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Huge budget boosts and a new system

Article - October 3, 2011
Extending compulsory education set to enhance job opportunities
Education is highly regarded in Philippine culture as an important factor in being successful in life and it forms the central strategy of President Benigno Aquino’s administration “for investing in the people and enhancing the youth’s opportunity to gain meaningful employment.”

In May, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P7 billion ($162.5 million) to the Department of Education (DepEd) for the construction and repair of almost 9,000 classrooms nationwide to accommodate an estimated 404,865 students and “address critical gaps in basic education,” according to Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad.

DepEd’s budget from the government was boosted by P32.3 billion for 2011, its largest increase for more than a decade. DBM has also provided DepEd with P5.769 billion for its Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) program to benefit 910,902 disadvantaged yet deserving students across the country.

GASTPE is “one of the innovative programs of government that seeks to improve access of Filipino children to education,” says Mr. Abad. The initiative aims to decongest public high schools by subsidizing the transfer of students to private schools with the capacity to accept more learners.
 ‘We always  say that education is a great equalizer. This universal kindergarten program will do just that as it democratizes access to pre-school education’

One of the biggest programs put forward by the Aquino administration so far is the proposed overhaul of basic and secondary education, which adds two years to the system. DepEd’s Enhanced K+12 Basic Education Program entails kindergarten (K) plus 12 years of compulsory education, as opposed to the current 10 years. It comprises universal kindergarten access, six years of elementary education, four years of junior high school and an additional two years of senior high school.

The overarching aim of K+12 is to lift the quality of education in the Philippines and boost the appeal of the nation’s graduates, both at home and abroad. President Aquino is a staunch advocate of the new system, believing it will bring the Philippines in line with global standards, make even high school graduates more employable, and provide students with more time to choose which careers best suit their abilities.

Patricia Licuanan, chairperson of the Commission of Higher Education (CHED), believes the combined efforts of academia, industry and government can avoid a “skills-jobs mismatch” and highlights science, technology, agriculture and fisheries as key sectors that would benefit from increased collaboration.

The initial stage of phasing in K+12 begins in June, the start of the academic year, when more than 1 million children will head to public kindergartens. “Studies have shown that school children who went to preschool are better prepared for schooling and have greater chances of finishing school,” Secretary of DepEd Br. Armin A. Luistro told reporters in May. He explained that by school year 2012 to 2013, the new curriculum would be offered to incoming Grade 1 as well as to incoming junior high school students. DepEd’s target is to have the necessary infrastructure in place to provide senior high school education by 2016 to 2017. He added, “We always say that education is a great equalizer. This universal kindergarten program will do just that as it democratizes access to preschool education, which used to be enjoyed only by those who could afford it in private schools.”