Manila: President Benigno Aquino has formally signed the law extending the basic education curriculum in the country, a seminal move aimed at improving the overall quality of Philippines schools.

In ceremonies at the presidential palace on Wednesday, the President signed the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2012 or the K to 12 Basic Education Programme, a scheme that took at least five years to finally implement.

According to Aquino, the K to 12 programme will pave the way for an ever brighter future for young Filipinos by equipping them with basic education up to international standards.

The palace signing ceremony formalises the adoption of the K to 12 Programme which will extend by two years the country’s previous 10-year education curriculum. It covers kindergarten and 12 years of basic education (six years of primary education, four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school).

According to proponents, the additional years to be spent by Filipino students in basic education are necessary to provide sufficient time for students to master concepts and skills to create lifelong learners and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment and entrepreneurship.

Earlier studies have shown that Filipino students lack necessary mastery of lessons, resulting in their poor performance in school compared to their other Asian counterparts. Efforts to improve the quality of education started under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who ordered the Department of Education (DepEd) to conduct studies on the matter.

In his speech at the palace, Aquino said the changes in the education curriculum were necessary to level the playing field between rich and poor students,

Aquino said it was the duty of the State to provide for the needs and ensure fair and equal opportunities for all Filipinos, especially the poor and the implementation of this education programme will strengthen the basic education requirements of students which in turn, will bring them closer to the fulfilment of their dreams and ambitions.

“The basic principle behind this law is clear: It is the right of every Filipino to live with dignity. On the part of the state, it is its duty that citizens would be given equal opportunities, especially the poor,” the President said.

During the signing ceremony, he thanked top officials from the Senate and House of Congress who were instrumental in advancing the educational reform. The President spotlighted the efforts of the late Congressman Salvador Esqudero who fought for better education in the country. Escudero died last year.

“This is the fruit of our efforts to push not for reforms in the educational reforms but for all sectors of the society. This is proof that nobody will be left behind in our effort to take a brighter future,” said the President.

The K to 12 programme is expected to be adopted not only in schools in the Philippines but also in Filipino schools abroad that follow the DepEd curriculum.