GOVERNMENT has proposed for the 12-year education cycle that promises to bring the country at par with global standards, enable high school graduates to land employment even without a college diploma and provide students to have more time to choose which careers best suit their abilities.

The K +12 basic education program refers to the sum of seven years of grade school and five years of high school. It is first in P-Noy's 10 point agenda.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

It is a formula conceptualized by the new administration to address education woes but falls short of providing basic and concrete response to the perennial problems plaguing the education system-poor government investment to education which translates to poor quality of instruction, lack of classrooms, inadequate supply of books and shortage of teachers.

This early, government officials are harping on how high school graduates can be productively employed even without a college degree once two years are added to basic education. For them, global competitiveness and opportunities in the labor market lies on young people leaving the country and working in foreign shores in the service area.

The proposed 12-year education cycle will cost the Philippine government an additional P100 billion spread out in five years. Former Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel "Mike" Luz said the plan will not further strain the already budget-poor education system since the money will come from revenue previously lost to corruption. He is now an adviser of P-Noy's administration.

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said that one in six school age children are deprived of education. For 2009, the proposed P167.94 billion DepEd budget that includes P2 billion for school building program -- remains below international standards.

The DepEd budget from 2001 to 2010 made up 2.07 to 2.53 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product which is way below the standards set by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco). The international standards place it at six percent of the GDP. The 2010 budget allocation for education expenditure is at 185.5 billion or a 12 percent drop in the national budget from the 17.4 percent earmarked in 2001.

In Mindanao progress remains uneven. For instance, poorest regions like the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and Western Mindanao stand out in having consistently low ranking in terms of education related indicators. In these areas, children are forced to forego school to work in other households, in mining or agricultural plantations. Some migrate to other cities in search for better opportunities. In most instances, their families push their children to recruiters thinking that the potential for a better life and for a higher income far outweighs any risks.

Before adding more years, it would have been prudent for government to work on addressing the basic areas of concerns. It could look into investing in early childhood education and increasing government allocation for education rather than debt and military spending.

It could certainly look into the situation of bakwits or internally displaced persons in Mindanao and how the cycle of war has deprived thousands of young people from claiming their right to education. Education officials could learn from going into different communities and realize that adding two years in basic education will never solve the basic challenges confronting the system.

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