(Photo by Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

(SONA Special Report): Aquino Admin Fulfills Education Agenda Concerns

(SONA Special Report): Aquino Admin Fulfills Education Agenda Concerns

Manila (PNA) — Education for all has always been a challenge for every new administration, especially if its priority concern is the literacy welfare of a vast youth population who are the hope of the country’s future.

According to the Education for All (EFA) report of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published this year, the Philippines is successful in its education campaign when it attained at least 84.59 percent functional literacy before the 2015 deadline.

When President Benigno S. Aquino III took over in 2010, the government invested heavily in education toward the enhancement of knowledge and skills of the ever-burgeoning number of students in schools and other learning institutions.

To support the program, the Department of Education (DepEd) always received the biggest pie allocation from the national budget — the latest of which is this year’s P436.5-billion, which is 18.9 percent higher than the P367.1 billion in 2014.

President Aquino was bestowed the honor of being an “Education President” by the EFA of UNESCO for having introduced a major or centerpiece reform in his administration.

This is the K to 12 Program, which covers Kindergarten and 12 years of basic education consisting of Grade 3, Grades 4 to 6, Grades 7 to 10 (Junior High School) and Grades 11 and 12 (Senior High School).

Is the Philippines ready for the K to 12 Program? The DepED has always replied in affirmative manner.

Why not? Indeed, the Universal Kindergarten implementation began in school year 2011-2012, the Enhanced Curriculum for Grades 1-7 was implemented in 2012 to 2013, the K to 12 was enacted into law in 2013 and the curriculum for Grades 11-12 was finished successfully as well.

The K to 12 Program has already been implemented in some schools while Grade 11 will be in full swing by 2016 and Grade 12 in 2017.

K to 12 prepares children at an early young age to participate in school activities and encourages them to appreciate a “working man’s” technical-vocational skills and natural talent relevant for practical life that will serve them in good stead as they grow up and later become independent.

President Aquino saw to it that the DepEd carefully planned and revised the K to 12 curriculum a number of times to pave the way toward a wide variety of craft learning for students belonging to the secondary level before they step out for college and outside life.

The changes in the curriculum are expected to prepare the youngsters wherever they want to go — to college, employment, entrepreneurship or acquisition of more skills to make them ready and confident with 21st century qualifications.

The current curriculum has been enhanced for K to 12 and now gives more focus to allow mastery in learning.

For the new Senior High School (Grades 11 and 12) core subjects such as Mathematics, Science and Language will be strengthened and specializations of tracks in students’ areas of interest will also be offered.

Technical-vocational subjects such as those found in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) such as tourism, hospitality or hotel industry, information technology, welding, carpentry and several trades/craft will be offered to students to train and equip them with knowledge for local industry jobs and occupations abroad.

The promising result is the youth can now work while studying for college or put up a business of their own instead of depending on their parents for money or bumming around to add to the millions of unemployed and underemployed due to job-skill mismatch.

Working abroad presents bright horizons to those who have world-class training and skills development in schools and being certified by TESDA.

With much high wages and perks, many of those who will come back to the country would have saved enough to start new businesses, industries and projects that would push up the country’s economy to a higher level.

The government is now on its fifth year of implementation of the K to 12 Program which DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro described as “Our last mile now focused on the SHS. All 221 divisions of DepEd have finished planning and have figures on enrollment a year in advance.”

All plans were reviewed by a separate team and finalized upon consultation with other stakeholders.

Another vital education achievement of the Aquino administration is its addressing the perennial classroom problem.

From 2010 to 2013, DepEd built 66,813 classrooms and constructed additional 33,608 rooms in 2014

The Department is still searching for lands and spaces to buy but plans may not materialize or be delayed for sometime due to the refusal of property owners to sell their lands for school buildings.

The staggering price of lands and right-of-ways, especially in places where schooling could have been more convenient in the cities or urban areas, are also a problem.

Inasmuch as DepEd is planning to establish 5,899 Senior High Schools (SHS) nationwide, it has issued provisional permits to 1,866 private schools set to offer SHS in 2016.

There are now 2,199 private schools cleared to offer SHS and over 200 more are being processed.

Teacher Hiring

The 2010 backlog of 145,827 teachers was addressed with the creation of 102,623 teaching posts from fiscal year 2010 to 2013 combined with local government unit-hired and kinder volunteers.

From 2010 to 2014, DepEd filled 128,105 new teacher items as it targets two kinds of teachers — those who will teach core subjects and those who will handle specialized subjects per track.

Around 33,130 new teacher items were created in 2014 while 39,066 new teacher items were proposed for creation in 2015 with priority to regularize and absorb qualified LGU-hired and kinder volunteers.

DepEd will hire 37,000 teachers for school year 2016 alone.

As of March 2015, out of the 135,753 created teacher items from 2010 to 2014 — 128,105 or 94.37 percent have already been filled up.

Updates on Curriculum, Seats, Textbooks, Classrooms

For the first time in history, the entire educational curriculum is digitized and made accessible to the public which strengthens President Aquino’s being named the “Education President.”

Philippine school curriculum is inclusive and built around the needs of learners and the community, and available on the DepEd website for public viewing and reference.

Learning materials are being produced for elementary to junior high while textbooks for SHS have specialized subjects being bid out.

In matters of textbook, there is continuous provision of basic education textbooks which are not only relevant but applicable to the changing times.

