His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the launch of the K to 12 Basic Education Program
[English translation of the speech delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace, Manila, April 24, 2012]
Secretary Armin Luistro; Senator Ed Angara; Congressman Sonny Angara; Congresswoman Kimi Cojuangco; Congressman Mel Sarmiento; Congressman Going Mercado; Congressman Mariano Piamonte; Secretary Dinky Soliman; Secretary Sonny Coloma; Secretary Joel Villanueva; Usec. Yolanda Quijano; Commissioner Nenalyn Defensor; former Congresswoman Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel; kindergarten, elementary, and high school students, and their respective teachers; friends from the business sector; friends from the international community and partner agencies; fellow workers in government; honored guests; my beloved countrymen:
Good afternoon to all of you.
Can I apologize for being about thirty minutes late? We were discussing the Philippine Investment Plan to cover the years from 2011 to 2016, and these are the details of exactly where we’ll bring in or put in about five or over five trillion pesos. Since I will have to explain where each and every centavo will go to, I was asking them the pertinent questions and it dragged on and on. Actually, I will have to go back to that meeting right after this very momentous occasion.
And may I apologize to our international friends—as usual, I’ll be delivering the speech in our national language. I apologize that you will have to read the hardcopy afterwards.
To better put ourselves in today’s context, I think it is best that I tell you a story first.
I have an uncle who is the typical male—he likes action movies, war movies, et cetera. So he had a Home Theater System installed in his house—this was when my mother was President. And because on one of his trips to America he discovered that there were these cheap garden speakers, as they were called, he had those installed in his garden too, connected to the Home Theater System.
When my uncle was a boy, there were no Home Theater Systems then—he had to go to an actual theater house, and the shows there had these cliffhangers—that is, you would watch one episode this week, and then you had to go back two weeks later to watch the next episode. [Laughter]
So my uncle did not really know how to use the Home Theater. He relied on his children to turn the system on and set up whatever it was he wanted to watch. One Saturday, he wanted to watch a movie, but it was kind of late already; he started around eleven in the evening. His children weren’t there; they were having their night out. Thankfully, my uncle at least knew how to press “On” and “Play.”
He fed this war movie into the system and started watching it. He must have forgotten that the speakers of the Home Theater were still connected to those in the garden. And, of course, when you watch a movie, it’s always much better when the volume is up really loud.
Remember that this was during my mother’s time, so they were expecting all these coups. So this action scene came on, along with the sounds of gunfight and these loud explosions, all the neighbors started turning on their lights, thinking that an actual coup was happening. [Laughter]
His children came home then, and they were telling him, “Dad, the entire neighborhood thinks there’s something going on in here.” And that was when he figured out, and he immediately turned the system off. I do not know if he ever got to finish the movie, given his shame over the scandal he created that night. [Laughter]
It might be better if I tell you another story:
So this was when I was a kid. Now, if we had to talk to someone in Cebu, you take out your cellphone, you know that person’s number, and in seconds, you’re talking with him. Right? When I was a kid, you had to book long-distance calls. So all you needed to know how to do back then was the number of long-distance operator, to whom you’d give the number of whoever it was you wanted to talk to, and you wait for the call back. If you’re waiting for the call in the morning, you get to talk to that person come afternoon.
I think, I read somewhere, it was said that at the start, I believe, of the 20th century; the amount of knowledge that a person was expected to have could be contained in a Sunday edition of the New York Times. However, today, even with just entertainment, when you buy a Home Theater System; you have to be able to set it up: positioning the speakers, putting in the parameters of the delay, understanding what HDMI means, and so on and so forth—and even getting your remote controls to “talk” to each other. [Laughter] I’m narrating this because I have a cabinet secretary whose old Home Theatre conked out and he decided to buy himself a new one and up to now he has yet to watch a single film because he was still setting it up. [Laughter] That brings me to the topic at hand.
This is probably the point of the stories: at this era we have named “information age,” the average person must be in possession of a wider range of knowledge just to live a satisfactory life. It is true that before, when you dialed the telephone in the morning to make a long-distance call, you’re lucky if you get to talk to the person you’re looking for by the afternoon. And back then, people were so happy to receive a reply to a letter from the other side of the world within a decade—you thanked God for that fortune. Now, we have Skype. Right, it’s Skype? I don’t call a lot of people overseas. To Skype, you have to know what buttons to press on your computer and you have to know how to connect your computer to the telephone so you can internet. Before, research would take you weeks in the library. And you literally had to go through all the material one by one. You’d also have to send up a little prayer to get the right hundred-pager book that contained the information you needed. Isn’t that right? Now, there’s Google Search. We have Google. But these technologies are only useful, provided that you know how to use a keyboard or how to log on to the pertinent websites. Hopefully, you also know how to sift the information; you have to be sure whether the sites you go to are credible.
