As school year 2012-2013 opened on Monday, the call to stop the implementation of the Department of Education’s (DepEd’s) “K to 12” basic education program began to gain support in the House of Representatives over concerns the government is ill-prepared to pursue the program.
In a press conference called on the first day of the implementation of the “K to 12”, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio warned that this school year will be “more chaotic and disastrous” because the government is not yet ready to go full-blast with the program.
“There is no law yet authorizing the implementation of the full “K to 12” education program. The curriculum is not yet ready; funds are insufficient to cover the basic inputs such as shortages on teachers, classrooms, textbooks, chairs and sanitation facilities. But our calls and demands continue to fall on deaf ears,” Tinio said.
He warned that the influx of around 1.6 million five-year-old enrollees in Kindergarten this school year would result in a shortage of around 20,000 teachers and 25,000 classrooms solely for the Kindergarten component of K-to-12.
Tinio said that for this school year, the total shortages for the whole public school system stands at 132,483 teachers; 97,685 classrooms; and 153,709 water and sanitation facilities.
“If the Department of Education and the Palace are serious in reforming the education system, it must prioritize the implementation and development of quality kinder education program. This was legalized last Feb. 27, 2012, while the K to 12 education program does not have a law yet,” Tinio said.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus, who visited yesterday morning teachers, parents and pupils at the Bagong Silangan Elementary School in Quezon City, agreed with Tinio.
She said “the government is sowing false hopes with its continued persistence in implementing the K-to-12 program.”
“Gabriela Women’s Party continues to assert that the implementation of a universal kinder program that is respectful of children’s rights and well-being requires an adequate number of qualified and well-compensated teachers, enough and appropriate classroom size, equipment and facilities, a curriculum fit for the needs of five year old children, and clean comfort rooms,” she said.
“I call on President Aquino and Secretary Armin Luistro to be respectful of our young children. Give our future generation the quality kindergarten education they are entitled to, and increase the budget allocation for education to truly serve our young Filipinos,” she stressed.
The Kabataan party-list also questioned the K-to-12’s implementation, arguing that under the present laws, “no power has been granted to the Department of Education to increase the years of formal education as outlined in the K+12 program.”
“While Batas Pambansa 232 or the Education Act of 1982 speaks of mere ‘usually corresponding’ years of study instead of stating with exactness the number of years of formal education, nowhere in the law does it give the DepEd the power to raise the years of study to more than the ‘usually corresponding’ years of formal education,” Kabataan party-list national president and general counsel Terry Ridon said.
The DepEd should have waited for the passage of enabling legislation before implementing the program, Ridon said. “What if it is not passed? What shall become of our schoolchildren? The DepEd’s insistence is nothing but presumptuous and contemptible.”
The technical working group, jointly created by House Committee on Basic Education and Culture and the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, has started consolidating the three K to 12 bills.
Some congressman, on the other hand, gave the new program the thumbs up.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chairman of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, said K to 12, which seeks to bring up the country’s education to global standard of 12-year basic schooling program, will “ensure better job prospects for high school graduates.”
Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones, one of the principal authors of the K to 12 bill, called it a “noble” program.
Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, who serves as the chairman of the Local School Board (LSB), said “the problems of a 10-year education are a lot bigger than the challenges of K to 12.”
Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III, chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education, reiterated the need to pass a bill institutionalizing the DepEd program, saying that some foreign employers preferred graduates who had a ‘global standard’ education.
Three of the country’s largest teachers’ groups—the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Teacher’s Dignity Coalition (TDC) and the Manila Public School Teachers Association (PSTA)—agreed that DepEd should consider “postponing” the full implementation of the K to 12 until after shortages in resources have been fully addressed.
For the DepEd, the order of the day in many public schools was addressing the lack in classrooms.
While Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the opening of classes this year was “generally peaceful and orderly” and that “double shifting will be the worst scenario,” some public schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) were forced to implement triple shifting due to the shortage in classrooms to accommodate incoming students.
Luistro said principals and heads of schools — as early as January — were directed to find means to avoid triple shifting. “However, there were still late enrollees and that’s why the classrooms became crowded,” he said.
During his visit to Ilugin Elementary School in Pasig City on the first day of classes — one of the schools reported to implement triple shifting — he said the surge in late enrollees is among major reasons for congestion.
“A lot of classrooms are still under construction but due to be completed within the next few weeks or months,” he said,
Acting NCR Director Rizalino Rosales said that in the Metro Manila, from a total of 20 schools last school year, the number of schools that implement triple shifting is down to nine (9). “The reason for this is actually the late enrollees. If the students were registered earlier, our school heads would have developed a strategy to address this problem of overcrowding,” he said.
Data from DepEd showed that a total of 771 schools nationwide are highly-congested. Of the 771, 515 schools are located in the NCR. Rosales said that addressing classroom shortage is on-going through the construction of multi-storey buildings. “This school year, we are expecting that there will be no more triple shifting given than all the construction of school buildings have been finished,” he added.
In Tenement Elementary School in Taguig, Principal Geronima Garcia said that for the first time, “we don’t implement triple shifting anymore.”
Considered as one of highly populated schools in NCR with 9,440 enrollees for this year, Garcia said that triple shifting has been resolved by using other resources rooms such as libraries, computer rooms and others to temporary classroom. “What is important is the longer contact time for our students so they could learn more,” she said.
Classes in triple shifting start at 6 to 10am; 10am to 2pm; and 2pm to 6pm while in the double shift, classes start from 7am to 11am and 1pm to 6pm. Garcia added that the students will transfer to regular classrooms once the construction of the new school building has been finished. It was a smooth-sailing opening of classes as far as the Philippine National Police (PNP) is concerned.
Director General Nicanor Bartolome, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said school opening day was generally peaceful.
He said the PNP leadership has not monitored any serious untoward incident from the different regions.
“I am personally satisfied with the deployment of troops for police beat patrol and visibility operations in vicinity of school premises across the country,” said Bartolome.
In some parts of Metro Manila, several operations were conducted to clear all roads leading to public elementary and high schools with street criminals who may prey on students. (With a report from Aaron B. Recuenco)
By CHARISSA M. LUCI and INA HERNANDO MALIPOT