Pastoral Letter on the Transition Years of the K to 12 Program

“He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2.51-52)

Saint Luke provides us this glimpse of the “hidden life” of Jesus, in Nazareth where also the dynamics of family and learning played out for Him. Nazareth was the home of the Holy Family and the school of Jesus. We, too, can draw from the interplay and social relationships of the Holy Family in Nazareth in dealing with the changing opportunities and challenges for us today

TIMES OF CHANGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Indeed we live in very challenging times and amid the changes whirling around us, we take on the “lenses” of hope; a hope that moves us to engage in a continuous dialogue (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 18). In dialogue, we show solidarity, respect and affection for the whole human family. It is in the spirit of dialogue that we face the transition years of the K to 12 program of basic education.

The Church, the family and the school are the three institutions of moral stability responsible for the formation, education and training of the young. And for the Church, the integral formation of the young is a commitment to excellence. This excellence is holiness of life. The aim of education in the mind of the Church is “to make saints of our students” (Pastoral Letter of CBCP on the 400 years of Catholic Education).For government, as enunciated by its Department of Education, education should aim at making Filipinos become “maka-Diyos, maka-Tao, maka-Bayan, and maka-Kalikasan.”

CURRICULUM IS ALWAYS IN PROCESS

A vital tool of imparting knowledge in the school is the curriculum, which is never static but ever dynamic to respond proactively to the needs of the learners and the emerging realities of society and thew orld. In our country, one of these changes is the K to 12 program, deemed by many experts as a necessary response to global situations and ever-expanding knowledge. The Church confronts this change through its education ministry and the many schools she runs. How ready are we to implement this program? In dealing with this question, we begin with an attitude of openness and respect. There are petitions on K-12 in the Supreme Court. We leave the issues on the legality of the K-12 program to the honorable court. Our concern here is on principles that can guide us.

Three principles can guide us to shape attitudes open to the transition phase of the K to 12 program.

First, the family is the “first school” of the young.We have said this time and again” parents are the first educators, first catechists of their children; the home is the first school. The government and its agencies are tasked to assist the parents, and the first school. To this end, the Church says: “Public authorities must see to it that “public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to exercise this right without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom. The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice. Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice … The State cannot, without injustice, merely tolerate so called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance”. (CSDC 241)

In this regard, we appeal to the Department of Education through the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE) to increase the subsidy to private schools both for the students (ESC) and the teachers (TSS) especially the Church’s mission schools in far-flung areas, that arein heroic “survival” modes in order to transmit excellence to students.

The K to 12 program in basic education should have all the mechanisms in place in order for the smooth transition to happen. Parents should be provided regular “updates” on the transition plan. There will be fewer anxieties and resistance if lines of communication are kept openamong all those involved in the transition. There is no perfect mechanism to effect change but a positive attitude can help all to “weather” these difficulties.

We appeal to parents to get to know the K to 12 program, thoroughly. School and education officials must be ready and capable to discuss it with parents, and even the students themselves in an atmospher of loving dialogue. The K to 12 program is about our children’s future. Let us not simply pass on to the school the responsibility of educating them. We all are their educators and formators. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child.

Second, the Church has a preferential love for the poor. Where are the poor in the K to 12 program? The K to 12 program provides skills and competencies for the poor who may not have access to college education. Employment is no longer the privilege of the college graduate. Rather, through the senior high school program with its varied “trackings” and the academe – industry linkage, the K to 12 graduate at age 18 can enter the work force. This is a big help to the poor! Realistically though we know that there will be many students who will drop out of the whole program. There should be means to help out these dropouts. We do not yet see this issue being addressed in the program.

At the same time Catholic schools must go beyond merely preparing for the K to 12 program and turn their eyes and affection to the poor: the indigenous people, the children in conflict with the law, the street children and the persons with disabilities. Catholic schools must always have a place for them, not merely as out-reach, but as part of their education ministry, and members of their learning community.

Third, the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity must be observed.In the Church there is no competition, only communion. This means solidarity and subsidiarity. Saint John Paul II said in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, solidarity is the virtue of interdependence; it is the new name of peace. It is working hand in hand with each other in the service of the common good. It is to see the other as part of my life; it is to carry one another’s burden.

We call everyone to enter the table of fellowship and engage in “appreciative conversations” regarding the education of our youth. Let us listen to one another bare their worries, concerns and misgivings. Let us all walk towards enlightenment and allow charity to permeate our dialogue. As we go through this challenging phase in our work of education let us all, parents, school officials, industry partners and government agencies such as DepEd, CHED, DOLE and TESDA, walk in enlightenment and collaboration and solidarity for the good of our children and a better future for them.

We plead with the government agencies tasked to implement this new policy, to do everything to ensure that all members of the schools are not displaced or unemployed. We call on schools in a given territory or region to discuss the years of “no enrollment” in college and see how best to cope with this reality. One way is through the assistance to be provided by the basic education schools in the area that will offer senior high school. It is not the time for “unbridled competition” among schools – of who can offer the “best”. It is the time to activate communion through solidarity and subsidiarity. We caution that the K-12 program should not lead to the teachers and school personnel losing tenure in their employment. Adjustments will have to be made by all but no one should be make to unjustly suffer in the implementation of the program. In line with the principle of subsidiarity the personnel affected by the transition should be consulted and their views and suggestions be given serious consideration. Teachers are not to be considered just as expenses but as partners in the noble mission of education. May this not lead to the contractualization of the teaching personnel.

Prayer

We invoke the Holy Spirit in making this transition to this new program, this new way of learning, smooth and effective. May our Lord Jesus who grew in wisdom, age and grace, under the guidance of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, inspire and guide all our young people towards the plan of God in their lives.

We entrust all the parents, educators, students, and workers in academe and government, to the Heart of Jesus. And we pray through the intercession of Mary, the Seat of Wisdom that all our efforts may help to form men and women engaged for the service and love of God and country, for the life of the world (pro Deo et Patria – pro vita mundi)

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, July 13, 2015

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

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