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Is K+10+2 what we really need? – Sen. Gatchalian


“It sounds like the correct thing to do, but is this the right thing to do for our country?”, Senator Win Gatchalian asked the participants of the EDCOM 2 Initial Consultation for the Proposed K+10+2 Bill, held yesterday at the University of the Philippines BGC. 

“That’s something I want to put on the table so that we can think about unintended consequences. For me, we might incentivize our kids to stop at Grade 10 and they won’t have the necessary skills and land decent jobs in the long run”, Gatchalian said after pointing to a PulseAsia survey conducted in 2022, which revealed that 87% of respondents agree to returning to ten years of basic education.

The meeting, attended by EDCOM 2 Commissioners, Advisory Council members, Standing committee members, and representatives of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, and House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education and Culture members, was an initial discussion of House Bill No. 7893, proposed by Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. 

Also in attendance were representatives from the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Labor and Employment, and representatives from various stakeholder groups in the education sector.

Multiple pathways, single TVET body suggested

Dr. Pam Robertson, of the Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre (ACTRC), presented a comparison of Senior High School (SHS) programs in various countries, including the Philippines. 

She shared that around the world, there are typically four pathways under SHS (upper secondary): general academic, technical/professional, vocational (school-based), and vocational (workplace-based). She explained that these pathways then lead to either further schooling under a university or college, vocational training, or employment. 

“International comparisons suggest consideration of the adoption of four pathways for SHS students to cater for a range of abilities and aspirations”, Robertson said. “This is likely to impact exit certifications, the SHS curriculum, and teacher education”. 

Robertson also noted the need for a centralized body for TVET. “Typically, the vocational pathways are overseen either by the education department, or by a single regulatory body. That would mean that an organization like TESDA in the Philippines oversees vocational certifications from secondary right through to all the higher professional qualifications, and that leads to consistency”, she said. 

Currently, the Technical-Vocational track under the K-12 program is managed by the Department of Education, while TVET and National Certification and Assessment programs are handled by TESDA. 

K+10+2 attractive in short-term, but costlier in long-term

According to PIDS Senior Fellow Dr. Michael Abrigo, the proposed K+10+2 bill may be beneficial in the near-term, but not in the longer term. “The K+12 option has an internal rate of return of 9.7%, compared with the K+10+2 alternative”. 

He also cited previous studies that showed that graduates of SHS have higher basic pay, were more likely to be self-employed, and work less hours and are more likely to be underemployed. He also noted a previous study that SHS graduates earned substantially higher than Junior High School graduates. 

“SHS education commanded a higher wage premium over Junior High School graduates, and shifted the age schedule of school attendance, together with employment”, Abrigo explained.“While we don’t know how the labor income of SHS graduates will evolve through time, it may be reasonable to expect it to be somewhere between that of Junior High School graduates and college undergraduates”, Abrigo added. 

EDCOM 2 Co-Chairperson Rep. Roman Romulo however challenged the PIDS data. “[PIDS is] saying that 71% are employed, without giving us the whole picture that the salaries were below minimum wage – and that is a big factor for us to decide because we are not going to be happy that they are merely employed – but again, minimum wage”. 

First SHS graduates’ employment rate much better than expected

Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) presented her study on the labor market performance of the first cohort of SHS students, who graduated in SY 2017-2018. 

“On average, the employment rate of SHS graduates was 81.5%, in the six to twelve months after leaving school – much better than anticipated, and higher than that of post-secondary Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates”, Manasan said. “The quality of employment of SHS graduates appears to be superior relative to that of JHS graduates and slightly better than that of college undergraduates, as indicated by the proportion of salary workers to the total number employed”, she continued. 

Dr. Manasan recommended that, to improve the employability of SHS graduates, government should:

  • Rationalize work immersion requirements of SHS TVL track in the direction of longer hours allocated to work immersion than currently practiced
  • Ensure that schools offering TVL track have teachers with appropriate specialization and required TVL equipment
  • Ensure better alignment of SHS TVL specialization offerings with needs of industry via stronger engagement between DepEd and industry
  • Strengthen the teaching and learning of 21st Century skills in SHS, particularly in TVL track
  • Fund fees, through DepEd, for National Certification assessment to improve employability of SHS graduates

“The passing rate of SHS of SHS graduates in NC assessment is high – 91.4% on the average – but not all SHS-TVL graduates take the NC examination, many because of financial constraints”, Dr. Manasan explained. 

The EDCOM 2 Commissioners recognized this as “low-hanging fruit” that the government can support in the upcoming budget deliberations, noting that TESDA estimates P1.5 billion being needed to fund the assessment and certification of graduates of the SHS Technical-Vocational-Livelihood track. 

Gatchalian: We should be looking at the real problem

Senator Gatchalian, presenting the national cohort survival rate from Grade 1 to Grade 12, explained that from Grade 10 to Grade 12, only a small percentage fell through and did not complete the whole SHS program. 

“If we look at [the cohort survival rate] from Grade 10 to Grade 12, for every 100 students who enter Grade 1, 60 will finish by Grade 10 and 51 will finish by Grade 12. So even though you move from Grade 10 to Grade 12, you will only save around 9 students [of the original students who entered the system]”, he said. 

“But the bigger problem is Grade 10, we lose almost 40% of our students. So in other words, by moving it back to Grade 10, you save nine students but the bigger problem is actually how do you save the 40% that disappeared from Grade 1 to Grade 10”.

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