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The K-12 system will produce dropouts and what else?

MANILA (UCAN) : Catholic educators in The Philippines have called on the government to prioritise laws to upgrade the quality of education in the country.

“Most of our legislators are only interested in creating state universities and colleges that only contribute to the number of schools with poor standards,” Jesuit Father Joel Tabora said.

Father Tabora, the vice president of the Catholic Education Association of The Philippines, made his observation during the association’s 74th annual convention on October 1.

“There are very few legislators who truly think about what is happening with our educational system,” Father Tabora pointed out.

The association president, Narciso Erguiza Jr., noted, “The quality and tenor of education in our country is determined by the kind of teachers we have.”

Erguiza said that the present crop of teachers in the country is not the best and brightest. Only 27 per cent, or about 12,000 out of 44,000 applicants, qualified to teach elementary education in the May 2015 Licensure Examination for Teachers.

For the secondary level, only 32 per cent, or fewer than 18,000 out of about 56,000, passed.

“The curriculum can only be as good as the teachers that you have,” Erguiza said.

This year, the government has started to implement an extended national education programme.

Under the K-12 system, two years will be added to senior high school. Up until now, basic education stopped at grade 10.

While the programme has been lauded for improving educational opportunities, groups that work with poor communities say it will create nearly a million dropouts.

Father Jerome Secillano, the executive secretary of the Public Affairs Committee, said that the poor will be particularly impacted on by changes in the country’s educational system.

“It will mean an additional financial burden for poor families that are already struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

However, Erguiza said that the government has made progress in improving the quality of education, even calling the K-12 programme “a milestone decision in terms of our education system.”

The programme aims to provide basic education that will result in employment for graduates, especially for the approximately 7,000 annual high school graduates that do not pursue college education.

Nevertheless, some groups are saying that the K-12, despite being a breakthrough, does not address the problem of unemployment.

The League of Filipino Students has voiced its opposition to the programme, because it believes it will entail further commercialisation of college education.

“This will entail greater budget cuts in state universities and colleges,” Charisse Bañez said.

She added that in implementing the programme the government is increasingly relying on the private sector to provide education. The group said the new programme should be scrapped.

Rene Salvador San Andres, the Catholic Education Association executive director, said efforts to improve the quality of education must do more than dwell on the technical side of things.

“We want to produce engineers with humanity, accountants with ethics, true to our Catholic character,” San Andres stressed.