In 2014, 42.6 million learning materials and 1,434 school furniture were made available nationwide. By 2015, there were 69.5 million learning materials and 1,547,531 school furniture produced for most schools.

The 2010 backlog of 2.5 million school seats and 61.7 million textbooks were already addressed in December 2012.

In matters of classroom construction, the 2010 backlog of 66,800 classrooms was addressed with 66,813 classrooms by the end of December 2013.

On average, DepEd has been building about 17,295 classrooms per year as compared to an average of 3,146 classrooms built in the previous years.

By 2014, about 28,934 classrooms with 19,134 for K to 10 and 9,800 for SHS have been allocated for construction.

An additional 31,728 classrooms with 11,728 for K to 10 requirements and 20,000 for SHS have been proposed for construction under the 2015 budget.

As of March 25, this year, a total of 86,478 classrooms were constructed since July 2010. This is five times more than the total number of classrooms constructed by the previous administration

Other Success Programs

The Abot Alam Program targeting the Out-of-School Youths (OSY) is a another feather to the cap of the President because by the end of 2014, OSYs numbering 1,943,247 have been mapped in 206 provinces and cities.

Of these, 847,292 expressed interest in pursuing further education, 524,349 in entrepreneurship and 490,664 in employment.

Some of them indicated more than one preferred track or craft while others did not specify any preference.

Out of the more than 1.9 million OYS mapped in 2014, a total of 412,594 as of February 2015 have already been matched and enrolled in various interventions: 306,748 are already back in education through the Alternative Learning System (ALS).

At least 53,602 have been provided with opportunities for entrepreneurship and 52,184 have undergone skills training for employment.

There is an ongoing matching being done for the remaining 1.5 million of the 1.9 million mapped. At least 600,000 of the remaining 1.5 million will be enrolled in various program interventions by the end of December 2015.

The Enhanced Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (e-GASTPE)

This is a commitment of the government to expand support to public school students who wish to pursue secondary education in private schools under the Education Service Contracting (ESC) Program.

On the other hand, the Special Education Voucher System (SVS) was phased out progressively starting from 2011 to 2012, with the last batch of students under this program graduated in 2013 to 2014.

Grantees who availed of the SVS increased by 20 percent from 666,000 in school year 2009 to 855,449 in school year 2014. Furthermore, the 855,449 represented the private secondary school total population

The Enhanced Basic Education Information System (EBEIS)

The EBEIS is an online facility for encoding, storage and report generation on all school information such as enrollment, resource inventories, and special programs.

This has allowed more updated information to be used for budget and program planning and implementation.

DepEd is now able to collate beginning School Year Data by August of the same year, and consequently the Department is now able to use two-year-old data for budget planning.

Another project is DepEd’s using a permanent 12-digit number per individual in tracking down of students in all public schools and Alternative Learning System (ALS) learners.

This led to the rise of the Learner Information System (LIS) registry to track down students/learners and to become the basis of decision-making.

One of the most important features of the LIS is the generation of automatic report templates that spares teachers the tedious task of writing different reports and allows them to focus on teaching.

Some worthy and innovative programs that could not yet be accurately measured in its success are the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and the Accreditation and Equivalency (A and E) certification program.

The ALS as defined by EFA is a parallel learning system that provided a practical alternative to existing formal instruction and encompasses both the non-formal and informal sources of knowledge and skills.

The target learners of ALS consist of marginalized out-of-school youth and adults who lack basic literacy, who are OSYs and adults who are literate but unable to finish basic education and some youth and adults with special needs.

Most of these live below the poverty line and come from depressed, disadvantaged, underserved communities.

The A and E is a non-formal education certification program for out-of-school youths and adults that recognizes prior learning.

It offers elementary and secondary education comparable to that of formal basic education.

The A and E test takers are those who wish to receive formal recognition of having an education equivalent to elementary and high school graduates.

Inclusive education is ongoing and a project that President Aquino wants to fully achieve. It is apparent that legislative provisions and institutionalized programs for the marginalized is the trend.

The three recent laws — the Early Years Act of 2013, the Kindergarten Act of 2012 and the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 — are for inclusive education.

IP and Muslim Education

DepEd has been successful in institutionalizing the Indigenous People and Muslim education. It has adopted a national framework for the IP education through DepEd Order No 62, Series of 2011.

With the K to 12 under Republic Act No. 10533, it becomes a mandate for education to be made more responsive to the diverse earners’ needs such as those of the Indigenous Peoples (IP).

Moreover, the Madrasah Education Program for Muslim Filipino children has been institutionalized through Department Order No. 51, Series of 2004 via the Arabic Language and Islamic Values (ALIVE) program.

Adopt-a-School Program

The government knows the capacity of the private sector to help in delivery of quality education.

Under the Adopt-a-School Program (R.A. 8525 of 1998), the private sector gets dynamically involved in the cause of education by augmenting existing public school resources for better studies.

The Adopt-a-School Program has added more resources and services to public schools through partnerships and engagement with adopting private entities.

The government’s teaming up with the private sector intends to eliminate or remove school dropouts by addressing the lack of classrooms, books, equipment and other factors that can increase the output of students and teachers as well.

In 2013 alone, the donations were worth about P30 billion for the Adopt-a-School Program, according to EFA records.

There is much yet to be done and accomplished for education by President Aquino with less than a year to go.

His 10-point education agenda before the 2010 election are nearing full completion before he steps out of power on June 30, 2016. (PNA) SCS/LOR/RSM