Mona Valisno on K-12: a rose is a rose by another name

Mona Valisno

Following is a reprint of Isagani Cruz’s MINI CRITIQUE column published July 28, 2011, in The Philippine Star, regarding former DepEd Secretary Mona Valisno’s forthcoming book, more specifically her take on K+12. Ms. Valisno brings up yet another wrinkle in the dialogue on the proposed K+12 basic educational cycle: instead of K+12, it will be K+10 which is equal to kindergarten + 6 years of grade school + 4 years of high school. The wrinkle is inserting the proposed additional 11th and 12th years of high school as the first 2 years spent in college — with the DepEd a.k.a. the taxpayers bankrolling the students’ first 2 years in college to the tune of some paltry 45 billion pesos a year — and this will be a permanent solution! Now, isn’t that what we’re doing now with this 45-billion-peso difference: the students/parents pay for those first two years in college and thereafter. Creative, indeed, or is this just an ingenuous shell game, Ms. Valisno? Please read on:

Mona Valisno on K-12

By Isagani Cruz

Mona Valisno’s forthcoming book, “The Nation’s Journey to Greatness: Five Decades of the Philippine Educational System,” contains a proposal to solve one of the vexing problems with the K-12 program, namely, the spectre of private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) not having incoming first year students for two straight years (with a ripple effect in later years).

Valisno knows what she is talking about. She is the only Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary who also served as a Commissioner in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). She was also Presidential Assistant (PA) for Education, overseeing both DepEd and CHED, as well as other government agencies engaged in public education. As PA, she convened the Presidential Task Force on Education (PTFE), the most recent of several bodies since 1935 that suggested solutions for our perennial problems in education.

In her book, Valisno writes: “Instead of DepEd providing facilities and other resources for Grades 11 and 12 students in the public schools, including hiring new teachers, it is recommended that existing resources and facilities in public and private colleges, universities and technical-vocational training institutions be utilized, with DepEd underwriting the costs under a full scholarship arrangement.”

She cites the findings of the PTFE that our first two years of college are almost identical to the last two years of pre-university education in Asian and European countries. Since subjects taught in college in the Philippines (such as Differential and Integral Calculus, Differential Equations, General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry) are taught in high schools elsewhere in the world, there is no reason, she argues, that we cannot have colleges simply convert the first two years of college to the last two years of high school (or Senior High School, following DepEd nomenclature).

The Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA) has actually proposed something similar, but what is new in Valisno’s study is her estimate of how much the government would spend if all Grade 11 and Grade 12 classes were held in HEIs rather than in DepEd schools. She bases her figures on past data about the percentage of high school graduates that actually enrolled in college.

“From an estimated 1.5 million high school seniors,” she writes, “some 375,000 students could proceed to the universities for their Grades 11 and 12 education. Following a rough estimate of P30,000 per school year per student, some P45 billion may be incurred, to be charged against DepEd. The investment is worthwhile and is a lot cheaper than if DepEd will provide all the resources required for Grades 11 and 12.”

Relative to the total budget of DepEd and if we consider that our government spends only roughly 3 percent of GDP on education (world average in 2002 was almost 5 percent), P45 billion is very small.

“In addition,” writes Valisno, “there are anticipated benefits. DepEd can continue building new classrooms, hiring more teachers, buying more furniture, books and others for its incremental enrolment in Grades 1 to 10, since the resource requirements of Grades 11 and 12 will already exist in reputable colleges and universities. The financial viability of private colleges and universities will be assured over the long term, as there will be continued enrolment of first year students, to be paid for by government through DepEd.”

In her book, Valisno also has a number of things to say about technical education, but it is her proposal for Grades 11 and 12 that interests me here. Note that she is not proposing this as a transition or stop-gap measure until there are Grade 12 graduates ready to go to college. Instead, she proposes that Grades 11 and 12 be permanently housed in HEIs.

I may have misinterpreted her, since I read only a portion of her manuscript and not the entire manuscript, but I think that this is what she is saying. She is saying that DepEd should really see things from CHED’s point of view.

Valisno’s idea is only one of several models being proposed to solve the problem of the missing freshmen. It is certainly a lot better than the most extreme proposal I have heard so far, which in essence says, Tough!

This extreme proposal says that, like typewriters, videotapes, and beepers, private colleges and universities may be turning into dinosaurs. After all, every business or institution has a life expectancy. Progress entails casualties. So, Tough!

Since I have taught in private schools most of my life (except for short stints in UP Diliman and in foreign public universities), I think that this extreme view is unacceptable.

I will take Valisno’s proposal any day rather than just throw in the towel.

On the other hand, between having HEIs take over Grades 11 and 12 completely and having HEIs just fold up, there are other proposals to solve the problem, such as Career Academies and Junior Colleges.

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