Aquino: 'Don't think of K to 12 as a burden'

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, May 29, again defended the K to 12 program amid growing opposition against the landmark legislation.

"Imbes na isiping pabigat ang karagdagang dalawang taon sa paaralan ng ating mga estudyante, ituring po natin itong pagkakataon upang higit nilang mapahusay ang sarili tungo sa pag-abot ng kanilang mga pangarap," Aquino said at the second anniversary celebration of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.

(Instead of thinking that the additional two years in school are burdens for our students, let's consider this as an opportunity so that students can improve themselves and atttain their dreams.)

The law adds two years to the basic education system of the Philippines, and the largest batch of grade 11 students will enter senior high school in 2016.

K to 12 also promises to produce employable Filipino high school graduates, but many groups are not impressed.

To date, at least 4 petitions have already been filed before the Supreme Court to suspend the K to 12 program. Critics believe government should focus on the existing problems in education instead of introducing a new system. (READ: Expect higher dropout rates due to K to 12 – Trillanes)

But Aquino, echoing Education Secretary Armin Luistro, said the country is now ready for K to 12. 

"Siguro nga po, sa ilang nakalipas na henerasyon, pupuwede pa ang 10 taon ng pag-aaral. Pero habang umuusad ang panahon, 'di po ba, mas malawak na ang kaalamang inaasahan sa bawat isa, at kailangan nating makasabay sa pagbabago?"

(Perhaps in the past generations, a 10-year basic education is enough. But as times change, isn't a broader range of knowledge expected from everyone, and don't we need to catch up with the changes?)

The President said the reform comes at a time when government has enough funds to address the needs in the education sector. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: 10 things about K to 12) 

For 2015 alone, P53.9 billion ($1.21 billion)* has been allotted for the construction of 31,728 classrooms, P10 billion ($224.30 million) to hire 39,066 teachers and 1,500 non-teaching staff, and P3.5 billion ($78.53 million) to buy 70.5 million textbooks and other learning materials.

'Golden opportunity'

Aquino also assured thousands of college workers who may be displaced because of K to 12 that there are options for them, such as teaching in senior high school or taking up post-graduate studies.

Latest estimates from the Commission on Higher Education showed 13,634 teaching staff and 11,456 non-teaching staff in higher education institutions may be displaced, as enrollment in colleges and universities is expected to drop in 2016. 

Aquino urged Filipinos not to let this "golden opportunity" go to waste. (READ: Luistro: No one can stop K to 12 at this stage)

"Ngayon po, hindi naman natin sinasabing tangan na natin ang perpektong solusyon sa lahat ng problema. Ang atin lang po, mapatibay na ngayon, sa abot ng ating makakaya, ang sistemang pang-edukasyon sa bansa," he added.

(We're not saying we already have the perfect solution to all the problems. But let's strengthen, to the best of our ability, the education system in the country.) –

*US$1 = P44.57

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.