Saturday, 5 September 2015

Providing knowledge or fashioning them for export?

Providing knowledge or fashioning them for export?

(Notes on the K12 program
and the policy of using education for labour export)

The theme of this writeup, which tackles about the state of education for the Filipino, is more of assessment-criticism than an appraisal. It expresses the most vital issue in which people, be it the educator, the parent, as well as the student, could possibly consider such as how to make a program of education really more suitable for the Filipino student. That besides the problem on schoolhouse shortages, lack of benefits and salaries for teachers, dire need for textbooks and school materials, as well as high costs of education, lies a question in which this person would like to ask the system: that what kind of educational system in which the present system really tries to offer?

On the system's behalf, they really wanted to follow international standards as prescribed by outside agencies, with reasons ranging from adapting the needs of the global market to keeping up to date with its neighbours especially those of Southeast Asian nations. Practically speaking, they emphasise the former knowing that the country from past till present is in dire need of hard currency, and with an existing program such as urging workers to work abroad if not making a reserve army of labour for both local and international companies, the system has trying to make use the idea of it, including those of Education pegging it to the demands of local and international job market.

Apologetics would rather assert the importance of changing the orientation of Filipino education be it those favouring commercialisation, lax when it comes to the regulation over rising tuition and other fees, changing of the school calendar as well as the curriculum as what they perceive similar to those of its neighbouring countries. Since its passage few years ago, the K12 curriculum failed to resolve old issues if not aggravating it. 
To start it all, The K12 program requires children to undergo kindergaten, primary, and secondary education with the latter divided into four years of junior and two years of senior high school. Via RA 10533 it effectively replaced the old school program so is the curriculum leaning towards the demands of international labour market.
And particularly in senior high, there are four tracks of specialisation students may choose prior to college, namely: technical-vocational-livelihood, academic, sports, as well as arts and design. However, these tracks cannot be chose freely by the students and not all of these tracks aren't capable to be given by schools adapting the program. 

But according to the Education Department, 0.8% of the students in senior high afforded to take "arts and design" while 0.9 afforded to take the "sports" track. Meanwhile, 48.7%  of the students are gone into "technical-vocational and livelihood" and 49.7% are into "academic" track. However, most of the subjects under K12 are turning students into semiskilled workers, based on government policies that consists of cheap labour if not exporting laborers abroad in pursuit of hard currency such as housekeeping or plumbing demanded by countries like Saudi Arabia or HongKong. Quite awkward for a system trying to present itself progressive if to impose an educational policy pegged on the demands of the international labour market. And although it is good to hear that they want to emphasise technical-vocational education, a system that failed to stimulate production via a strong industrial foundation is all but mockery of it. Besides that, the educational policy itself isn't even based on a Filipino perspective but of a foreign one particularly from international moneylending institutions trying to change policies in exchange for financial aid, while the compradore-led private sector has also gain interest in pushing "reforms" that obviously trying to assert maintaining interests via education. Lucio Tan's University of the East has been one of the schools that offers K12 as part of their basic education program. 
The changing of academic calendar in some colleges and universities, one of the recent issues related to Philippine Education, tries to present itself as done in pursuit of better integration between neighbouring Southeast Asian nations, particularly those of research and development as well as access to foreign students wanting to study abroad, but most likely it has been pegged on the calendar emphasising those of the west, particularly the United States given the latter's "Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement" in which the system has willing to sign, parroting the idea of integration if not those of development in the education as well as trade and commercial sector. 

However, did K12 resolve the problem on the lack of classrooms and other issues related to Philippine education? In an article from the Manila Bulletin, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers reminded the Education Department about the shortage of classrooms, teachers, as well as criticising programs particularly the "voucher system" which is "intended" for needy students:

"Despite DepEd’s earlier pronouncements on addressing shortages in public schools, ACT claimed that there is a shortage of 57,167 teachers since there were 4,019 items unfilled in 2014.

