DepEd: ‘Saying K-12 is 6 years of high school for nothing is a disservice to learners’

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DepEd asserts that the implementation of the K to 12 Basic Education Program is a prompt necessity and that pushing it back might prove detrimental to the accelerating and increasing demands on education. Photo by JILSON TIU

Editor’s note: This article is the Department of Education’s response to the article “OPINION: K-12 is 6 years of high school for nothing.” CNN Philippines Life is publishing this response sent by DepEd in the interest of fairness.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Senior High School (SHS) is a main component of the K to 12 Basic Education Program aimed at providing Filipino learners sufficient time to gain mastery of concepts and skills that will enable them to be globally competitive and better equipped as contributors to nation-building.

The claim that the first batch of SHS graduates have become “forgotten” “guinea pigs” of the program, as stated in the October 23, 2018 opinion article entitled, “K-12 is 6 years of high school for nothing,” is a disservice to the perseverance and triumph of learners determined to live up to their potential and contribute significantly to their families’ welfare and the country’s development.

“We began high school as children, but we’re leaving here as adults. We’ve completed a basic education that will serve as the platform we use to launch ourselves into our futures. Some of us will go on to college, others will go straight into the workforce, but each of us will travel our own path. To those who will continue their college, go on,” an SHS graduate with high honors delivered during a graduation ceremony in April.

To assert that the first SHS graduates have been “swept in the dustbin of history” is to discount the support of countless groups and individuals, public and private, who go above and beyond to stake a claim on quality basic education.

Employability is only one of the four exits that SHS graduates are equipped, and not coerced, to take — the three others are higher education, entrepreneurship, and middle-level skills development. School year (SY) 2017-2018 registered 52.20 percent enrollment rate for the Academic track among Grade 12 students, while SY 2018-2019 enrollment quick count (as of June 29, 2018) yielded an increase in Academic track enrollment rate of Grade 12 learners at 62.65 percent — an indication that a huge portion of these learners are leaning toward continuing to tertiary education.

Regardless of the track taken by SHS students — Academic, Technical-Vocational-Livelihood, Arts and Design, and Sports — they undergo Work Immersion, which equips them with opportunities to become familiar with the workplace; for employment simulation; and to apply their competencies in areas of specialization/applied subjects in authentic work environments.

All SHS learners gained significant workplace exposure through the Work Immersion and a definite edge over job applicants who did not undergo SHS.

Based on a study commissioned by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) in 2017, of the 144 companies across 22 industries, “one out of five has the capacity and policies to hire K to 12 graduates, while three out of five are open and willing to hire” the said graduates. The same study revealed that 93 percent of the competencies targeted by the K to 12 curriculum matched the needs of companies for entry-level jobs.

Since the responsibility of promoting the employability of SHS graduates lies not solely on the Department of Education (DepEd), the agency continuously confers with industry partners who have expressed support to the K to 12 program and conveyed willingness to open their doors to SHS graduates by moving toward hiring based on competencies instead of credentials.

In April, the K to 12 Coalition gathered and issued a unified statement to show its support for the country’s biggest education reform to date. The coalition is comprised of organizations including PBEd, Makati Business Club, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, IT and Business Process Outsourcing Association of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, and People Management Association of the Philippines.

In August, DepEd and PBEd cemented their partnership with a Memorandum of Understanding to “concretely work on the Affirmative Hiring Initiative” and “collaborate by endorsing the initiative to DepEd schools and graduating K to 12 students.” The Affirmative Hiring Initiative is one activity under the coalition that aims to “promote the employability of K to 12 graduates to multiple beneficiaries; build partnerships with and between industries; and provide K to 12 graduates with economic and employment opportunities.”

Since April, the initiative has “secured the commitment of 17 companies from the finance, IT-BPO, hospitality, manufacturing services, and media sector; secured over 2,000 job positions; and reached over 3,700 students.”

DepEd is also in constant coordination with the Civil Service Commission to enable SHS graduates to be employed in the government.

Actions have also been taken to ensure the hiring of more qualified teachers whose training and competencies match the requirements of the SHS Program. Specifically, the Department is working to provide higher compensation for teachers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strand.

The implementation of the K to 12 Basic Education Program is a prompt necessity that pushing it back might prove detrimental to the accelerating and increasing demands on education. The challenges still abound but the support of the national and local government, and of stakeholders in the private sector, has been overwhelming that it silences doubts, addresses criticisms, and strengthens the resolve to move forward with change today.

Click the following links for testimonials from K to 12 graduates: Video 1, Video 2