K-to-12 opponents: Latter-day Luddites

The opponents of the government’s K-to-12 program, the curriculum revision program that seeks to add two years to the basic-education system in this country, reminds me of an early nineteenth century movement that threatened to impede the progress of the Industrial Revolution. K-to-12 program is being fully implemented this year.

The Luddites, whose leader was a man surnamed Lud, were active in the Midlands of Great Britain, during the years 1811-1812. At that time, the series of technical developments that made Great Britain the West’s leading country--collectively known as the Industrial Revolution--was in full swing.

The protest of the Luddites was not of the peaceful kind. Believing that the machines being introduced into the workplaces by the Industrial Revolution were causing the displacement of industrial workers, they set about vandalizing and destroying all the machinery that they could get their hands on. There was much destruction of property and many deaths and arrests.

The Luddite movement never posed a serious threat to the forward march of the Industrial Revolution. It was largely confined to the Midlands area around Birmingham. But it was a distraction and created disruption and distress while it lasted.

In the end, with Lud and his lieutenants subdued, the Luddite agitation came to the end. The Industrial Revolution, like any movement aimed at betterment, proceeded along its purposeful way to make Britain the greatest industrial power of the early nineteenth century.

How do the Luddites connect with the opponents of the K-to-12 program?

Like the Luddites, the people who have been assailing K-to-12 program at every turn--even petitioning the Supreme Court to declare the program unconstitutional--have taken a position against progress. The great majority of the people of Great Britain gradually came to accept that while many jobs indeed were being taken away by machines, the overall impact of the Industrial Revolution on the British economy was economic expansion on the basis of greater industrial efficiency. The Industrial Revolution needed to be allowed to proceed unhampered if Great Britain was to maintain its newly attained position as the industrial leader of the Western world.

The opponents of the K-to-12 program are behaving like the latter-day incarnation of the Luddites. A new government program that produces some pain or dislocation for a small segment of the population must be stopped even if the program’s overall impact is progress and prosperity for the rest of the nation.

In proposing the long-studied K-to-12 program, the government was aware, and let the Filipino people know, that K-to-12 would produce some additional costs and losses for the education sector’s stakeholders, especially the government (more infrastructure spending), the parents (two more years of schooling costs) and the teachers (loss of college-level positions because of the restructuring of the high school system). In this regard, the government’s theme song should be “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” Of course, there would be attendant pain. As the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

Something had to be done at last to correct the situation where the Philippines was one of only two East Asian countries that still had a 10-year basic-education system. A 12-year system had been discussed for so long. The present administration, under the leadership of Secretary of Education Armin Luistro, decided that the time for studying and talking was over. And so the K-to-12 program is being rolled out in the current school year.

The original group of Luddites could not stop the Industrial Revolution. Neither will their 21st century brothers stop the K-to-12 program.


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