His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the signing of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013
[This is an English translation of the speech delivered at the Malacañan Palace, Manila, on May 15, 2013]
Thank you. Please be seated—especially the students who will have an additional two years in school. You are clapping, so I know you understand what we are doing here.
Good morning, especially to you. Good morning to all.
Speaker Sonny Belmonte; His Excellency Jorge Domecq, Ambassador of Spain; Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa; Secretary Armin Luistro; Senator Frank Drilon; Senator Ralph Recto; Representative Sandy Ocampo; Representative and Majority Floor Leader Boyet Gonzales; Representative, soon to be senator Sonny Angara; Representative Jun Piamonte; other members of the Cabinet present; other members of the House of Representatives present; development partners, the steering committee and technical working group of the K to 12; elementary and high school students present, and their teachers; fellow workers in government; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen:
Again, good morning.
We gather today to witness yet another historic milestone for our country: the signing of a law that lays the foundations for a better future for every Filipino child—the Enhanced Education Act of 2013, more widely known as the K to 12 Act.
Our people’s unwavering support has allowed us to make this vision a reality: to establish a system of education that truly imbues our youth with the skills they need to pursue their dreams.
The principles guiding this law are clear: upholding the right of every Filipino to live a dignified life; and fulfilling the state’s responsibility to ensure each of our citizens an equal, legitimate opportunity to succeed, especially those who have been relegated to the margins. A cornerstone of our poverty alleviation agenda is allowing them access to a high level of education, and by signing this bill into law, we are not just adding two years of additional learning for our students; we are making certain that the coming generations are empowered to strengthen the very fabric of our society, as well as our economy.
We are all aware of the shortcomings of the ten-year basic education cycle that we grew up with. Apart from our students having less time to thoroughly understand their lessons, our students will also have to compete with graduates from other countries who have had more time to learn and prepare for their careers. If our youth are forced to shoulder such an educational handicap from the beginning, how can they possibly compete for employment in the long run?
For these precise reasons, we are establishing a universal kindergarten in public and private schools; teaching fundamental lessons in the mother tongues of the students during the first three years of elementary education; and enhancing knowledge transfer of Filipino, English, Math, and Science lessons to junior high school students. By establishing senior high schools where students can choose specialized tracks in academics, technical education, and sports and arts, we are guaranteeing that they are ready to take that next step to move them closer to their dreams.
Let it be clear to everyone: We are serious about giving our children a quality education. From the moment we stepped into office, we have consistently raised the budget of basic education. As a matter of fact, we have vastly increased the Department of Education’s budget from 161 billion pesos in 2010, to over 232 billion pesos this 2013.
In the field of Technical Education, we have TESDA’s Industry Based Training for Work Scholarship Program, which has already helped and honed the skills of more than 150,900 scholars under the leadership of Joel Villanueva. And it looks like he managed to accomplish this task and keep the smile on his face—so, let’s add to that number, Joel. On the other hand, for our state universities and colleges, there is the Public Higher Education Roadmap of CHED, which is already being implemented, and which has among its goals the improvement of teaching facilities in our SUCs. For these, we have Secretary Joel Villanueva of TESDA and Secretary Patricia Licuanan of CHED to thank, for their unparalleled efforts to improve the quality of technical and higher education in our country.
Of course, there is also the able leadership of Bro. Armin Luistro. To add to the good news: last year, we completely eliminated the backlog of textbooks and chairs in public schools that we inherited. This 2013, we are also well on our way to meeting the inherited backlog of 66,800 classrooms. We cannot help but agree: Bro. Armin is, indeed, heaven sent—especially when December 31 comes around. Brother, I hope to inaugurate 66,800 classrooms, preferably before December 31.
We are also grateful to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Ed Angara, Senator Ralph Recto, Senator Loren Legarda, and Senator Frank Drilon, all of whom guided the passage of the K to 12 Act in the Senate; and to our partners in Congress—from Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Congresswoman Sandy Ocampo, of course, Congressman Sonny Angara, Congressman Mariano Piamonte, Congresswoman Fatima Aliah Dimaporo, Congressman Mel Sarmiento, our Majority Floor Leader Boyet Gonzales, to all our other allies in the Lower House, for the passage of K to 12. We also express our deepest gratitude to the late Congressman Salvador Escudero III, one of those who championed educational reform in Congress. In his work, Congressman Escudero wanted nothing more than to safeguard the interests and well-being of our youth.
We also thank the development organizations, civic groups, and other individuals who were unwavering in their support of our agenda to raise the standard of education in our country. Above all, we thank our teachers, especially those serving in our public schools; nothing can compare to the sacrifice, care, and dedication you continue to show in serving as a guide to each and every Filipino child.
There is no doubt: the K to 12 Act is the fruit of our efforts to achieve meaningful and positive reform not only in our country’s educational system, but also in all other sectors. This is a victory that mirrors our collective aim to invest in our most important resource—the Filipino citizen. This is a victory that fulfills our promise: no one will be left behind on the straight path to equitable progress.
Through good governance, the dreams that we could not even imagine in the past are now within the reach of each and every Juan and Juana dela Cruz. Arm-in-arm, let us continue to stride in a single direction and let us together uplift our beloved country. After all, in establishing the framework for an improved educational system, we are at the same time establishing the foundations of a Philippines that is progressive, peaceful, and a wellspring of opportunity for each Filipino.
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