The country’s public schools, ACT alleged, is still short of 112, 942 classrooms since the 59, 671 budgeted classrooms were not built by DepEd in 2014. The group added that 4,281 schools still have no water supply because of the failure to implement 16,920 water supply projects last year.

ACT added that 10,514 schools still have no electric service and at least 23,928,335 textbooks and modules are still needed. Only 12,775, 823 of that number were supposed to be delivered last school year.

The group also lambasted DepEd for failing to deliver 34,935 complete science and mathematics equipment and 10,383 ICT packages in 2014. ACT also alleged that 395 internet connectivity projects were also not implemented.

ACT also criticized projects like the Government Assistance for Students and Teachers in the Private Education (GASTPE) and Education Voucher System (EVS). Valbuena said that for 2014 and 2015, a total P15,784,343,000 was allocated for the said programs benefiting mostly the owners of private elementary and secondary schools. “This amount could have constructed 31,569 classrooms and could have helped in addressing the perennial shortage of classrooms in the public schools,” he added."

Actually, that problem stated by ACT is one of the issues the Education Department trying to resolve yet left unaddressed and leaving it to the private sector for the sake of "less spending." The voucher system for instance, it intends to abandon the government responsibility in giving public education for the youth and therefore paving way to commercialisation and its eventual privatisation by compradore interests. The government may also argue that it increased the budget for basic education but the funding remains way low in the 6% of the GDP under UN standard.
But as a matter of fact the increase in budget that the government is boasting is just for the additional two years under BS Aquino s K to 12 law. As seen in proposed voucher system, it is enraging that this budget is actually budget for private universities and colleges and to justify further the voucher system as government subsidy for private universities to cover for profit loss with its sinister rhetoric of "providing the needy students access to quality education" is insanity and injustice. Furthermore,  the long-standing problems especially about classroom shortages remain unaddressed, and at its worse,  the Education Department has not touched its P49-billion school building fund for this year despite the lack of classrooms in public schools throughout the country.

Besides those of school buildings, that program is deemed overspending given the high cost of expenses ranging from tuition, miscellaneous fees, food, transportation, and others enough for these students to survive campus life under K12, that even through those vouchers sponsored by the   Education Department it cannot resolve the problem. As according to Vencer Crisostomo, he said:

“DepEd’s vouchers will amount to only P8,750 to a maximum of P22,500. This will not cover all fees and expenses in private schools which cost around P35,000 to as high as P80,000, not to mention other expenses like transportation, food and miscellaneous costs,” 

Worse, will these students whom afforded to finish according to the course of their own choice can able to have employment? Even prior to K12 there are job mismatches given that most students are driven by the trend of courses that are "in demand" by the international job market and at the same time, its graduates whom are part of the trend are being left behind hence, unemployed or underemployed via companies engaging in outsourcing. And since K12 has been passed and put into action amidst criticism, does it resolve the issue of mismatches when it comes to jobs or perhaps aggravating it? Remember, millions of Filipinos remain unemployed if not underemployed via limted month or year contracts. Ironically, most of these Filipinos are finished college on the time their courses are in demand by countries looking for nurses, caregivers, or any other occupations companies abroad were in dire need of. 
But from an apologetic whose "optimism" disregards the clear and present issue of possible rising unemployment and underemployment rates, the program has anything to do with keeping with the demands of the country particularly the needs of the international job market (so it was in the past of compelling students to take in demand courses), if not babbling the idea of "nothing is wrong with studying technical-vocational work" for least it is "dignified"; and if so, then why not that apologetic clamour for industrialisation knowing that there is nothing wrong in having a dignified labour particularly from an educated one? Did that person opposed contractualisation as well as the labour export policy? And if not, then of what is education and development if it is not for the needs of the nation? If not mistaken, the Japanese did favour technical-vocational work as part of their curriculum but at the same time favour the study of their culture, the need for science, as well as others that made Japan capable of standing itself as a nation, coming from these same students who afforded to study both and freely take their professions to be after secondary level and before college; then how about the Philippines? Did K12 flourish the need to revisit Filipino culture as well as encouraging science? They even relegated science to Grade 3 if not mistaken unlike before that it was studied in Kindergarten, much more that they limit their choice to those of what the international labour market needs, via the "tracks" offered for senior high! 

