Wasting time

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, February 3, 2014

A FEW years ago, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) proposed five-year college courses. This was shot down on all sides and consequently abandoned.

International comparisons are often made in the world of education. But there is nowhere that emphasizes the length of courses more than the Philippines. “Never mind the quality see the length” is the mantra. There is a prevalent view that the longer a course, the better it must be. Many stakeholders (a favorite word in the jargon encrusted vocabulary of education administration) know this to be nonsense.

In 2011, an academically-oriented student born in 1998 would have completed grade school and could enter high school. By 2015, he could obtain a high school diploma, enter tertiary education and obtain a university degree after another four years when he will be 21. If he did well enough in high school and entered the University of the Philippines (UP), he would obtain a degree at UP which is the equivalent of a reasonable state university in the United States. Not bad.


But for students entering high school in 2012, the picture is less clear.
Already the students, now in second year high school, experience a loss of momentum in the increasingly messy (aka “ladderized” in the esoteric world of educationists) curriculum. This is disappointing. If the Department of Education (DepEd) has its way, these students will not be able to enter tertiary education until 2018, instead of 2016 as with the previous, not unsatisfactory, system. They will then complete university education in 2022 when they will be 23 (not 21 as before). The academic attainment will be no higher than hitherto. Two years have been lost. K-12 has a lot to answer for.

There is money to be made in education; hence, any changes in our education system create opportunities for those who are sufficiently entrepreneurial to take advantage. The University of St LaSalle (USLS) which is committed to the pursuit of “excellence with a soul; competence with compassion” has probably more understanding than other schools as to how to implement K-12, specifically the factors involved in mounting courses for Grades 11 and 12 [Fifth and Sixth year high school].

To find out what other schools are doing, USLS hosted a “summit” on 24 January. The first question asked was whether a school is planning to offer fifth year high school in Scholastic Year (SY) 2016-2017. Many schools, especially many public schools, are not.

DepEd believes that the remedy is for public school students to be sent to private schools under the government’s public private partnership (PPP) scheme. This scheme, originally oriented towards infrastructure projects, has not been widely embraced by the private sector. There are many reasons for this, but the main concern has been that the private sector cannot see that the risk/reward relationship in a typical PPP project is sufficiently advantageous to proceed. After all, the private sector has its own projects where the quantifiable risks are low.

Another problem which affects PPP projects is that the government is often perceived to be too parsimonious. This may apply to PPP projects associated with K-12 implementation. DepEd USec for Finance and Administration, Francis Varela says that the money available for private schools hosting public school students in fifth and sixth year high school would not be greater than the average cost per student in the public school system. He further stated that this would be approximately P14,000 per year. Clearly, there is an integration problem if the private school students are paying, say, P50, 000.

DepEd says that K-12 “decongests” the present high school curriculum. The cynics say that K-12 spins out the current four year high school course into six years, thereby wasting two years.

DepEd has a selling job to do. Otherwise K-12 will be ignored by students and parents.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge, Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” -T.S Eliot (1888-1965); The Rock (1934) pt 1

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 03, 2014.


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