Public school students welcome new school year as gov't pilot tests decongested curriculum

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — Millions of public school students returned to their classrooms on Tuesday, Aug. 29, to welcome a new academic year and a new program initially rolled out by the government for kindergarten to Grade 10 learners.

Of the over 22 million enrollees, the Department of Education (DepEd) said around 19 million are students from public schools, while the rest are from private institutions.

DepEd officials said the total number of enrollees may hit 28 million as schools continue to update data on the Learner Information System, which may take two weeks, and late registrants come in.

Aside from the new school year, the new “MATATAG” curriculum is also expected to undergo pilot implementation this year. DepEd introduced the new program which reduced the competencies that students need to master following a two-year study.

Around 70% of the current curriculum was cut, with learning competencies down to around 3,600 from over 11,000 to give more time to foundational skills for a better learning outcome. The learning areas in the early levels were also cut from seven to five to include Language, Reading and Literacy, Math, Makabansa, and Good Manners and Right Conduct.

"There are competencies that are only nice to know but not a must to know that's why we aim for essential learning competencies," said Jocelyn Andaya, director of DepEd Bureau of Curriculum and Development Director, in an Aug. 11 briefing.

An article posted on the website of the Second Congressional Commission on Education (Edcom II) — the national commission tasked to undertake a comprehensive national assessment and evaluation of the Philippine education sector — indicated that the pilot rollout will be delayed. It said DepEd has yet to come up with the list of the 30 participating schools in six regions and learning materials have yet to be distributed.

The old curriculum would be used in the first two weeks of the academic year as authorities finalize the participants, with the new curriculum to be implemented once the pilot schools are selected, Edcom II quoted DepEd Director Jocelyn Andaya as saying. The phased implementation will cover Kindergarten and Grades 1, 4, and 7 for the current school year.

Meanwhile, some members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers welcomed the new academic year by staging a protest in Mendiola, Manila early in the morning.

They urged the government to address various education issues and questioned the alleged misappropriated confidential and intelligence funds for DepEd.