Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said the Kindergarten-12th Grade (K-12) education model will help high school graduates qualify for jobs without obtaining a college degree.
"One of the basic deficiencies of [the current] basic education program is that in the country, a high school diploma is really not respected as a passport to a respectable employment," Luistro said.
DepEd has been criticized by various groups recently for the government's plan to add two more years to the country's current 10-year basic education program. (See: Teachers wary of 'trial-and-error' 12-year educ program)
The proposal for the 12-year education system will formally be presented on October 5, World Teacher's Day.
The K-12 education system, one of President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III's proposed education reforms, covers seven years of grade school and five years of high school.
He said those who are opposed to the K-12 system do not exactly know what the new program entails.
"They haven't seen our proposal, so all they know is there will be additional two years," he said.
"Our current basic curriculum is very college-based. It's a preparation for college," he said.
On the other hand, he said the "K-12 (program) will provide learning and life skills to adults so that they can start working."
Luistro admitted that problems in education seem overwhelming but the Aquino administration has already taken steps to address decades of neglect in Philippine education.
One of these steps, he said, is the K-12 program which supports the government's "Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2," which aims to provide universal primary education for all.
"The move into the 12-year cycle will address part of the difficulties of basic education for all," he said. "Part of the Aquino administration's plan for education is to ensure that all school-age children are in school by 2015."
Dev't goals may not be achieved
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) MDG progress report, MDG 2 may not be achieved based on the existing trends in "elementary participation rate" or the ratio between elementary enrolment and the total number of children in the elementary age group (six to 12 years old).
The NEDA MDG progress report showed that 72 million children were out of school in 2007.
While the figure has decreased since, the projected number of out-of-school children by 2015 is 56 million.
In school year 2008-2009, only about half of the six-year-old population entered Grade 1. About 13% cited the 'high cost of education' as the reason for not enrolling in school.
"The government needs to address issues with a sense of urgency and produce outcomes that can be sustained till 2015," said Erlinda Capones, Director for Social Development of NEDA.
More relevant education
Luistro said that the K-12 system will be free and compulsory for all and it will allow for a "more relevant education."
The Education Secretary said that the department is working towards fixing the shortages and problems within a two-year period, just in time for the MDG deadline in 2015.
"While there are grave concerns and actual threats to achieving the MDG, I should say that we are still on track," he said.
Some education groups and teachers, including Ramon Magsaysay awardees Christopher Bernido and Marivic Carpio-Bernido, have expressed their concern about the proposed K-12 system, saying that DepEd should first focus on the "core problems" that face basic education.
However, Luistro stressed that the K-12 system will not "distract" the DepEd from the other problems that need to be resolved. "These two actually go hand in hand," he said. "It can't be 'either or.'"
"I remain hopeful," he said. "In the interest of young people in the Philippines, in the interest of education, I do not think anyone is allowed to fail."
Candice Montenegro, GMA News