The Philippines was one of the last countries in the world to switch to a K-12 system. In fact, it was one of three countries, along with Angola and Djibouti, to have a shortened educational system at only 10 years. In an effort to strengthen our educational system and to be more competitive against our neighboring countries, the Philippines lengthened its 10-year education system and adopted the 12-year system to “provide sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners, and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.”
This new system will now consist of one year of kindergarten, six years of primary school (Grades 1 – 6), four years of junior high school (Grades 7 – 10), and an additional two years for senior high school (Grades 11 – 12). The new educational system was gradually introduced in the 2012 – 2013 academic year starting with the Grade 1 and Grade 7 students. The Grade 1 students will be the first to complete the entire 12-year system, and in 2018, the Grade 7 students will be the first to graduate from the 12-year system.
The change to the K-12 system was not without its challenges. Shortages in classrooms, teachers, and textbooks were the primary issues the Department of Education had to address. Apart from these, an entirely new K-12 curriculum had to be devised and developed; students will be taught in the local language from Grades 1- 3, with English and Filipino introduced only as language subjects. Gradually, English and Filipino will be introduced as languages of instruction (Grades 4 – 6), and will be the sole languages of instruction in Grades 7 – 12.
In the newly introduced senior high school, students will be asked to select a track. Tracks will either be academic, technical-vocational-livelihood, or sports and arts centered based on their aptitude, interests, and the capacity of their school. Furthermore, students in the academic track can choose one of three streams: 1) Business, Accountancy, Management (BAM), 2) Humanities, Education, Social Sciences (HESS), or 3) Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM).
With the new educational system, students will be awarded a Certificate of Competency (COC) or a National Certificate Level I (NCI) upon their completion of Grade 10. Students who complete a technical-vocational-livelihood can take a competency-based examination to obtain a National Certificate Level II (NC II). The government hopes that the National Certificates will help provide students with middle-level skills and improve their chances of employability. Apart from this, the government has set up partnerships with several industries to provide students in the technical-vocational-livelihood track with training opportunities.
The newly added senior high school (SHS) refers to Grades 11 and 12 and were introduced in 2012. These two additional years will cater to subjects that will help introduce students to subjects in their preferred career path.
In the previous educational system in the Philippines, high school consisted of First to Fourth Year. Those four years now correspond to Grades 7- 10 and are now known as junior high school (JHS).
All in all, the new educational system will include thirteen academic years – one year of kindergarten, 6 years of primary school, 4 years of junior high school, and 2 years of senior high school. A student must complete all thirteen in order to receive a high school diploma. Although senior high school is not compulsory, students who stop at junior high school will find themselves at a disadvantage because they will not be accepted into a college degree or technical-vocational certificate program without a SHS diploma. They will also miss out on the chance to learn valuable skills that can qualify them for employment right after SHS graduation, or that will prepare them to start their own business.