MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno S. Aquino III Tuesday led the launch of the K + 12 Basic Education Program of the Department of Education (DepEd), which would add two years to the country's basic education and increase capabilities among students who would opt to work after graduating from high school.
This, he said, is part of his administration's efforts to reform the system of education in the country.
Aquino said that instead of compressing students' learning in a 10-year basic education, the new program would enable students to further appreciate what they have learned with an additional two years of education.
Also Tuesday, public school teachers asked President Aquino to "put more funds" to the K + 12 Program of the Department of Education (DepEd) "to ensure that there is enough funds to properly implement the program."
The K +12 begins with kindergarten, six years of elementary education, four years of junior high school, and two years in senior high school. It will be implemented in all public elementary and high schools nationwide this coming school year.
According to Aquino, the Philippines used to be the only country in Asia and one of the three countries in the world left with 10 years of basic education. The other two are in Africa.
"We want a stronger foundation for the next generation," he said in Filipino.
The President, meanwhile, said he is mulling a tablet-based education as a solution against textbook scams.
"We want our reading materials to be tablet-based so that when errors are found, it would be easier to correct and there would be no need to recall the textbooks," Aquino said.
"We're just waiting for the prices to go down," he said.
"We are making ways to ensure that it is logged in the system so it would not be a source of corruption," he added.
This, he said, will be part of the DepEd's P238.8-billion budget for 2012.
DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro, for his part, said there are enough textbooks and school furniture for the coming school year.
"We have zero back log in textbooks and school furniture for School Year (SY) 2012 to 2013," Luistro said.
It was recalled that in February, President Aquino signed Republic Act (RA) 10157 or the Kindergarten Education Law, which provides free and compulsory kindergarten education beginning school year 2012 to 2013. Under the this law, children aged five will be required to take up a year in Kindergarten in preparation for entry to Grade 1.
The Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) made the appeal for more funds for public school teachers after the K + 12 Program's launching in Malacañang.
TDC national spokesman Benjo Basas said teachers continue to express apprehension on the K to 12 program of the Aquino government, saying the "system would need enough funds to properly implement the program."
"K to 12 is the flagship program of (the Aquino) administration," Basas said. "Therefore, the education sector should be given the funds it needs to successfully implement this program," he added.
Basas said their group continues to be wary of the program, challenging the administration to first resolve the existing problems of the education sector particularly the shortages in much needed resources.
While the DepEd is doing everything to close the gaps - including solicitation from private donors, partnership with LGUs and indirect contributions from parents and students like in Brigada Eskwela - Basas said "these small measures would not be enough considering the ever-growing necessities of public education sector."
He said the national government, "specifically the President should make the first move and put the education budget in his priorities."
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the DepEd is continuing to address the shortages in education resources like textbooks, teachers, classrooms, toilets, and desks.
He also reported that by June, DepEd will be able to achieve a 1:1 student to textbook ratio, thereby achieving a zero backlog in textbooks. "We have also procured over 1 million school seats so when classes open in June, we would have closed two out of the five input gaps haunting the public school system," he said.
Luistro also called for stakeholders to work together to achieve the collective goal of providing "adequate and equal opportunities for every Filipino youth to have a decent and honorable way of living."
Sen. Edgardo J. Angara reiterated that the proposed K + 12 Program - and the wholesale changes aimed at strengthening our educational system - is not only timely, but long overdue.
"The call for educational reforms was sounded off three decades ago, back when I chaired the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) which recommended the trifocalization of the system into the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)," Angara said in a statement.
He expressed elation now that through the resolve of the DepEd, "we will finally start delivering world-class education to a larger number of Filipinos at relatively no cost to them." (With reports from Ina Hernando Malipot and Rolly T. Carandang)