Following is a Commentary from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 2010, which provides an insight into President Benigno Aquino III’s thinking–as Presidential Candidate–on how to fix Philippine basic education.
Philippine education is in crisis and we need not argue that point. What we need is a president with a basic education agenda, willing to make the hard decisions. This is what needs to be done.
1. 12-Year Basic Education Cycle
We need to add two years to our basic education. Those who can afford pay for up to fourteen years of schoolingbefore university. Thus, their children are getting into the best universities and the best jobs after graduation. I want at least 12 years for our public school children to give them an even chance at succeeding.
My education team has designed a way to go from our current 10 years (6 elementary, 4 high school) to a K-12 system in five years starting SY 2011-12. Kindergarten (K) to Grade 12 is what the rest of the world gives their children.
I will expand the basic education cycle in this country from a short 10- year cycle to a globally-comparable 12 years before the end of the next administration (2016).
2. Universal pre-schooling for all
All over the world, pre-schooling is given to all young children as the first year of basic education. We don’t solve this deficiency by renaming day care centers as pre-schools. We need to build a proper pre-school system and make this available to all children regardless of income.
All public school children (and all public schools) will have pre-schooling as their introduction to formal schooling by 2016.
3. Madaris Education as a sub-system within the Education system.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters ask for an education system that respects their culture while providing a technically sound curriculum in English, Filipino, science and math. Madaris education with subjects in Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education can be integrated in our public school curriculum as additional subjects with the view to keeping our Muslim Filipino children in school.
I want a full basic education for ALL Muslim Filipino children anywhere in the country.
4. Technical vocational education as an alternative stream in senior high school.
Half our high school graduates want to work upon graduation but do not have enough technical education. We need to provide an education alternative to better prepare students for the world of work. Technical, vocational education must be re-introduced in our public high schools with trade tests and skills rating (TESDA or other acceptable work standards) as the final examination for students looking at HS as their terminal course.
I will re-introduce technical-vocational education in our public high schools to better link schooling to local industry needs and employment.
5. “Every Child a Reader” by Grade 1
At the core of our children’s non-learning problems is the inability to read properly. By the end of the next administration (SY 2015-16), every child passing pre-school must be a reader by Grade 1.
Essential to this, we must build a library infrastructure in our schools, procure reading books (from our Philippine publishing industry to support local authors and publishers) and train our elementary teachers on how to teach reading.
By the end of the next administration, every child must be a reader by Grade 1.
6. Science and Math proficiency
We need a strong science and math curriculum that starts as early as Grade 1 with instructional materials and properly trained elementary teachers. To build a culture for science and math, I will bring back the science and math clubs movement with elementary and high school science/math fairs.
I will rebuild the science and math infrastructure in schools so that we can produce more scientists, engineers, technicians, technologists and teachers in our universities so that this country can be more globally competitive in industry and manufacturing.
7. Assistance to private schools as essential partners in basic education
Private education must be a partner in producing quality education in the country. I intend to expand GASTPE (Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education) to a target of 1 million private HS students every year through education service contracting (ESC) while doing away with the wasteful education voucher system (EVS) of this administration.
I will expand government assistance to private education. A strong private school system will strengthen our public schools by providing parents an alternative and not adding to the overcrowding.
8. Medium of Instruction rationalized
UNESCO has proven that young children learn best in their mother tongue before moving on to English in higher grades. I fully support the UNESCO-tried and tested formula on mother tongue instruction. From pre- school to Grade 3, we will use the mother tongue as the medium of instruction while teaching English and Filipino as subjects.
From Grades 4-6 (7), we will increasingly use English as the medium of instruction for science & math and Filipino for Araling Panlipunan (social studies). For High School, English should be the medium of instruction for science, math & English; Filipino for AP, Filipino and tech-voc education.
My view: We should become tri-lingual as a country.
- Learn English well and connect to the World.
- Learn Filipino well and connect to our country.
- Retain your dialect and connect to your heritage.
9. Quality textbooks
Poor quality textbooks have no place in our schools.
I will not tolerate poor textbook quality in our schools. Textbooks will be judged by three criteria: quality, better quality, and more quality.
10. Covenant with Local Governments to build more schools
We need to address our continuing classroom shortages. And if we are successful keeping more kids in school, the demand for more classrooms will be even greater. Here, we need a covenant with LGUs not only to build more classrooms but to establish more schools on land provided by LGUs. We do not need more overcrowded schools; we need more schools with smaller populations so that teachers, students, and parents can form a real learning community.
I will build more schools in areas where there are no public or private schools in a covenant with LGUs so that we can realize genuine education for all.
If we fix these ten concerns, we will fix most of the problems in our education system.
If we fix basic education, we fix the long-term problems of the country.
And if we fix the country’s problems, we will build a truly strong society we can proudly call the Philippines.