From this day on, we can provide the youth with better opportunities to acquire information, to learn. We have gathered to launch a program that will change the education system of our country: the K to 12 Basic Education Program.
Can we not compare the 10-year basic education program to force-feeding? You are given ten years to take in, to chew on, and to digest the lessons. There is no time for the children to savor the knowledge they are receiving. You just keep feeding and feeding them. The result: information is not processed as well as it should be, context is not a given and thus not applied, and the implications on the greater majority of Filipinos are not explained. Which is why, sometimes, information enters one ear and exits the other; in a matter of days, what has been learned has been forgotten.
Our government has promised: no one will be left behind on the straight and righteous path. And through our transformation into improved quality education, there is progress for all—whether you are poor or rich. That we can display the skill and excellence of our youth, we will give our students ample time to learn concepts, understand their abilities, and recognize proper actions and conduct.
My father once told me: “Once you have imbibed the knowledge, it is yours for life regardless of what happens to you in the future.” And this is true: what wisdom we have gained, we keep that for as long we live. I have also been told, “You may have been famous then, or you may be famous now; tomorrow, you’re going to be old news. You may be rich now, but come tomorrow, you’d be poor.” But when you learn something, that is yours for life. No one can take that away from you. This knowledge will be with us as we face the world, as we make our decisions and as we take part in our society, and as we share ourselves with God and with our fellowmen.
Think about this: we are the only country in Asia, and among the three remaining countries in the entire world, that run a 10-year basic education cycle. We are unique in Asia and there are only three countries like us in the entire world—the two others are in Africa. How do we expect the Filipino to compete with the rest of the globe, if we are already disadvantaged by the number of years we spent in schools and the breadth and depth of our studying? The odds are stacked against us even before we begin. What we want are robust foundations to the education that future generations of Filipinos will receive.
The choir that sang so well a while ago—so, of course, we couldn’t sing along—is now looking at me askance: “Is that a good thing? That we’ll have to go through an additional two years?” But think about it: If we were to take the same test with our competitors overseas, they already have the advantage of having studied for two years longer. Just like if I were to read this speech, but had only a minute to read it beforehand—as against someone who had been given two minutes to read it. It won’t be a fair fight; I’d perform worse than the other guy.
The rival with this plus-two-years advantage then gets the job, and we will have to find other opportunities. We cannot let this happen.
We stand by our promise of reform in the education system: to turn this into the central strategy of investing in our most important asset—the Filipino people. We trust that with K to 12, Juan de la Cruz will be empowered to seek and attain progress not only for himself and for his family, but for the entire country.
On this day, we take a step forward in realizing systemic reform in education. But in light of this, it is still quite clear that there remains a long journey before us. We are aware that due to the transition phase, there may be delays and there may be sacrifices to be asked of the students and of our schools. There can never be a perfect, universal solution to our problems—but the guarantee we give you is a stronger education system for the long haul, one that is focused on the future of our nation.
Alongside this, we continue to address the problems the education sector faces—from building or renovating classrooms and fixing school utilities, to the training of our teachers and the acquisition of books. And by the way, we’re aiming to eventually have our reading materials tablet-based. To those from my generation, I’m not talking about tabletas. [Laughter] To be clear, I’m talking about PC tablets. Because in case we find errors in these materials, you just tell the servers to correct the information. We would need to recall hundreds of books. And we’re looking for ways for a lock-in in the system to prevent theft. Ultimately, it will be easier for the student, who will likewise become more IT-knowledgeable in the process. We are just waiting, Brother Armin, for the prices to go down, and as it is they’re already close to target.
We can do all these through the 238.8 billion-peso budget we have allocated to the Department of Education this 2012. [Applause] That’s more than a 30-billion-peso increase from the past year, and Brother Armin will probably increase this further for the next year. [Applause]
However, your problem is Joel and Miss Defensor of CHED are present today, and they might ask increase in budget as well. [Laughter] Just please don’t take everything away from me.
We have long ago proven that our programs are not written on air; we strive to produce results from the promises we make. And the returns of every investment of this government go to the nation.
I once again thank the agencies that have helped us as we tread the straight and righteous path, that we may reach this day: to those who compose DepEd, CHED, and TESDA, along with every individual and the groups that have assisted us in attaining this victory.
And to our countrymen: may you continue to place your trust in us and stand in solidarity with this government’s initiatives. In turn, you can rely that this government will continue to institute the reforms necessary to fulfilling the brighter future of the Filipino nation.
This will be all for me. I have to return to that meeting I had abandoned. I, again, thank all of you. Today is the beginning of enduring change.
Thank you very much.