Understanding K-12: Not Black or White
THE K-12 program added 2 years to the basic education system, opening Senior High School (SHS). The Department of Education (DepEd) designed the SHS program to produce graduates better prepared for higher education. Without a college degree, these students should be ready for entrepreneurship or the job market.
Naturally, the first batch of graduates have high expectations for the promise of the program. But reality may dampen the hopes of those looking to job applications. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI) has aired the concern about whether these new graduates are ready to become part of the labor force.
In an April 3 report by the Manila Bulletin, DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones expressed confidence that a “significant number,” particularly those who completed the Technical Vocational Livelihood (TVL) track, have high chances to get jobs upon graduation this April (“Briones confident a ‘significant number’ of SHS graduates will be employed”).
In an earlier report on ANC’s The World Tonight (January 17, 2018), however, Alberto Fenix, President of PCCI Human Resources Development Foundation, said that 80 hours of on-the-job training required for SHS students are not enough to hone their skills in their chosen fields (“PCCI: New K-12 graduates may not be ‘work-ready’”).
Media coverage has focused reports on whether or not these graduates are job-ready. But the job prospects of K-12 graduates cannot be so simply presented in black or white.
Media needs to point out that job employment is clearly not the only goal of the new curriculum.
According to the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, there are four “exit points” for SHS graduates. The K-12 curriculum aims to prepare graduates for higher education, middle-level skills development, employment and entrepreneurship (“What is K to 12 program?”).
SHS graduates under the TVL strand will be able to apply for TESDA Certificates of Competency (COCs) and National Certificates (NCs) by undergoing an exam to assess their middle-level skills. COCs and NCs increase the employability of TVL SHS graduates.
The global standard of K-12 has been recognized as providing the basics for college work for those going on to higher education; as the new curriculum prepares for other options. They can apply for jobs or, given courses in entrepreneurship, start-up business ventures.
CMFR monitored the news in the first week of April or graduation season, noting that the few reports regarding the K-12 graduates mostly focused on the employability of students in the TVL strand.
According to a report published by Pilipino Star Ngayon on March 21, DepEd Undersecretary Tonisito Umali is confident that graduates, especially from the TVL, strand will strengthen the country’s labor force. He can assure that the graduates are fully competent in their chosen fields (“K-12 graduates magpapalakas sa labor force”).
The Bulletin reported on April 5 that Senator Grace Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 700 urging the Senate to call upon the private sector to hire the first batch of SHS graduates amid the growing concerns of their employability (“Poe urges hiring of K-to-12 grads”).
Reports focused on whether or not these graduates are prepared for the jobs available; but failed to examine the job market itself, the number and kinds of jobs available in the economy. Even if these students have adequate skills and are job ready, are there jobs available for their skills?
The media also did not refer to the guide published by the Official Gazette, to guide graduates and parents about the feasibility of their options, based on “exit points”.
Reporting the reality
CMFR cheers the Philippine Daily Inquirer for its special report on the job readiness of SHS graduates joining the job market (“SPECIAL REPORT: Jobs a hit or miss for senior high school graduates”).
The report points to other factors that play into the chances of these graduates finding a job. For instance, it noted a study by the Philippine Business for Education (PBED) which found that “only about 20 percent of 70 of the country’s leading companies across all sectors were inclined to hire senior high graduates.”
“Right now we have to take into consideration that it is not just a matter of preparedness of our students for work. It is also about the preparedness of our economy to accommodate work,” Nepomuceno Malaluan, DepEd Asst. Secretary said.
The report noted that according to the 2017 Socioeconomic Report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the national unemployment rate last year increased to 5.7 percent from 5.5 percent in 2016. Youth unemployment also rose to 14.4 percent. Although the Duterte administration aims to cut the youth unemployment rate to 11 percent, employment creation remains a challenge.
Journalists should seek to understand the complexity of the problem and examine the efforts of both education and labor industries to clarify what needs to be done on either side of the issue. When business companies, for example, hold on to a policy of assessing employability by a college degree or college units for all kinds of jobs including those in service areas, then there is an obvious lack of common ground in the two sectors.
These graduates are fresh out of school and it will take months before the country can fully see the effect the new education system. The media’s watchful eye will help provide not just surface news but analysis that will bring together the different perspectives of education, students, business and the jobs they create.