Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Part 1: K-12: Education reform for whom?

Through K-12, the Noynoy Aquino government plans to equip Filipino students with ‘21st century skills’. This seems a lofty goal considering that majority of public schools are stuck in the 20th century twilight zone. Even the commendable plan to integrate ICT starting Grade 1 seems unrealistic given the poor state of learning infrastructure in most schools. According to the Department of Education, the K-12 model adopted in the 1950s and 1960s known as 2-2 Plan failed because of ‘insufficient preparation before the plan was implemented.’ Scary but it seems the DepEd hierarchy is poised to repeat the blunders of the past.

Why the obsession to launch the K-12 experiment sans pilot testing? Believing that ‘the sad state of basic education can be partly attributed to the congested basic education curriculum’, our top education bureaucrats are confident that education outcomes will improve if we add two more years into the school cycle. But the last time the DepEd decongested the curriculum was only a decade ago when it trimmed the learning areas from ten to five (remember the Makabayan subject?). And what is the official assessment of the agency with regard to the 2002 curriculum? Surprisingly, it concluded that ‘the clamor for quality basic education cannot be responded to by mere curriculum decongestion.’

Apparently, even the ‘forerunner of the K-12 curriculum’ failed to reverse the deterioration of Philippine education.

But let’s assume for the moment that this particular evaluation didn’t take place and let’s briefly agree for the sake of argument that K-12 curricular reforms are necessary today to upgrade the standards of Philippine education. Will the K-12 curriculum deliver the promised results?

Science advocates will probably complain and point out the unusual non-teaching of Science as a separate subject in the early grade levels. Linguists have welcomed the use of Mother Tongue as medium of instruction from Grades 1 to 3 but some still have many questions about the introduction of oral English and Filipino in Grade 1. Curiously, English is the designated medium of instruction in the subject areas of Technology and Livelihood Education or TLE and Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health or MAPEH. But isn’t it more effective, appropriate, and convenient for both students and teachers to use the local languages in academic subjects that are supposed to enhance youth awareness about our cultural heritage, human body, home economics and local industries?

There are numerous teaching innovations in the Araling Panlipunan (AP) subject. Community history will be taught in Grade 2, local history in Grade 3, and Philippine history in Grades 5 and 6. Primary sources will be used in Grade 7. Interesting that students are expected to be like amateur historians by teaching them how to decipher ancient codes, interpret government records, and classify historical sources. Hopefully, the reconceptualized AP subject will not confuse our teachers who were given a crash course for only a few days last summer. Furthermore, is it really necessary to copy the themes of the United States National Council for Social Studies and apply them to the Philippine education setting? Obviously, K-12 was cleverly conceived to further Americanize Philippine education even under the AP program.

DepEd has to explain why it distributed teaching modules which teachers can only use for two grading periods. The release of unfinished teaching guides reflects the hasty and haphazard implementation of K-12. Worse, the prefabricated learning materials were designed by ‘experts’ in such a way that the only creative task required of teachers is to unpack them, follow the specific instructions in the kit, and then grade the students. Even the learning guides already contained exact examples and details of course content, teaching methods, and test sheets which teachers are required to use inside the classroom. Under K-12, teachers are subjected to a ruthlessly efficient reskilling and deskilling process.

To boost the overall performance of the education processing and sorting machine, national standardized examinations will be administered several times. Tests will be given to students of Grade 3 (to assess mother tongue-based education), 6, 10, and 12 (college entrance). There is also going to be an Occupational Interest Inventory for Secondary Students in Grade 7 and the National Career Assessment Examination given in Grade 8. It seems students will be continually ‘tested’ not educated under K-12. Test scores will arbitrarily determine the promotion of teachers and schools. Manila-based technocrats who devised the exams, and clueless bureaucrats who administered the tests, will exert greater control in educational institutions instead of classroom teachers who are more knowledgeable about the real learning potential of their students.

The crazy competition for numeric excellence will drive schools to abandon the humanistic pedagogic goals and replace them with modern methods (of madness) on how to generate significantly higher test scores every year. K-12 will usher in a new era of scholastic inequality in the country.

To be continued……discussion of Technology and Livelihood Education

4 Responses to “Miseducation in the 21st Century”

  1. We all would probably be adjusted to the K-12 curriculum given a few more years. However, the removal of science as a subject in the first 3 years of a child’s formal learning is at the very least suspiciously questionable, perhaps even sinister, the way I see it.

    Science as a subject should promote the discipline of critical thinking which is after all the bedrock of curiousity and logic. By taking away science in the formative years of Filipinos the powers-that-be are further delaying the transformation of society via the next generations. How will future voters make decisions and elect the best leaders for the country if by the time they are 18, their view of the nation during their time is based on the analytical skills of a 15-year old?


  2. masyadong marami po kayong sinabi na karamihan ay hindi naman maiintindihan ng mga nagbabasa dahil sa lalim ng english ninyo. Isa lang po ang bottom line, napag-iwanan napo tayo ng ibang bansa sa number of years spent in school. Hindi ko po sinasabi na mas magaling sila, pero ang katotohanan po eh ang katumbas ng Bachelors Degree natin sa England ay Higher National Diploma lang. Diploma lang po, ano masasabi ninyo doon?

    Nelson B. Holiva

  3. Individual differences have to be considered in teaching every single subject in the classroom. Ready-to-teach manuals are not at all effective for all students simply because one method or strategy of teaching may not work for the other students. We need teachers who are really competent and able to address these individual differences. Not all children learn similar ways and teachers know this.

    Only the teachers themselves know the real performance of their students, no other else, even the principal of the school. And education is not really about numbers, about how high or how low a student scores. It’s about the quality of the learning one acquired, how he applies it to the real world.

    Students to be continually tested sounds very scary. It creates pressure and might lead to depression. This is just one way of depriving freedom. Students will only focus on study, study, study forgetting that besides school these students too have their other life to take care of.

    Teachers we need but what they teach is also very important. Learning Science should be introduced in the early years of school for these are the beginning years of questions and doubts. Whether we accept it or not we are surrounded by Science. Science governed our daily lives.


  4. Ano po yung “humanistic pedagogic goals”?

    Trevor Calacullo

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