Anyways, regardless of "good" or any justifications the system has insisted does not equate to greatness, especially in educating the youth in pursuit of both enhancing talent and national progress yet obviously not as it favours outside and other vested interests the system has invested to. With all its policies leaned towards the interests of profit seeking magnates that afforded to use education as alibis, it seems that instead of cultivating awareness about its surroundings, of a desire to really meet the demands of a developing country, it is more of sorting the youth into those who able to pay and reach greatness and those who destined for proletarianisation particularly the needs of labourers outside the country, with enough "knowledge" in which Guillaume Faye described as "keys". Sorry for the term "proletarianisation" but what the system did via its K12 program has nothing to do with resolving the issue on improving literacy rates and the desire to create graduates and future professionals, but it has anything to do with meeting the demands of workforces outside, and of course, it also means remittances in which that self-proclaimed "emerging country" really depends if not seasonal occupations including those of outsourcing in home-based companies.  
Hence, instead of having a 21st century feeling of having youth geared for the brain power sector like those of its neighbouring countries, of letting the young be imbued with critical thinking and ideas related to genuine national development as well as cultural renaissance, what the youth experienced via K12 is all but a recall of 19th century policies such as educating the needy youth till ripe for the labour force, of having "keys" enough to understand and obey alone than to think and seek truth from facts as the really learned ones do in other countries. K12 can be good on some other points as what the system and its apologetics insist such as improving Filipino education and gain relevance with the demands of the present, but to gear the objectives of K12 towards neoliberal demands for cheap labour is nothing but far from resolving illiteracy rates as well as the need to build a better nation. Of what is that educational policy if the real intention is to make semiskilled workers destined for the modern day slave trade? Most of these workers to be are rather destined to client countries whose jobs are both seasonal and contractual. And since the country has workers both existing and new from a present educational policy, then why not also a demand for industrialisation to accomodate the needs of these wokers to work in their home country instead of becoming guest workers working for remittances and pittances, as well as to utilise both material resources as well as brain power to create a strong, developed nation? Well, to paraphrase the statement "the school is made to conform" then maybe the state has made the school made to conform to the wishes of compradores trying to siphon funds before sending them into labour camps for exorbitant taxes and remittances. 

Practically wise, the youth has no choice but to "conform" to today's "norms and standards" and "study hard" as possible "in pursuit of gaining credentials" for good positions they wished for. But compared to before or even contrary to their idealistic intentions of the program, it carries neither "mens sana" nor "corpore sano" to become future members of the intelligentsia but instead instilling plain simple conformity to be a part of the labour force. Incorrectly speaking, the term "labour camps" and "modern slave trade" is appropriate for these youth, particularly those of working-class backgrounds as the system forced them, guised as recommending into labour intensive work in complexes both in their respective homeland as well as abroad, instead of pursuing what they really desire as future intellectuals tempered with good character.

Quite strange that in a country that needs brain power according to some apologetics, rather insist a policy that demands semiskilled workers in a way one has afforded to say that "there is nothing wrong in being a worker least it is dignified profession," True that there is nothing wrong being having a skilled worker working with dignity, but having an education system that has no perspective of building a nation but instead submitting to the wishes of international monetary capital in exchange for an educational policy pegged to labour exports, seems to create contradictions such as a desire for economic growth yet reluctant to the idea of self reliance much more of social enlightenment. Of what are creating workers without having strong industrial foundations? Of what is an education system if it can't cultivate critical thinking, as well as forging ideas leading to cultural and social renaissance? A developing country needs stronger foundations such as a strong industry and a populace having a capacity to harness mind and sinew to spearhead real and tangible developments different from those of the present order.