IF A new restaurant opens, we may say “let’s give it a try.” This is because the adverse consequences, if any, are not likely to be profound. For decisions that are more significant we find out as much as we can so that we can avoid pitfalls which may be seriously disadvantageous. We do not say “let’s give it a try” for important decisions.

We do not say “let’s give it a try” when it comes to changes in our education system. We evaluate the potential outcomes and so decide whether the proposed changes are acceptable or not. After all, the education of our children is supposed to be a joint venture between the parents and the schools.

Although it is more than two years since President Aquino signed the revised education Act into law, it is only now that the opposition to the new system is being heard loudly. The implementation of the new system becomes most significant in June 2016 when there will be entrants to fifth year high school.

The controversy is unfortunate for the Liberal Party because the issue of education policy will become an important debating point for the May 2016 elections. This is when the implementation problems associated with the new education policy will become apparent.

The Liberal Party standard-bearer, possibly Mar Roxas, is put into a difficult situation. He is forced to support K-12 when there will be an onslaught against the policy.

It is time to examine whether there is “wiggle room” with regard to K-12 implementation and, if so, whether this can create changes without overturning the basic policy of 13 years compulsory education. (One year compulsory kindergarten, six years of compulsory grade school, and six years of compulsory high school).

The technique is to look at detailed cases rather than the overall situation. There are also differences between public and private sector education in terms of age of entry to Grade 1.

Let us consider the example of children born in 1999. They may attend private kindergarten in 2003 and benefit from the friendly but structured education. They make progress and attend kindergarten in 2004. In 2005 they attend yet another preparatory year before going to Grade 1 in 2006. This is not unusual in the private sector. In 2016 the students will have attended 13 years of schooling in which they have completed three years pre-Grade 1, six years of elementary education and four years of high school. They are ready to attend tertiary education and, if they are able to gain admission to a suitable college should be allowed to do so. It would be wrong if they are forced to attend a further two years of high school in which there is no indication that the curriculum would give much, if any, academic advancement. Fifth and sixth year high school would merely be marking time.

This is an example which was addressed effectively by Senator Ralph Recto who proposed this revision to our education system in 2011. It is regrettable that Senator Recto’s system was sidelined by what has become Republic Act (RA) 10533.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations for RA 10533 do, indeed, leave “wiggle room” for private sector students who are “enjoined” to be part of the K-12 program. “Enjoined” is not compulsory. It should be made explicit now whether private sector students have to take fifth and sixth year high school. This would cause many students to have 15 years of schooling before they enter college. This is too long and is not repeated in any other country.

Decisions need to be made now because fourth year high school students will spend time during this school year 2015-2016 applying and hopefully gaining entry to tertiary institutions.

For the Department of Education (DepEd) to try and prevent this would lead to restraint of trade lawsuits from either parents or from colleges.

The Supreme Court (SC) is now being bombarded with various petitions from those opposed to RA 10533. We hope that the SC will respond soon. It has a difficult job but, for me, the unconstitutionality of compulsory kindergarten and six years of compulsory high school cannot be lightly discarded.