Why I do not think we should have a twelve year education cycle (yet)

Many presidentiables and even civil society are pushing for a twelve year education cycle. I think I am one of the few who do not find this a promising solution at the moment.

Here is a quick summary as to why I feel that way:

The quality of our present education system is already flawed. At grade 3, only 50-60% actually learn what their level should know. We need to ensure the quality of our ten years before adding to it.

More than 50% of our students are out of school by high school. This does not signify an Education Nation. Exert more effort putting children in school FIRST.

As it is our budget for education is below the UNESCO recommended. We lack teachers, classrooms, chairs, restrooms, books as it is. Do we even have enough budget for another two years?

There is lack of attention to teacher’s training. We should increase our budget for the skills upgrading of our teacher, so they can teach our children better, so the kids can learn better.

(The situation may be different for those studying in elite, private schools. I write this with the situation of urban and rural public schools in mind.)

This is the declared situation and my explanation with has more supporting data:

The Philippines has the shortest education system in Asia. Our neighbours have 13 years, while the Philippines have ten, not including the recently declared compulsory pre-education for Filipino children. Filipino students are lagging behind our Asian neighbours. In 1999, the results of an international test taken by Filipino eighth graders ranked the Philippines 36th out of 38 countries. These facts led the Department of Education to conclude that the answer to a better-educated Filipino people would be to add two more years of education to level the playing field with our Asian neighbours.

I take a controversial stand. There are other deeper, more immediate issues on the Philippine education system which need to be addressed, which requires a solution other than adding two years of education. IT IS a solution, but not THE solution for a better educated Philippines. There are other actions that need be addressed FIRST and must take PRIORITY.

National diagnostic tests for third graders and sixth graders reveal that only 50% gain competency in English, Math and Science (World Bank 2004 data). This shows that without having completed the Philippine education cycle, our students are already performing below par. This then also shows that the problem of our education system is already problematic FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. Adding years would not make those sixth and third graders perform better. We need to provide quality education more than quantity education.

More than 25% of Filipino children are out of primary school and more than 50% are not in high school. Dropout rate in high school is 20% (National Statistical Coordination Board data). This shows that we have a more urgent issue at hand. The challenge to the government then is how do we get the other half of our students in school? Should we further the cause of ALS (alternative learning systems) or should we be more vigilant in supporting them so they can be formally educated? Whatever it is, adding two years will not solve this problem and may even create a bigger education gap.

UNESCO recommends a budget allocation of 6% of GNP. As of 2006, the government only allocated 3% of GNP. Our 2008 budget was further reduced to 2.18%. While the budget decreases, the number of students increases by the year. So this budget shortage would translate more shortages in classrooms, teachers, facilities and school materials.

Classroom shortage is so severe that schools are forced to conduct morning and afternoon shifts (sometimes evenings!) Single shifts = shortage of 74,115 classrooms. Double shifts = 6,832 classrooms (1 room: 50 students). We are short of 3.48million chairs as of 2008. Double shifts would mean six hours for eight subjects and triple shifts would be just four hours in the classroom. How then do we expect our students to perform well against our Asian brothers when there is hardly time for our students to learn what they have to?

As of 2005, there is a shortage of 50,000 teachers which is probably a reason why target teacher to classroom ratio is 1:50 (ideal is 1:25 according to studies). DepEd budget for teacher trainings does not benefit all of the 500,000 existing teachers (2005 data). What is interesting, while I was doing research regarding DepEd budgets for teacher training, I could not find anything sufficient. Most of the issues being addressed by DepEd and by its critics are the lack of infrastructure and textbooks. I could not find anything sufficient data on how many are being trained in a year, how much is actual budget for training. This leads me to think that teacher’s training is least priority. I think this is a big mistake. TEACHERS ARE THE CORE, THE HEART of education. A good teacher will still be able to teach their students with resources available while a good classroom will be useless with a bad teacher. This is not to say that infrastructure should be dismissed. This is to say that the DepEd must give better priority to developing their teachers.

(This has yet into consideration the reaction poorer families against the DepEd 2004 proposal for a bridging program year. Parents complained that this would require additional expenses on their part. Expenses they can not afford. Additional years in education would mean expenses on baon, transportation, books, projects... An additional two years would also mean more expenses on the part of the government. This money that would be spent on the additional two years, could be used for more pressing education concerns.)

What I am basically trying to say is there are too many problems in our education system which contribute to the non-performance of our students vis-a-vis our Asian neighbours. These are problems that have persisted through time and have yet to be addressed. My stand is for the government to tackle these issues first. If they are hell bent on the additional years, then I suggest a thorough study be done to ensure that that is the immediate and best answer to our problems.


eric santillan said...


we're so fond of knee-jerk actions/reactions that oftentimes add more problems than solutions.

i do not know if they've done it, but it would the height of irony for education to be tampered with WITHOUT a thorough study. hehehe

anj said...

haha! that was funny. :P i do hope they do more research on it before jumping into a huge project that requires big funds only to end up with more problems after.