State of the Philippine Education System: Overcoming the Pandemic

Introduction to PH education

The Philippines has a long history of battles with its colonizers—mainly Spain, America, and Japan. But throughout these occupations, they have imprinted some of the things that are practiced until today that has led to the rise of the nation. The Philippine Education system was built upon the contribution of America that is deemed to be one of the most important and lasting one. In 1898, the system of public education was first established in the country modeled by the United States school system.

For the longest time, Djibouti, Angola, and the Philippines were the only countries that had a 10-year basic education cycle while the rest of the world were following a 12-year basic education program. It was only during the last decade where the Philippines has fully embraced the implementation of the K-12 program.

Below shows the history of postponements of its implementation:

Today, schools in the Philippines offer a formal education that typically spans for 14 years. This consists of 6 years in primary school, 4 years in secondary school, and 4 years of higher education. In primary school, there are mainly 4 core subjects being taught throughout the cycle namely, language arts (Pilipino, English, and local dialect), mathematics, health, and science. Additionally, students at this age also learn about citizenship, culture, music, art, physical education, social studies, and home economics. Moving on to secondary education, the schools in the Philippines are typically classified into 3 groups which is general secondary, vocational secondary, and secondary science high school before they could officially transition to attain their higher education.

Implementation of K-12

Former president Benigno Aquino III incorporated the Enhanced Basic Education Act into the Philippine curriculum on May 15, 2013. Since the turn of the century, this has been one of the biggest changes in Philippine education. The K-12 program, which stipulates that every student will receive Kindergarten and 12 years of succeeding basic education, was the main contribution of the law described above. This was immediately implemented during the academic year of 2012-2013. It was found that Filipino students did not actually benefit from the previous 10-year basic education cycle because they were determined to be less educated than their regional peers and lack the necessary skills and maturity in the workplace. Through the K-12 program, it will help better equip students and let them have sufficient time in mastering certain concepts and attain skills that will be in demand for their upcoming careers.

What’s so special about the K-12 program is the division of its secondary education into two main programs—Junior High School (JHS) and Senior High School (SHS). Junior High School runs from Grade 7-10. Here, academic concepts are more generalized, and students learn the same subject matter. In Senior High School, it runs from Grade 11-12 and here, it is more individualized. Although general education is still part of their curriculum, students have the ability to choose a specific track that specializes in their desired educational path. The learning areas of SHS students are as follows:

Core Curriculum:

  1. Languages
  2. Literature
  3. Communication
  4. Mathematics
  5. Philosophy
  6. Natural Sciences
  7. Social Sciences

Tracks SHS students can choose from:

  1. Academic Track
    1. Accounting, Business and Management (ABM)
    2. Humanities and Social Science (HUMSS)
    3. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
    4. General Academic Strand (GAS)
  2. Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL)
    1. Agri-Fishery Arts
    2. Home Economics
    3. Industrial Arts
    4. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  3. Sports
  4. Arts and Design

Apart from the specialized learning students can have, student immersions and earn-while-you-learn opportunities are included in the curriculum. This enables students to experience the basic application of their lessons to the real world and are also exposed to the relevant events of their chosen track first-hand. It helps widen their perspectives and shapes them to be people who are well-equipped when placed in their own field of expertise. Through this, they are continually developed to be lifelong learners with better employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.  Every student who has undergone this program will flourish in information, media and technology skills, learning and innovation skills, effective communication skills, and life and career skills.

Importance of K-12

When the K-12 was first implemented to the country, there were a lot of negative implications society had. They had stated that this will cause additional burden to families by adding 2 more unnecessary years in their education. But throughout its execution, people have shifted their mindset and thought that the educational investment will let the nation prosper in the future. According to DepEd, letting students enter tertiary learning at their young adult phase allow them to have a higher level of maturity that can properly deal with higher education. Furthermore, DepEd believes that it will lead Filipino students at par with the global economy through its highly comprehensive and rigorous course material and curriculum. It aids students in carving their own path when joining the workforce may it be on national or international levels.

Another benefit of the K–12 system is that it enables pupils to find employment without having to attend college, particularly when they select an SHS track other than the academic one. It helps them hone their skills and other expertise that will later be useful when they are searching for what’s right for them. This curriculum has compelled students to be more autonomous and adaptable by making their own life choices and career paths. It does not confine them with a predetermined journey and recognizes each student’s capability and creativity.

