Upon the presentation of the presumptive administration’s education thrust in its eight-point economic agenda, Filipino educators network Educators Forum for Development (EfD) challenged presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte to effectively strengthen the public education system by calling for a review of the K-to-12 program and pushing for a nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented curriculum.
The incoming administration’s education thrust mentioned in its economic agenda points to strengthening the basic education system by continuing the K-to-12 program and expanding scholarships in tertiary education. Though Davao City Mayor Duterte has earlier expressed doubt about the country’s readiness to implement the K-to-12 program’s Senior High School Component, he concurred with the Aquino administration’s promotion of technical-vocational education in public high schools to respond to private sector needs.
EfD spokesperson Dr. Judy Taguiwalo explained that this is why K-to-12 must be rethought and the education system reoriented. According to Taguiwalo, basic education must instead contribute to the building of a self-reliant economy, based on genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization. The State not only must have strong support for the public education system in terms of sufficient facilities, resources, a substantial curriculum and empowered teachers; it should provide free education for all Filipinos as it is, according to the Philippine Constitution, a right and not a privilege. These are contingent to shaping a citizenry that embraces their history and culture, and to developing their competencies and skills to build a strong domestic economy, she said.
Taguiwalo said that the K-to-12, which capitalizes on honing the Filipino youth into a cheap labor army for the global corporate market, has aggravated the long-standing problems besetting the Philippine education system. Basic education provision has increasingly become privatized and thus more a privilege for the moneyed rather than, a right for all Filipinos regardless of class. Meanwhile, public schools continue to suffer teacher, classroom, chairs and books shortages. Throughout the centuries the Philippine education system has also been shaped to serve commercial interests, Taguiwalo said.
Taguiwalo also lamented that scholarships are not enough as tuition rates keep on increasing and State universities and colleges are being clustered and forced to corporatize. She said that in the neoliberal framework, scholarships are even additional means to channel public funds into the private sector, such as the Php12.2 billion Senior High School (SHS) Voucher Program budget for 2016, and the Php47.9 billion for Government Assistance for Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) from 2010-2016.
A Duterte presidency can help effect pro-people change by boldly reversing the neoliberal thrust of Philippine education, reviewing K-to-12 and instead of channeling taxpayers’ money from the private sector, direct it towards enhancing the State’s responsibility to harness the Filipino youth as nation builders, Taguiwalo said.