Even before the start of his new administration, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. already called for a review of the K-12 program, noting that “there is need to improve the quality of education in the country.” He deplored that Filipino students are lagging behind their Asian counterparts, especially in science, mathematics and English as a second language.
Last May, the Department of Education (DepEd) unveiled the main features of the 2022 curriculum at a stakeholders’ forum on curriculum review and curriculum revision updates. The DepEd emphasized its openness to proposals for improving the program, as it recognized the need to tap into a broad spectrum of insights to ensure that K-12 program will be relevant and responsive to 21st century needs and challenges.
It was disclosed by DepEd officials that they were carefully studying the issues and gaps that had surfaced during curriculum review studies that have been ongoing since 2016. They also clarified that there was no intention to overhaul or completely change the program; the focus is on ensuring its continuing relevance.
On curriculum development review, the DepEd reported that “desirable competencies (are) found in various learning areas, congested curriculum content, evident spiral progression, misplaced or missing identified prerequisites, and a significant number of standards and competencies catering to high cognitive demands.”
An expert from Australia, Dr. Pam Robertson of the University of Melbourne Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre, observed that “substantial progress” has been achieved in “addressing overcrowding, sequencing, and spacing.”
She put forward four key suggestions: “We need to reduce the number of learning competencies. Second, DepEd must ensure prerequisite skills and knowledge are built systematically from one grade to the next. Third, DepEd may improve articulation of learning competencies within the intended curriculum, and lastly, the new or enhanced curriculum must address the cognitive demand expectations.”
The K-12 curriculum review, while important, is not as urgent as the challenges facing the DepEd on how to manage an orderly transition to face-to-face, in-person learning after more than two years of lockdown. Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte was directed by President Marcos in a recent Cabinet meeting to “institutionalize blending learning” approaches that would address the needs of specific sectors and areas. Recall that out of an abundance of caution, Philippine elementary and high schools were among the last in the world to reopen due to public health and safety concerns.
The Enhanced Education Act that brought on the inception of the K-12 program was implemented in the 2013-2014 schoolyear. The students who enrolled in grade one have just finished grade 10; they have to complete two more years before they could graduate from senior high school. In this last phase of basic education, they are given three choices: accounting business and management strand; humanities and social sciences strand; and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics strand.
A truly comprehensive review of the entire K to 12 learning experience is imperative in reaching viable conclusions vital to instituting strategic educational reforms.