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An Independent View
Monday, September 24, 2012
LAST week an organization calling itself “The Co-ordinating Council of Private Education Associations (COCOPEA)” placed a full-page advertisement in a national newspaper urging the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass into law a possible Act whose import is to modify our education system. This is significant because the advertisement tacitly recognizes that we already have the Education Act of 1982 and that it requires a new Act in order to revise our education system.
COCOPEA claims to be “the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines with more than 2,000 member institutions.” COCOPEA also claims “to be made up of fine educational associations: Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities (ACSCU); the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP); Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU); and the Technical-Vocational School Association of the Philippines (TEVSAPHIL).”
So the link between an individual private school, such as Bacolod Tay Tung High School (BTTHS), and the self-styled COCOPEA is tenuous at best and may well be non-existent in any practical sense.
Therefore, it is wrong for COCOPEA to attempt to lead us to infer that it is speaking for the private education sector.
Unfortunately the Department of Education (DepEd) is riding roughshod over our constitutionally enshrined legislative processes and is already implementing, without the necessary Congressional approval, its desire to have a K-12 system. Specifically, the Nation’s 13-year-olds, who thought they were going into 1st Year High School, are finding themselves in Grade 7. This means that instead of taking a four-year high school course, they are drawn into a six-year program culminating in Grade 12. Students will be 19, not 17, when they graduate from high school.
We believe that it is improper for DepEd to implement Grade 7 prior to the passage of a Bill supporting the K-12 concept. We also believe that DepEd has not sufficiently considered the interactions between schools and tertiary institutions which provide academic, technical, and vocational courses. The academic stream, in particular, seems to be very adversely affected. At present, an academically successful 19 year-old has completed two years at a University, for example the University of the Philippines. If the K-12 concept is implemented, a 19-year-old will still be in High School, Grade 12, undergoing a long and mediocre curriculum.
Our Lawmakers have not shown immense enthusiasm for the K-12 concept. As far as passing an Act legitimizing K-12, Senator Angara, Chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee, expressed the view that it would be unlikely for such an Act to be passed during the current Congress. He thought it could be during the 2013–2016 Congress that a revised Act may be approved. But nothing is certain.
Generally, however, our elected representatives have been quiet about K-12 although Senator Pia Cayetano stated her concerns about the significant additional costs involved.
Budgetary considerations are highly relevant and timely. DepEd has put forward a budget of P292.7 billion for 2013, compared with P238.8 billion for this year.
The increase of P54 billion is substantial and we trust that our legislators will be vigilant in ensuring that the budget will only be used for activities for which Congressional approval has been obtained. K-12 does not have the required Congressional approval. Last week’s COCOPEA advertisement confirmed this.
The overall budget of P2 trillion for 2013 has recently received its Second Reading in the House of Representatives. The Third Reading will be held soon and, assuming that the budget is approved by the Lower House, it will then be passed to Senate. According to Senator Drilon, all being well, the 2013 Budget will be approved by the second week of December. An aid to the Budget’s passage is the willingness of Florencio “Butch” Abad, the Budget Secretary, to engage in meetings with any relevant party which seeks clarification.
Nevertheless, we hope there will be clear statements that the Education budget will not include aspects which have not yet received Congressional approval. This means K-12. Private schools are in danger of losing their sense of community if parents and others responsible for students’ welfare are in any way perceived as being sidelined by recent DepEd Orders. Unfortunately, this is already happening. Niggling encumbrances involving parents’ rights to have contact with their children during lunch-time have reportedly aroused concerns both at USLS and BTTHS. Also, discussions between parents and schools about the length of high school education (4 years or 6 years) have not taken place with a level of transparency appropriate to the desire of both parents and schools to have a cohesive, harmonious, and happy community.
Parents have the right to decide the extent to which they protect their children from the big, bad world. It is not for DepEd to try to usurp that right which it has done via DepOrder No. 27, which seeks to eliminate parental contact with their children ‘during school hours’ which has been interpreted by some schools to include lunch-time. No parental contact during school hours has the effect of increasing bullying which many schools are not able to effectively deal with.
We lay the blame for this unhappy state of affairs squarely at DepEd which is not operating with sufficient candor or good faith.
Last week, the youth organization, Anakbayan expressed cynicism about K-12. Anakbayan took exception to the government program, inherent in K-12, to train students to become call-center operatives. We agree. DepEd has confused education with training. It is for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies to train its recruits to handle the idiosyncrasies of any particular BPO job.
Anakbayan states that DepEd’s emphasis on BPO employment indicates an “easy escape” to the question of how to provide quality and accessible education so that high school graduates can obtain decent and secure jobs. We associate many BPO jobs with third-world countries where salaries are low. A good education system would largely take the Philippines out of the BPO arena because graduates would be able to undertake more creative work. Better quality graduates will engender better quality work. The private sector will always welcome greater skills and creativity from a better educated workforce because these attributes will result in higher profitability.
Nevertheless, we welcome the input of the private sector in our public schools. Efficiency through well-trained and motivated teachers, and underpinned by vastly improved price/performance in school buildings’ construction refurbishment and maintenance projects would enormously benefit our public sector education system. So we look forward to the early formation of a Coordinating Council of Private Operators in Public Schools (COCOPOPS).
“Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.” —Henry Brooks Adams, 1838-1918
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 24, 2012.