by: Earl Gio Manuel
Aling Nelia Dela Torre, 42, a resident of Brgy. Caballero, Famy, Laguna, is a single mother who has five children. She considers her family poor because she lacks money most of the time to support her children’s needs.
She works as a restaurant cashier during the day and as a “balut-penoy” vendor at a bus station in the evening. She earns P120 a day from her day-job and an average of P100 from her evening side-line, giving her a total income of P220, which, according to Aling Nelia, is not enough to give her family three meals in a day.
She has been working since her husband died six years ago. Before, she was a housewife who budgets her husband’s income working as a security guard in a bank. Now, she is the breadwinner, earning and forced to make ends meet with an average of P6,500 a month in earnings. Two of her children have already finished high school andare now working as factory workers in Calamba City. The have their own families to support with their measly income, thereby leaving the remaining three children for Aling Nelia to support on her own. One of them is in Grade 6 and the other two are in first year high school. They are all studying in a public school in Famy.
When the news about K-12 program of the government became the talk of the town, Aling Nelia cannot help complaining because according to her, the additional two years in school means additional expenses. She said that this program is only for the benefit of those who can afford sending their kids to school and will worsen the condition of the poor like her.
K-12 is a new basic education curriculum which is first implemented for this school year. Its development has been made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other stakeholders.
Aling Nelia is worried of how she could support the studies of her three children. She admits that she borrows money from her neighbors when she cannot have the money for feeding her children. “I do not know what other job I will take to support the expenses of my children in school” (Hindi ko alam kung ano pang trabaho and papasukin ko upang masuportahan ko yung mga gastusin nila sa eskwela), she said.
K-12 program will basically add two more years to the usual 10 years of basic education in the country. The first year level in high school under the old curriculum is now called Grade 7. Students affected by this change in the curriculum, those who graduated from Grade 6 in the summer of 2012 and everyone in the lower levels, will undergo four years in junior high school and have additional two years under senior high school.
She also admits that when she does not have the money to give to her children, they do not go to school to attend classes. “I am worried because when I do not have enough money to give as their “baon”, they will not go to school. Eventhough I am poor, I still value education so what more if there for is an additional two years of studying?” (Nag-aalala ako kasi minsan, ‘pag wala akong mabigay na pambaon nila ‘di talaga sila pumapasok. E kahit mahirap lang ako e pinapahalagahan ko pa rin naman yung pag-aaral nila tapos paano pa kaya yung dalawa pang taon na dagdag?) she added.
Doubting the government strategy
Aling Nelia also said that she has doubts on the effectiveness of the new curriculum, and she wonders what additional lessons the teachers will teach during the additional two years. For her, the old curriculum is already effective; she considers that once we know writing, reading and computing, we can now work and earn income.
She also said that the government is prolonging the time of studying because we just want to keep up with the other countries out of envy. This, to her, is not practical. She said being practical is a must nowadays, and the new strategies to improve education will not work since many people in the country are poor and cannot afford sending their kids for another years of schooling.
According to a SEAMEO-Innotech report about the Comparative Data on Duration of Basic and Pre-University Education in Asia, the Philippines has the shortest basic education period, which is only ten years, while its neighboring countries like Thailand and Malaysia have 12 and 14 years respectively.
The Department of Education (DepEd) rationalized K-12 in its website by saying that the program is being implemented since the country has consistently ranked low in global trends when it comes to literacy, which is a reflection of poor education. National Achievement Test (NAT) results have also been declining in the past years which also made DepED come up with this new curriculum which aims to provide quality education to students specially those who are in high school so that they will be prepared in entering college.
But Aling Nelia plans on sending her three younger children to work, just like what she did with her older children, after finishing high school. “For me, what you learned in high school is enough for you to work and help your family. Also, I do not have the money to send my children to college” (‘Sakin kasi, okay na yung natutunan mo nung high school para magtrabaho at tumulong sa pamilya at isa pa wala akong pampaaral sa kolehiyo sa mga anak ko), she said.
To her, the longer stay in school is like postponing the realization of her dreams for her children to start working.
What she did not understand is that K-12 graduates will be accredited under the specializations of Academics, Technical-Vocational, and Sports and Arts; this means they can readily work based on the skills they learned form their fields of specializations. One more advantage is that by the time they finish high school, they are already of legal age.
During the First Grading Evaluation (FGE) Program in Famy National High School held on September 1, Principal Solomon Kahulugan explained to the parents of the first year students the benefits and importance of K-12 program through citing some examples. By presenting data in a power point presentation, Kahulugan also discussed the reasons on why K-12 was implemented by the government and why it will contribute to the development of the country. Amelyn Diaz, first year pilot adviser (I-Diligent) also discussed the impacts of K-12 to the over all economic development of the country wherein more skilled workers will be produced from the K-12 program.
Aling Nelia, fortunately, was in the audience, listening.
She admitted that she learned a lot of things about K-12. Her views about the program has been changed. She now realized the importance of K-12 not only for her children but also to the country. She noted that while it is her right to get worried about the financial problems specially since she is a single parent, it is every parent’s responsibility to know about the importance of K-12 to shift the focus from worrying over educational expenses to the long-term benefits.
What she will be thinking about now is the strategy on how she can motivate her children to study harder. “I will work harder to support their (my children) studies” (Pagbubutihin ko na lang ang pagtatrabaho ko para masuportahan ko ang pag-aaral nila), she added.
Before, Aling Nelia used to have negative thoughts and numerous complains about the K-12. Now, she believes that her children will have a better future because of the new program. She cannot wait to see her children as skilled and productive like the other workers in and out of the country. She hopes that K-12 will really give her children effective knowledge so that they will not just work for the sake of helping their family but to help the nation, too.
Aling Nelia still works in a restaurant during the day and at the bus station at night. But something has changed now —she realized the importance of the things she used to complain about.