The DepEd vouchers

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2016 - 9:00am

There seems to be some confusion about the voucher system that the Department of Education (DepEd) has put in place for learners entering Grade 11 in June of this year.

Allow me to explain it in as much detail as possible, to help enlighten learners, parents, teachers, and administrators.

The first thing to remember is that each learner (also known as student or pupil) now in Grade 10 can choose one of four tracks of Senior High School (SHS). The learner, of course, may ask the help of parents, friends, teachers, guidance counselors, and other people for advice, but it is only the learner and not anyone else that makes the final decision on which track to pursue. The choice of track is the learner’s. This cannot be overemphasized.

Just to be sure that everyone is on the same page, let me recall to mind that these four tracks are: Academic, Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL), Sports, and Arts & Design. Often, the TVL track is referred to as Tech-Voc, Voc-Tech, or TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training).

Each of these Tracks has Strands, which we can look at as career pathways or particular skill specializations or particular pre-college courses of study.

All four of these Tracks – and not only the Academic – prepare the learner to enter a Higher Education Institution (HEI) to study for an undergraduate degree. A university, college, or professional institute is called an HEI. (There are, of course, college entrance examinations, as well as the College Readiness Standards of the Commission on Higher Education or CHED, but we can leave those aside for the moment.)

In all of these Tracks, the learner could earn (provided s/he passes the pertinent assessments) one or more National Certificates (NCs) from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). In the TVL Track, in particular, learners could earn a number of NCs, such as an NC II for Caregiving, an NC III for Events Management Services, and an NC IV for Computer Programming.

I should mention that, in the future, when the K to 12 curriculum is fully operational (in other words, when the smoke clears!), learners can start earning NCs as early as Grade 9 (in Beauty and Nail Care, for example) or Grade 10 (in Computer Hardware Servicing, for example). This year, however, learners will have fewer choices, as I shall explain in later columns.

Let us make the explanation a bit clearer by giving a hypothetical example.

Let us suppose that a learner named Maria is now in Grade 10 in a public high school and wants to pursue a degree in engineering in college. The Track that will prepare her to pass the entrance examinations of an HEI that offers engineering is the Academic Track. The Strand in the Academic Track that is particularly useful to her is the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Strand.

Maria, therefore, sometime before June (actually, way before June, meaning, now), should start looking for a school that offers the STEM Strand of the Academic Track.

The first option for Maria is to find out if her own school offers this particular Strand. If her current school offers this Strand, then Maria can simply continue in her school. She will not be entitled to any voucher.

Now, even if her school offers this Strand, Maria is not forced to stay in that school. She could opt to study in another school.

There are many reasons for this. Perhaps the most obvious is that Maria wants the experience of studying in another school. Her parents might want her to graduate from a school that they themselves went to. The teachers in the other school may have a better reputation than the teachers in her public school. Or Maria might just want a change.

One reason has nothing to do with her desires. Her public school may have only limited slots available in its SHS. (The STEM Strand, for example, has stringent laboratory requirements, and not all public schools have such laboratories.)

Or her public school may not even have an SHS.

In any case, let us assume that Maria, for some reason, wants or has to study in a school other than her own Junior High School.

She could go to another DepEd school, one that offers the STEM Strand. In this case, she will also not be entitled to a voucher.

She could go to an SHS offered by a Local College, Local University, State College, or State University. These four types of HEIs are usually called LUCs or SUCs. These are HEIs that are funded by the government, either by the national government or by local governments.

If she goes to an LUC or SUC, Maria will be entitled to 50% of the voucher value. There is an agreement among the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DepEd, and CHED to this effect. We will get to the peso value of the vouchers in a later column.

If she goes to an SHS that is not funded by the government (called by DepEd as a “non-DepEd school”) – in other words, a private school – Maria will be entitled to the full amount of a voucher. Again, we will go to the actual peso amount in a future column.

(To be continued)

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