DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro of the De La Salle chain of universities summed it up short and simple: our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world have instituted a 12-year basic education to make their young population globally competitive. Poor Philippines should do the same.
I spent a total of 11 years to complete my kindergarten, primary and secondary education. Even without the law that mandates a 12-year education cycle, most Filipinos of my age took preparatory schools (nursery and kindergarten) prior to entering the formal education system. In a sense, most of the younger urban generation today have completed more than the mandated 10-year cycle. So what gives? Can the DepEd just formally recognize preparatory school instead of adding a 7th grade and a 5th year?
Modesty aside, I don’t feel inadequate having gone through the 10-year education cycle. If competitiveness is DepEd’s primary objective for adding years in our basic education cycle, then they should be clear: competitiveness in what? The rest of the world have been enjoying our low pay, high quality workforce. Many overqualified Filipinos have been exported everywhere to perform jobs that are way under their competencies. So why reinvent the wheel?
My take is that Filipinos are in fact overschooled, but hardly educated. We spend so much time memorizing facts and figures. We focus on perfecting exams, getting high scores, and finishing school with honors…or at least on time. Our education system creates a schooled population but not an educated one. Schools are used as factories to produce unthinking automatons, not humans. Yes, even Catholic schools that espouses total human development cannot accept critical thinking, freedom of expression and self-paced learning as virtues of their brand of education. It is not a surprise then to find people who have PhDs attached to their names but are incapable of creating original thought, or forming an intelligent opinion moreso express a divergent view. They are not bookish; they are boxed.
Another reason for expanding the basic education cycle, DedEd says is for those who can’t afford a college education become easily employable. But in an economy with high unemployment and underemployment rates, where even college graduates cannot find a decent work that is commensurate to their college diplomas, do we expect employers to prefer an undergraduate over a degree holder? I don’t think so.
The 12-year basic education cycle may be the answer to a wrong problem and for a different time. Now is not the time to prolong the agony of poor parents to send their children to school. Twelve years in school does not guarantee better education. It might just mean longer years spent by hungry students in crowded classrooms with overworked, poorly trained and underpaid teachers using error-ridden textbooks and outdated curricula.