Completing the story for senior high school

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

It’s been a while since I last interacted with Congressman Roman Romulo and I was pleased to see him once again explain, almost flawlessly, our current education issues that seem to be quite a topic, especially among parents who have been struggling with what to do about their children in senior high school.

Congressman Romulo is the chairman of the committee on basic education and culture at the House of Representatives and I have always known Congressman Romulo to be a staunch advocate for education, as he always saw it as the surest path to a person’s complete development.

Earlier, the Commission on Higher Education announced that it was discontinuing the senior high school program in state universities and colleges (SUCs) as well as local universities and colleges (LUCs) in the next school year. This news created a bit of a stir amongst students and parents who are concerned about their schooling, considering they are part of the grade levels that will be affected by this decision. In an interview, however, Congressman Romulo explained thoroughly the rationale behind this issue and assured the public that the necessary steps are being carried out to address the problem.

In the very first place, and putting things in its proper context, it is only the agreement between the Department of Education and CHED that is being dissolved, where such an arrangement was instituted between the two agencies in 2015 as DepEd saw that the number of teachers and classrooms was a huge concern in the implementation of the K-12 in 2016. This therefore led to an eventual partnership between the DepEd and CHED as in 2016-2017, the CHED was able to accommodate students, especially since senior high school (SHS) has specialized subjects.

As explained by Congressman Roman, the 2015 agreement was for CHED to “catch” or  somewhat “shoulder” students (not his exact words as the interview was in Tagalog) from grades 11-12 upon full implementation of the K-12 as DepEd prepares the number of classrooms and teachers. The students accepted by CHED would be given a voucher, which is a financial assistance program for the schools accepting students. This voucher system is all that has been lost, as explained by Romulo.

Before the K-12, CHED has what are called lab schools and if their charter states that they can have a teacher education program as a degree course, they can have a lab high school. Such a policy continues and the only process that is halted is simply the voucher system; hence, once a student is in grade 11 or 12, students must be in private schools, DepEd schools or SUCs or LUCs that are under the CHED charter and allowed by the Board of Regents to accept a certain number of allowable students under their lab schools, but no longer having the voucher system for both the SUC and LUC.

It must also be explained that a voucher system is the financial assistance given by the DepEd to their partners to help shoulder students that cannot be accommodated by DepEd schools while they are adjusting to the implementation of the K-12. The SUCs and LUCs were made partners during this adjustment period and, depending on the region, with NCR being the biggest, every student is given P22,000 per year, basically as a top-up since the amount varies and it is rather small.

At this point, a compilation of finalized data is necessary to complete the story as, based on their current findings, the DepEd says that 17,000 students enrolled in SUCs and LUCs are spread throughout the Philippines. They will be further providing the data to the SUCs and LUCs to pinpoint which ones have, within their vicinity, a nearby DepEd school or private school that they can provide vouchers to in the 2024-2025 academic year which will begin in July. This therefore gives us time to attain the complete data in order to find the right alternatives to address this matter, considering the transition period is over.

As for all the concerned parents who are seeking some kind of resolution to the problem, Congressman Romulo explained the importance of correct data gathering, identifying all students concerned in every SUC and LUC as well as identifying both the private and DepEd schools beside them that have absorptive capacity. In order to answer and put a valuable resolve on the matter, as advised by the good congressman, we need to complete the story and make sure that those who will be affected, and how many will be affected, are dealt with quickly and carefully.

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