More job opportunities for public school students

TEACHABLE MOMENTS - Jose Claro (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2013 - 12:00am

It’s been a long time coming but change has finally come for Philippine basic education. As early as 1925, eight subsequent studies have all recommended the addition of years in school and the inclusion of subjects that would equip students with employable skills. Unfortunately, these recommendations were bypassed one administration after another. Last May, however, history was made when President NoynoyAquino signed into law Republic Act No. 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 or what is widely known as K-12. This law effectively commences the modernization of Philippine basic education, thus ensuring that Filipino students will be at par with their counterparts around the world.

At present, when students graduate from basic education, they are not yet ready for any kind of work. That is why it is often still necessary for Filipino parents to send their children to college. According to NSCB estimates, however, more than 70% of Filipinos are financially incapable of pursuing tertiary studies.

With K-12, however, public school graduates will soon refrain from mouthing the self-defeating phrase “high school graduate lang.” K-12 students will be exposed to various work capacity building skills through their Technology & Livelihood Education subject. Starting Grade 7, students are exposed to various qualifications and skills needed by industry. This is further refined upon entry to senior high school where they would be directly mentored by their teachers, based on a specific career track. These career tracks are dependent on the economic contexts of a specific community. For this mentoring program, DepEd plans to invite professionals to teach the students. Opportunities are further widened once students are exposed to real working environments through on-the-job training.

Parents who worry that they might have to shell out more money as a result of two additional years in basic education should remember that public education will continue to be tuition-free. For families who are in dire need, there is the Alternative Learning System. There are also cases where in some very remote areas, mobile teachers trek to isolated communities armed with backpacks containing laptops with solar panels for charging.

Some parents also fear that even with the K to 12 program, poor graduates will be grossly disadvantaged by their private school counterparts who are expected to pursue collegiate studies. DepEd Sec. Armin Luistro shared recently in a public affairs program entitled Gov@Work  that as early as now, his agency is talking with various industry partners in order to ensure that K-12 graduates are assured of employment. As a result of these talks, the current curriculum is undergoing constant revisions and improvements to meet the demands of the industry. Thus, Sec. Luistro believes K-12 will become the strategic edge of every public school graduate. He recounts how at the University of Makati, one of the many modeling schools of the Senior High School program, a good percentage of students may be directly hired right after graduation because of their familiarity and training with the work environment.

Answering the rehashed criticism that DepEd should focus instead on addressing shortages before implementing any new kind of program, Sec. Luistro assures Filipinos that current shortages are being addressed.

The biggest reassuring news, however, was the hiring of 61,500 teachers this school year. This is six times higher than the usual hiring rate of 10,000 personnel every year. According to the Secretary, that brings down the estimated student-teacher ratio to 1:35 students. Sec. Luistro clarified, however, that this may not be true of highly congested cities like Metro Manila. “But in provinces like Palawan, there are classrooms with only 15 students. That is why, if parents want their children to experience high quality, personalized education, they should let their children study in the provinces,” suggested the Education Secretary.

At the end of the program, Sec. Luistro summarizes the reforms on basic education instituted by the Aquino Administration as its greatest investment in the Filipino. By 2018, the government envisions that students will be more motivated to excel and finish their basic education studies.

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