Weighing The Benefits of The Philippines K-12 Programme

In June approximately 1.5 million children across the Philippines walked through school gates for the first time to attend senior high school under the new Philippines K-12 programme. The Philippines Department of Education (DepEd Philippines) has been gearing up for this moment for several years. The basic education curriculum, from kindergarten to senior high – grades 11 and 12 – has been thoroughly reviewed and a concerted effort was made to ensure that the 60,000 additional teachers and classrooms were in place when school opened for the new school year.

The Philippines has embarked on this ambitious reform to align its education system with most other systems around the world and to raise national competitiveness. The government sees the Philippines K-12 programme as vital for ensuring that all Filipinos are equipped with the basic skills required to play a full and productive role in society.

It is also being driven by concerns that overseas workers will lose out to migrant workers from other countries because of their shorter basic education cycle. This is especially relevant given that about 18 per cent of the average Filipino family’s income originates from overseas remittances.

However, despite widespread support for the Philippines K-12 programme reforms critics argue that the benefits, particularly for poor families, are not comparable to the costs associated with keeping their children in school for an extra two years.

An article last October in the International New York Times raised concerns about the overall direction of the Philippines K-12 programme reform, and particularly highlighted that many families saw ‘two more years of schooling as a costly burden, not a benefit’.

Big Benefits Expected from Philippines K-12 Programme

An advertisement by Angeles University Foundation in Angeles City promoting the Philippines K-12 programme it offers. Video uploaded to YouTube by PixelBoomCreative


What do we know about the impact of reforms of this kind? Philippines K-12 programme

Similar reforms aimed at extending access to schooling have frequently resulted in significant gains for all. Reforms in the Philippines in the early 1980s that increased education access by eliminating tuition fees in high school and building new schools were associated with significant returns. Research found that returns resulting from increases in educational attainment are around 15 per cent a year compared to an average annual return of only eight per cent a year.

Studies from other countries also point to significant gains from reforms of this kind. In the United Kingdom a change in the minimum school leaving age that required children to stay in school for an extra year resulted in large returns, a finding that echoed earlier findings from Canada and the United States. Similar returns were experienced by beneficiaries of the extension of compulsory schooling in Venezuela in the 1980s.

Back of the envelope calculations of the returns from an additional two years of secondary schooling under the Philippines K-12 programme also point to significant gains from access to senior high school. Estimates from the 2013 labour force survey show that workers with incomplete tertiary education enjoyed an additional annual return of about 17 per cent over and above junior secondary school completers.

Assuming similar returns for senior high school suggests big benefits for the new Philippines K-12 programme, even after accounting for the foregone earnings of the extra time spent in school. While all investments have a degree of risk attached to them (eg. stocks can go up, as well as down) these kinds of returns compare favorably with other investment opportunities.

But even these high returns may be out of reach for some poor families without the support of programmes like the conditional cash transfer programme of the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which provides families with a monthly stipend to attend school.

Only time and effort to monitor the new Philippines K-12 programme will tell if the potential benefits of the reform will materialise. DepEd Philippines is already planning to once again participate in international assessments. These assessments will provide part of the answer to whether the Philippines K-12 programme reforms have improved competitiveness. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Much more detailed evaluation work could be done to provide a detailed picture of the strengths and weaknesses of implementation. For example, longitudinal studies tracing a cohort of students and their schools would provide important insights into how the program is running. Work of this kind could improve the chances of realizing the enormous benefits that the Philippines K-12 programme reforms can have for future generations.


This article was written by Harry A. Patrinos, a manager at the World Bank’s education sector and Samer Al-Samarrai, a senior education economist working in the World Bank’s Indonesia office. It first appeared on World Bank Blogs and is reproduced here with its permission.


Feature video uploaded to YouTube by: CIIT Philippines Multimedia Arts School



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