Press Release
March 30, 2015

Lack of tech-voc labs to torpedo K to 12 plan to produce employable grads

Sen. Ralph Recto today urged government to focus on one big school backlog which if not addressed will torpedo a key objective of the K to 12 program to produce employable graduates.

Recto said the lack of technical-vocational (laboratories) in the country's 7,917 public high schools "would only mean that the promised skills training, which is a major plank of the K to 12 curriculum, might not happen."

"This is one undiscussed weakness of K to 12. The lack of vocational labs has not caught our attention. Although it is too big to ignore, it has remained under the radar," Recto said.

Recto said the tech-voc labs must be ready for 2016 when the first batch of Grade 11 students will show up in school.

However, for this year, only 455 tech-voc labs costing P2.5 million each will be built by the Department of Education (DepEd), "clearly leaving a huge backlog," Recto said.

These facilities are crucial, he said, because under the K to 12 curriculum, Grade 11 and graduating Grade 12 students have the option to choose a "track" to specialize on, one of which is "technical-vocational-livelihood."

The other specialization paths are "general academic"; "science, technology, engineering mathematics" or STEM; "accountancy, business and management"; "sports, arts and design".

Recto recalled that K to 12 "was sold to the public on the promise that high school students enrolled on the tech-voc track will have an employable skill or trade upon graduation."

Under the K to 12 blueprint, high school tech-voc graduates can apply for a National Certificate Level II certificate and can secure one once they hurdle the test conducted by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

But the tech-voc track "can only be pursued if there are laboratories, workshops and equipment which students can use in honing their skills."

"Competency can only be developed through hands-on learning and practice," he said.

"If the student wants to study dressmaking, then that student will have to operate an actual sewing machine. If he wants to learn cabinetmaking, he cannot do it without carpentry tools," he said.

"You can't be a cook by just watching Chef Logro on TV. You must be in a real, not virtual, kitchen. Welding and automotive repair are skills which can't be acquired by reading magazines alone," Recto said.

The senator said the Senate has been aware of this problem that it added P1 billion to the "Basic Education Facilities" (BEF) budget of the DepEd for 2015.

This amount can be added to the P1.137 billion for new tech-voc facilities, Recto said.

Under DepEd's P53.9 billion BEF budget for the year, P48.1 billion is allocated for new classrooms, structures, including tech-voc laboratories; P2.94 billion to repair existing facilities; P1.2 billion for new desks, furniture, fixtures; P1.63 billion for classrooms built under the Public-Private Partnership method. Recto said the problem of equipment is present in all of the K to 12 tracks and not just in tech-voc alone.

"In STEM, the students there will need science laboratories, and there is a huge backlog on this too," Recto said.

Recto said even TESDA may not be able to absorb high school students who may wish to "cross study" in its facilities or in its accredited training centers.

For 2015, TESDA's capital outlay budget is P20 million, as recommended by the executive branch.

"To its credit, TESDA is training thousands of high school tech-voc teachers. But after they have been trained, how can they impart what they have learned if there are no laboratories in their schools?" Recto said.

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