and provide specialized upper secondary education.
In consonance with Republic Act No 10157, or the "Kindergarten Education Act", RA 10533 institutionalizes Kindergarten education -- one year of preparatory education for children at least five years old, as part of the basic education system and as a prerequisite for admission to Grade 1.
Public schools will continue to admit children who have not taken Kindergarten into Grade 1 only until this school year.
Mother-Tongue Based Multilingual Education.
As it is believed that language plays a strategic role in shaping the formative years of learners, basic education shall now be delivered in languages understood by the learners - or the learners' "Mother Tongue”..
Twelve Mother Tongue languages have been introduced for SY 2012-2013: Bahasa Sug, Bikol, Cebuano, Chabacano, Hilagaynon, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Pangasinense, Tagalog and Waray.
Thus, for kindergarten and Grades 1 to 3, the learners' Mother Tongue shall be used for instruction, teaching materials, and assessment. DepEd Order No. 31, series of 2012, clarified that from Grades 1 to 3, Filipino and English will be taken only as a subject, together with the learners' Mother Tongue.
Thereafter, the DepEd will formulate a mother language transition program from Grades 4 to 6, so that Filipino and English shall gradually be introduced as languages of instruction, until such time when these two languages can become the primary languages of instruction at the secondary level.
Senior High School.
Two years of specialized upper secondary education shall be added to the high school program.
Students will be assessed to determine their interests and strengths and help them decide on their specialization. The choice of specialization will define the content of the subjects a student will take in Grades 11 and 12.
They may choose from either Core Curriculum or Specific Tracks subjects. The Core Curriculum is composed of seven learning areas: Languages, Literature, Communication, Mathematics, Philosophy, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences; while the three-track subjects are Academic; Technical-Vocational-Livelihood; and Sports and Arts.
The Academic track includes 3 strands: Business, Accountancy and Management; Humanities, Education and Social Sciences; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Students can obtain Certificates of Competency or National Certificate Level I and II, after finishing Grade 10 and 12, respectively.
This new certification system aims to improve the chances for employment of graduates and will allow them to have middle-level skills or become entrepreneurs after graduating from high school.
Despite its laudable objectives, various stakeholders have expressed concern that the implementation of RA 10533 will only add to the already heavy burden of students, teachers and parents, rather than address the basic shortcomings in our educational system.
Moreover, it was noted that the DepEd already lacks resources to address the current shortages in public schools, and the emphasis on the K to 12 program will only aggravate these serious shortages.
We can only hope for the success of the K to 12 program so that our children can be better equipped to cope with the challenges of life and change the world for the better. - bworldonline
(Dyan Danika G Lim is an associate of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW). She may be contacted at 830-8000 or through firstname.lastname@example.org)