On 12-year basic education: Additional years, more more problems

The move to add one year in elementary and another year in high school will not answer the country’s declining quality of education, the growing number of out-of-school youth, nor will it lift the country’s employment rate.

Below are five reasons to counteract former Department of Education (DepEd) Sec. Juan Miguel Luz’ ‘delusions of grandeur’.

1. Additional two years would mean extra expense for parents of public school goers, a majority of which belong to impoverished sectors.

The new system would translate to added burden to parents who could barely send their children to school. For a poverty-stricken country such as ours, the proposal to add two years to basic education is a question of survival.

While public education is free, a student would still need an average of P20,000 per school year (Kabataan Party-list computation) to cover transportation costs, food, school supplies and other operational expenses whilst schooling. The government, on the other hand, in 2009 allotted a meager P2,502 a year, or P6.85 per student per day, for education. This figure has not improved since.

Moreover, based on the latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FEIS), Filipino families opt to spend more on food and other daily basic necessities over their children’s education needs.
Most Filipino families, unfortunately, are forced to make a choice between sending their children to school and spending their meager income on food and other basic necessities in order to survive.

Poverty and government neglect have made education a luxury to many of our Filipino families.

This would inevitably account for a higher dropout rate. Lower household spending on schooling, prompted by increasing prices of basic commodities, tuition and school fee hikes and stagnant wage levels have set the trend for a yearly increase in dropouts and out-of-school youth.

2. It is the government which would be ‘throwing money into the problem’. The proposal itself is very ideal, if not whimsical, for a country whose public spending for education is one of the lowest in the world.

The education sector’s share has dwindled, from 3.3 percent in 2001, 2.19 percent in 2008 to 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009. This pales in comparison to neighboring countries Malaysia (7.4 percent) and Thailand (4 percent). It is also lower than the four percent average for all countries that were included in the World Education Indicators in 2006. The minimum prescribed standard for education spending set by UNESCO is six (6) percent of a country’s GDP.

The Philippines is also lagging behind its Asian counterparts in public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public spending.

At all levels of education, the Philippines is only spending 17.2 percent compared to Thailand’s 40 percent and Malaysia’s 28 percent. Translating this into expenditures per student, Philippine education spending is still way below its Asian competitors.

The annual budget for education has also decreased steadily from 17.4 percent in 2001 to 15 percent in 2010. As a result, every school opening has been greeted with perennial back-to-school woes such as classroom and textbook shortages, lack of facilities and underpaid teachers.

In his State of the Nation Address, Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino announced his thrust of venturing into public-private partnerships in order to address the needs of the education sector. This, however, may yet be used as an excuse to further decrease and gradually totally pull out state subsidy for education.

Certainly, adding two more years to basic education will not resolve the declining quality of education in that it does not at all address the root cause of poor government spending and mis-prioritization. How then can the government afford to subsidize additional two years when subsidy for the present cycle has been found lacking? If privatization is the Aquino administration’s answer, could it still guarantee free access to basic education, especially to our less fortunate students?

3. It will not resolve the high rate of unemployment, especially among the youth. Another rationale is that adding two years to basic education would increase chances of our youth for employment, even sans a college diploma.

The DepEd says that an additional two years in basic education is aimed at improving the technical-vocational skills of our youth through subjects such as arts, aquaculture and agriculture, among others. The new education cycle, it said, would let students graduate at the age of 18 and ensure that they land a job here or abroad, making students employable even without finishing college.

This is another fallacy, and hopefully not a deliberate ploy to create a wrong impression and false sense of hope among our youth.

The Philippines, which has a predominantly young population, also has the highest overall unemployment rates in East Asia and the Pacific Region. It also has the highest rates on unemployment among the youth, according to a 2003 study by the World Bank. Young Filipinos are twice as likely to be unemployed than those in older age groups. This condition was further worsened when the economic recession kicked in because of massive retrenchment and lay-offs.

Young workers are at a disadvantage given their lack of experience vis a vis the lack of job opportunities. Every year for the last decade, at least 300,000 new graduates are added to the labor force, and consequently, a majority of them figure in the increasing unemployment statistics.

In January 2008, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported that 50 percent of the unemployed 2.7 million belonged to age groups 15 to 24. Of these, 461, 000 or 35 percent were able to graduate from college, while an estimated 700,000 unemployed youth either finished high school or at least reached undergraduate college levels.

Needless to say, let us please not mislead our youth into believing that a 12-year basic education cycle would “assure” them of job opportunities. How can the government avow this when this year alone 400,000 new COLLEGE graduates fell into the “idle” labor force? To really address youth unemployment, there is a need to overhaul not the basic education cycle but the country’s economic and labor policies.

4. It is designed to reinforce cheap semi-skilled labor for foreign needs. Over the years, the government has promoted migration and jobs abroad in the guise of providing jobs and “greener pastures” to our young labor force. Roughly 10.7 percent of the total Filipino labor migrant population now consists of young workers, most of them semi-skilled and unskilled workers who offer their services in exchange for cheap wages.

The economy’s lack of development resulting in job loss at home is due mainly to the government’s failure to address poverty and joblessness. Migration has invariably resulted in the brain drain of our young skilled workers and professionals. The departure, for instance, of our young nurses, teachers and doctors to work as caregivers, medical assistants and domestic helpers has caused the disruption of our very own economy. Time and again we whine of the deterioration of the quality of our education and health systems, but ironically, our very own economic policies are driving away the best of the best of our skilled workers and professionals.

The current proposal adopted by neoliberal pro-globalization die-hards aim to meet standards for “global competitiveness” and demands of the “international labor market for semiskilled labor.” Simply put, this measure intends to strengthen the colonial orientation of Philippine education, serve the cheap labor needs of foreign capital and businesses. Our education system must be a Filipno education and must serve the needs of our nation and people.

5. The genuine solution is for the promotion of an educational system that would truly address the needs of the Filipino youth and Philippine society in general.
Education is the foundation upon which we shall build our country. It serves as the means to bring about the desired change in society, to develop a generation of virtuous individuals and thus contribute to the development of good human beings. Our educational system will determine the kind of nation we will become in the future.
Unless the government reverses its present education policies and works for the establishment of an educational system that truly addresses and caters to the needs of the Filipino youth and Philippine society, the changes it would implement are not necessarily the changes we genuinely need.

Instead of adding years, the government must focus on measures aimed at increasing state spending on education to six (6) percent of the GDP, stopping unjust tuition and other fee increases in all levels, promoting a nationalist curriculum, upholding democratic rights of students, improving teachers’ welfare, and improve science, research and technology development.
It must also promote transparency and sanctions against corruption cases in education programs and review existing policies and institutions of education.


The Kabataan (Youth) Party-list, led by Congressman Raymond Palatino, released the following 5 reasons to oppose DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro’s backing of President Aquino’s plan to increase the 10-year basic education cycle to 12.  The proposal is also endorsed by former DepEd Secretary Juan Miguel Luz. — JP


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