K to 12 (also K-12) is an education system under the Department of Education that aims to enhance learners’ basic skills, produce more competent citizens, and prepare graduates for lifelong learning and employment. “K” stands for Kindergarten and “12” refers to the succeeding 12 years of basic education (6 years of elementary education, 4 years of junior high school, and 2 years of senior high school).


Republic Act 10157, or "The Kindergarten Education Act" made Kindergarten the compulsory and mandatory entry stage to basic education. Section 2 of this Act provides that all five (5)-year old children shall be given equal opportunities for Kindergarten Education to effectively promote their physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development, including values formation, so they will be ready for school. The Department of Education (DepEd) believes that Kindergarten is the transition period from informal to formal literacy (Grades 1–12), considering that age five (5) is within the critical years in which positive experiences must be nurtured to ascertain school readiness. Extensive research has shown that this is the period of greatest growth and development, during which the brain continuously develops most rapidly and almost at its fullest. It is also the stage when self-esteem, vision of the world, moral foundations are established, and their mind’s absorptive capacity for learning is at its sharpest


Elementary education in the Philippines consists of six years of schooling, covering grades 1 to 6 (ages 6 to 12). Before the adoption of the K-12 reforms, elementary education was the only compulsory part of the basic education cycle. With the reforms, however, compulsory education has been extended and is now mandatory for all years of schooling, inclusive of grade 12.

One notable and important change, however, is that minority languages (“mother tongues”) are now being used as the language of instruction in the first years of elementary education in areas where these languages are the lingua franca. There are currently 19 recognized minority languages in use. English and Filipino are introduced as languages of instruction from grades 4 to 6, in preparation for their exclusive use in junior and senior secondary high school.