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Who’s Afraid of K-12? Musings on University Life after 2018
March 13, 2012 - 7:37pm

Beginning school year 2012, incoming Philippine first graders will toil through 12 years of basic education instead of 10 years; high school freshmen will clock in 6 years rather than the usual 4. The two year addition is supposed to bring our students on par with other school systems in the region, and will also stream students into the more rational vocational versus college bound tracks that fill employment demands. While our legislature cooks up the sort of curricular changes and mandates for these two additional years, universities like mine fret and worry about the impact all of this would bring.  

Over the past several months, I have donned my administrative hat as our faculty deliberated the assumption of having no college freshmen intake in 6 years time. In our planning horizon, this  is a major event. For a small undergraduate program like ours at the Division (made worse by consistently under populated majors like Community Development, History and Sociology), this is like doomsday. We have to quickly design a transition away from teaching (12 units or four undergraduate courses is the regular load per semester in a 2-semester year) simply because there will be fewer students to teach. While about 1/5 of my faculty is set to retire within the decade, simple Math tells me we will still have extra hands with no teaching load. What we do with these extra faculty is a cause for speculation. My Dean tells me they’ll be “downloaded” to teach General Education courses for high school; a Vice Chancellor says they’ll be compelled to do research consistent with the shift towards a research university; others say we will simply NOT fill in the vacant slots left personnel attrition thereby staving off supply.

I recently attended an orientation seminar for the Commission on Higher Education Technical panel for the Social Sciences, which advises the government body on aspects of tertiary program policies, criteria and guidelines. One of the presentations dealt with the proposed changes on the General Education curriculum (mandatory for all undergraduate programs) in view of the K-12 development. As an administrator, it is another bad omen: there will be even fewer GE courses offered and undergraduate programs are expected to be cut in length: 5 year programs into 4; 4 year programs into 3.

Like everything else in the Philippines, planning is not taken seriously. There is no transparency of information about what is going on to aid planning. It is amazing to me that this K-12 will start in June, yet no law has been passed (our lawmakers are too busy with the impeachment trial of the Supreme Court Chief Justice) nor is the Department of Education ready to divine how this feat could be carried out. There is that sense of “pakiramdam” (feeling through), with the expectation that no policy is set even if backed by the current President because after all, he will be gone from office in 4 years. And so, the system will expectedly muddle through.

This is obviously not a good time for any college administrator. I cursed the day I agreed to be chair when I had to produce actual figures for the 5 year budget plan, from personnel to maintenance and operating expenses. How much does it cost to run the Psych lab? My secretary’s original appointment is a lab technician? How many of my pool are willing to remain as a teaching faculty or be a research faculty? If my routine bureaucratic tasks are not enough, I now have to rally my young faculty to switch gears away from teaching into research and publication as a lifeblood. Down the K-12 road, there’s no other choice.

Iloilo, Philippines

Rosalie Arcala Hall is a Professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas and a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.


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