No to 5-year college

Published by rudy Date posted on January 29, 2009

It has become common wisdom to say that our basic education cycle is too short. Only Botswana and the Philippines have 10-year basic education cycles; every other country has more. There is no question that we have to add years to the cycle.

Since the problem is basic education, the solution should also be in basic education. It is irrelevant and even ridiculous to suggest, as otherwise intelligent people have suggested, that we should add years to college education.

Look at the University of Oxford, consistently ranked among the top four universities in the world. To get a BA at Oxford, you need only three years (except for a few four-year courses). Do not tell me that we can do better than the British when it comes to higher education.

Closer to home, there is Singapore. The National University of Singapore is ranked among the top 30 universities in the world. You can get an undergraduate degree there in only three years. In fact, in general, if a tertiary level system follows the British model, students stay in college for only three years.

Our problem is not college education. Many Filipinos with four-year college degrees easily get into American graduate schools, where they routinely outshine their American counterparts. It is clear that we have enough, maybe even too many years of tertiary education.

I was mainly responsible for crafting in 1996 what is now the General Education Curriculum of CHED. At that time, I had not yet worked in DepEd. When I got into DepEd in 2001, I realized that many of the subjects in the college curriculum should actually be in the Basic Education Curriculum, but we do not have enough years for them.

What we do not have are enough years of public basic education. Some private schools already have a 12-year cycle. They require at least one year of formal education before enrolment in Grade 1. They have a Grade 7. Those two extra years give private school graduates 12 years of basic education.

After having ordered preparations to be done, Gloria Arroyo lost her nerve in 2004 when she was about to order the establishment of a seventh grade in elementary school. DepEd was all set to implement the extra grade, but she stopped it from continuing with the reform. As she always unfortunately does, she chose her political survival over the welfare of our citizens.

In 2010, the next President should immediately order DepEd to establish the extra elementary school year. He or she should also immediately order the implementation of the pre-baccalaureate year, a project of both DepEd and CHED for which the necessary groundwork has already been done. If the pre-baccalaureate year is handled by DepEd and not by CHED, it will be the fifth year of high school for those continuing on to college. With those two extra years, we will have a 12-year basic public education cycle.

All we need to solve the lack of years of basic public education is a President more interested in the public good than in staying in power for life.–Isagani Cruz, Philippine Star

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