RA 10533 and public opinion

Public opinion polls, for example those conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) or Pulse Asia, focus on our opinions as to the relative merits of various people who may or may not be candidates for leadership positions in 2016. I wonder how important these polls are when it is not until the week of October 12-16 that candidates throw their hats into the ring. Comelec then, somewhat arbitrarily, discards those who it considers to be nuisance candidates. Only then do we know who is running and for what positions.

It would be interesting to know how the public feels about issues that are currently being discussed.

K-12 has become a very hot topic. We would like to see an SWS survey on K-12.

It is an unusual case because the Act (Republic Act 10533) which gives approval to K-12 was passed more than two years ago. Yet it is only recently that parents and students have begun to understand the consequences of this Act. In general, they do not like what is happening.

Over the past few months, five petitions have been submitted to the Supreme Court (SC). None have been rejected.

As time goes by we sense that one or more of these petitions may have some merit and that the SC will cause RA 10533 to be revised. We can only speculate what revisions may take place. The Constitutional aspects which the SC will consider. I was impressed by the speech of Chief Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno on Independence Day in which she exhorted all to respect the Constitution. Does this mean there is a serious possibility that the SC will find part of RA 10533 to be unconstitutional? I believe there is.

In March 2016, there will be over one million students who will have completed four years of public high school. According to RA 10533 they will, compulsorily, have to attend school for another two years. The students have options which for the vast majority will mean to take either an academic track or a technical-vocational track. It seems that the public school system will not, in general, offer academic track subjects for fifth and sixth year high school.

“No problem,” blithely says the Department of Education. “We’ll give them vouchers and they can enroll in private schools.” It is wrong of DepEd to consider that this process is straightforward.

Firstly, when will DepEd translate the vouchers into cash? Private schools are not charitable institutions. They expect their money on time. Delayed payments result in the schools preventing students from taking their grading period examinations. This in turn means no marks. Vouchers are not respected by those who expect to be paid promptly.

Secondly, the value of the vouchers, P17,500 per annum, is derisory compared with typical current private school fees which for fifth year high school will be at least P40, 000. It is not realistic in most cases for parents of public school students to suddenly have to pay substantial fees.

Thirdly, private schools are private, a fact that DepEd seems to ignore. A private school has the authority to accept or decline any applicant as it sees fit. DepEd is being cavalier if it thinks the transfer of public school students into the private sector will be easy. It will not. We bear in mind that RA 10533 insists that there will be 13 years of compulsory schooling, including fifth and sixth year high school. This makes no sense if academically-oriented public school students cannot take courses for which they are suitable.

Congress has a lot to answer for. It passed an Education Act without understanding its full consequences. Parents and students are pragmatic. They want an education system which is globally competitive. They do not get one and RA 10533 will not help. International comparisons conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that the scholastic achievement of 15-year-old Filipino students is on a par, or even below, many third world countries. This is not what students deserve. We are not globally competitive.

RA 10533 will not improve matters. Teaching Grade 1, 2, 3 Mathematics through the medium of Ilonggo is unwanted. It holds back students’ academic prowess.

More to the point, Ilonggo parents do not want it. We need a curriculum and text books similar to those used in Singapore.

Then we would be globally competitive!