President Aquino signed this year three laws seeking to reinforce education reforms in the country.
The President in the latter part of the year simultaneously approved the Ladderized Education Act, Iskolar ng Bayan Act of 2014 and the Open Distance Learning Act or Republic Act 10650.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro welcomed the approval of the new measures and said they would complement the K to 12 program.
He said the Iskolar ng Bayan Act will provide “the additional resources so that graduates of the different senior high school tracks who choose to pursue higher education can do so and enlarge the pool of professionals in the country.”
The law seeks the institutionalization of a scholarship program for top 10 graduates of public high schools across the country who will enroll in state universities and colleges.
The Ladderized Education Act provides for the creation of a unified qualifications framework that will allow students of technical vocational education and training to take higher education courses without the need to repeat subjects.
RA 10650 seeks to provide government support to open distance learning in the country.
The K to 12 program
Also this year, some sectors have raised possible problems with regard to the implementation of the K to 12 program.
With the full implementation of the additional two years in basic education just around the corner, higher education institutions (HEIs) have started bracing for its effects – particularly changes in the curriculum and the expected decrease of enrollment during the transition period.
Luistro urged HEIs to work with the government to mitigate the negative effects of the K to 12 program.
He said college educators could undergo retooling or training for the senior high school curriculum.
Luistro said that 30,000 additional classrooms across the country are needed for the K to 12 program.
He said funding for the construction of the new classrooms has been appropriated, with funds for the first 10,000 included in the department’s 2014 budget.
Luistro added DepEd expects Congress to approve funding for the remaining 20,000 classrooms in the budget for next year.
Luistro said the additional classrooms would be used by the projected 650,000 students per level who will enroll in Grades 11 and 12 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
No more Filipino subjects
In addition to displacement, educators – particularly Filipino teachers – have expressed outrage over the proposed changes in the college curricula removing the mandatory Filipino subjects.
That effectively shuts Filipino out of the cultural development,” said National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, referring to the government decision to reduce the required general education subjects to a minimum of 32 units.
A primer on the K to 12 program released in the Official Gazette said the new curriculum will have fewer units “with the removal of unnecessary remediation as K to 12 graduates adhere to the College Readiness Standards.”
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) memorandum order on the new curriculum noted that the integration of GE courses in senior high school (Grades 11 and 12) has created a window for revision of the current curriculum in colleges.
Educators said the memorandum providing for the optional provision of the teaching of courses in Filipino dilutes its purpose, as most universities in the country use English as the default language.
In response to the protest of the Filipino teachers, CHED issued a position paper retaining its original proposal to remove the mandatory Filipino subjects in college.
It said, however, that incentives will be provided to HEIs that will opt to use Filipino in general education courses.
Also during the year, several universities moved their opening of classes in an effort to align their calendars with schools in other countries, particularly in the ASEAN.
Leading the calendar shift is the University of the Philippines system, which changed the opening of classes from June to August.
Saint Louis University in Baguio City moved its school opening to August starting this year.
Other universities that announced changes in their calendar include the University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.
CHED Chairman Patricia Licuanan created a technical working group to study the effects of a calendar shift in other HEIs in the country.