Impact of the pandemic in the Philippine education system

The global education system has undergone a significant change as a result of the pandemic-causing coronavirus outbreak in 2020. There was a significant upheaval in how teachers delivered lessons to their students due to schools closing and ceasing face-to-face operations. Stress, loss of a loved one, loss of income, anxiety, and mental health were only a few of the contributing factors that caused student learning gaps in the country. Additionally, the sudden health crisis pushed policymakers and educators to seek for solutions quickly since they do not want to delay the learning process of the students. Some of the solutions that the schools have applied is distance learning or remote learning. Here, students that have access with mobile phones or gadgets and have internet connectivity, can access their lesson plans, and communicate with their professors. However, millions of Filipino students do not have proper access to these things. Parents and guardians raised their top concerns: money for mobile load, lack of gadget, poor internet signal, students’ struggle to focus online, and parents’ lack of knowledge of their kids’ lessons. This has yet again urged policymakers to find better and more adoptable solutions for the lower income class of the Philippines—which compromises approximately ¼ of the country’s population or 23.7%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This has caused one of the most dramatic disruptions to the educational system in the Philippines and continued to worsen the country’s economic state.

Due to the hindrances of students to attain quality education, the number of out-of-school youth (OSY) had a significant increase. According to the data of DepEd, close to 4 million students were not able to enroll in the school year of 2021-2022. More than half of that or more specifically, 2.75 million students were coming from private schools. Furthermore, the article stated that “around 50 percent of OSYs belong to families whose income fall within the bottom 30 percent of the population based on their per capita income”. Although DepEd believes that the numbers will rise again when schools gradually open for face-to-face learning, President Rodrigo Duterte has justified that it is only right to keep schools closed to avoid the virus from spreading and affecting people across the nation.

Solutions the Philippines did to overcome educational crisis

Living in the digitalized era, technology has bridged the gaps of home quarantine and education. Educators have learned how to maximize technology integrated tools and platforms to enable to see their students’ progress, assess their tests, communicate, and as well as have 1 on 1 consultations. But of course, other improvisation was also applied for students who do not have access to the internet. To address them, DepEd has also curated distance learning modes through printout modules or hear their lessons via televisions or radio. This helped students to continue their learning while following the health-risk mandates.

Below shows the illustration of different delivery modes of learning programs:

With this setup, students can choose from 3 types of learning delivery—online, offline, and blended learning which combines both online and offline learning. This was able to help students to learn even in the midst of the pandemic, accelerate the progression of the digital era, yet at the same time keep families and individuals safe from the spreading virus. Despite these solution, Robert Jerkins, the Global Director of Education of UNICEF, has expressed the importance of going back to in-person learning. “Remote learning has been a lifeline for many children around the world during school closures. But for the most vulnerable, even this was out of reach. It is urgent we get every child back into the classroom now. But we cannot stop there; reopening better means implementing remedial programs to help students get back on track and ensuring that we prioritize girls and vulnerable children in all our efforts”, he wrote.

Current state of PH education and its future plans

The Philippines has remained to be one of the 23 countries that has not yet administered face-to-face learning. The Executive Director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Jacqueline Ann de Guia has expressed her dismay and said that education was supposed to be the greatest equalizer and not the one to divide and alienate the most marginalized children of society. But fortunately, DepEd is looking forward for the resumption of 100% in-person learning for school year 2022-2023. According to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, a total of 25,668 public schools are already having face-to-face classes across the country. As for private schools, 676 of 16,000 have piloted face-to-face learning which brings a total of 6.18 million learners who are currently participating in face-to-face schooling.  She has also expressed that returning to 100% face-to-face learning will still have to depend on the protocols of the Department of Health (DOH). However, the Malacanang has set its sights on having the majority of schools resume classes by August 2022. Student vaccinations remain to be completely voluntary although approximately all teachers or 947,000 (93%) are already fully vaccinated.

The Philippines is now looking forward to attaining better quality education for its students as schools are now reopening for face-to-face learning. To help better assess the state of the Philippine education, DepEd has announced the participation of the Philippines in this coming Program for International Student Assessment or PISA 2022. Here, we can fully see where the Philippines lies on the grounds of the global network. This will further the studies about how the country could improve its curriculum given its state. PISA, a worldwide study that measures 15-year-olds scholastic performance, will show educators other potential educational strategies that could be implemented that will raise the standards of excellence and education in the nation. This will serve the Philippines a steppingstone to compromise for the learning gaps students has encountered. Although the Philippines has participated in PISA 2018, the results were unfavorable and showed that the Philippines ranked last in reading comprehension, and second to the last in mathematics and science literacy. However, this does not stop the country as it looks forward in achieving better results for the upcoming assessment. The country is now seeing hope after experiencing a decline in the quality of education and is striving to shape better students in the coming future. The only question is whether the Philippines would be able to ensure that students’ education comes before anything else in the event of another unanticipated global crisis.




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