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Makati university models new senior high school

(Fifth and last of a series)

While other higher institutions of learning await with a great deal of anxiety the implementation of the new K to 12 curriculum, the University of Makati (UMak) readily embraced it and even agreed to try the new Grades 11 and 12 models as pilot projects.

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Last school year, 2012-2013, even before the signing of the law formally mandating the adoption of a basic education program from kindergarten to Grade 12, replacing the current 10-year system, the UMak, which does not even have a high school, offered Grade 11, drawing almost 5,000 students who completed regular high school in 2011-2012.

While the number included some non-Makati residents, the 4,000 or so from the city represented more than half the graduates in 2012-2013 of the city’s 10 high schools that totaled a little less than 7,000.

Having earned high school diplomas, the Grade 11 students could have gone on to college, or any form of further training, or tried their luck in the labor market (a few, in fact, decided not to finish the additional year of basic education), instead of staying for another year—even two—in the secondary level.

For UMak president Tomas Lopez, being asked by Education Secretary Armin Luistro for the Grades 11 and 12 pilot projects “was an exhilarating and exciting journey.”

“It is a privilege that few innovators are able to do,” he said, especially a virtual carte blanche from Luistro in developing the program.

The existing educational system is “encrusted in tradition,” he said, making it difficult to introduce changes. “Kids are so different now … yet schools remain practically the same.”

For the UMak, the additional two years would be an opportunity to raise competencies for immediate employment or for college education. “What is the downside if we do not do this? Even if a student is below average academically, surely the two additional years will lift his competence level,” he said.

Lopez knew that many high school graduates needed additional preparation for college work. What should be first year of college often became a period of remediation, he said, extending a four-year program into almost five. Fortunately, since the UMak is being funded by the city of Makati, local residents pay just a minimal fee, so the extra year did not really involve a significant additional cost.

The extra two years of secondary education or senior high school will also not impose a significant additional financial burden on Makati families. As Grades 11 and 12 are technically part of high school, they will remain free to students.

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Lopez found the new Grades 11-12 an easy fit for the UMak. The university, an expansion of the old Makati Polytechnic Community College, already had the tools and the programs to handle the four main tracks of senior high school—academic (college preparatory), technical-vocational, sports and arts, and needs of a locality/community.

It also already had a working relationship with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) for the certification of tech-voc graduates who acquired certain levels of competencies.

Objectives

As conceptualized by the UMak, the senior high school curriculum has three objectives: enhance learning-to-learn competencies in English, Filipino, Mathematics and Science; give a variety of course options aligned with the students’ areas of interest for specialization and potential work opportunities; and promote values formation and citizenship.

Integrated into all this, said Dalisay Brawner, vice president for academic affairs, were the social sciences that were basically designed to promote right values, good citizenship and national pride.

Teaching materials and lesson plans developed by an integration team headed by Emerita G. Reyes incorporated instructions on the country and people. A bahay kubo (nipa hut), for instance, was used in Math to teach measurements, English and Filipino essays were about national heroes and leading Filipino personalities while geography involved popular tourist destinations.

Brawner said enrollment in Grade 11 was voluntary but UMak representatives pitched the idea to graduates and parents. The main message was “From High School to Higher School, Trabaho Pagka-graduate.”

Lopez said the university had to sell the idea to parents and students that two more years of basic education would mean more and better job opportunities.

Tailor-made

Lopez said the UMak conducted an extensive review of its programs, resources, capabilities and facilities then scaled them down for Grade 11.

The university had only a few months in 2012 to prepare for Grade 11, from graduation in March to the school opening in June.

“Fortunately, the school already has all the (requirements for senior high school). The university’s programs were already tailor-made for senior high school so it was relatively easy for the UMak to offer (the additional two years),” Brawner said.

She said even for college faculty members handling first year classes, usually general education subjects, it was not much of a stretch. For one thing, they were paid the same rates and enjoyed the same benefits as in college. Class schedules and structures were also practically similar to those in college.

So, in 2012, instead of admitting first year college students, the UMak had its first Grade 11 class. Over a dozen electives representing various areas of interest were offered.

Although students could shift from one elective to another, Brawner said they were required to finish one quarter before moving to another field.

Unique experience

Despite the relative ease in setting up the senior high school program, Lopez knew the UMak’s experience would be unique. As a local government-run higher education institution (HEI), it was easy enough for him to get the go-ahead of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and be assured of financial support.

Private HEIs relying on tuition to sustain them would have to anticipate at least two years of no new enrollment when Grade 11 becomes mandatory in school year 2016-2017.

The high school freshmen of 2012-2013 would be the first to undergo two more years of basic education and could expect to graduate in 2017-2018.

This means no new college freshmen in those two years. With the senior high school curriculum designed to open up more job opportunities upon graduation, freshman enrollment in 2018-2019 might also be lower than usual.

Lopez said the transition would not be so painful for institutions with high school departments because they could just add two more years, but it would be tough on those that only offered tertiary education.

As pointed out by Miriam College president Rosario Lapus in last year’s national convention of the Coordinating Council of Private Education (Cocopea), between 2016 and 2018, when high school students would be in Grades 11 and 12, private HEIs would have only a few—even zero—college freshmen.

The transition would definitely mean serious financial difficulties and would involve a lot of belt-tightening. Several college faculty members, particularly those handling first year courses, would also be adversely affected.

Lopez hoped the UMak’s model, with the Department of Education’s support, would offer some answers to projected difficulties. Among other things, he said, instead of building new facilities and hiring thousands of new staff for Grades 11 and 12, DepEd could identify institutions that would be centers for senior high school and have them deliver the last two years of basic education.

In fact, Lopez wants the UMak, having already set up the senior high school program, to continue to deliver the two years of additional secondary education to Makati students so the city would not have to build new classrooms, hire new teachers and provide additional facilities in every high school.

Private schools offering only academic programs and those with tech-voc courses could link up to deliver the curriculum of senior high school, he suggested. There would be some logistical problems, he knew, but these could be easily threshed out.

Supplying local needs

At the Cocopea convention, various university officials also suggested ways HEIs could respond to the anticipated lack of students between 2016 and 2018.

Peter P. Laurel, president of Lyceum University of the Philippines Batangas, said private schools could consider offering short-term Tesda-recognized programs. Others were considering adopting ladderized curricula.

Fr. Joel E. Tabora, S.J., president of Ateneo de Davao University, said schools should develop programs that responded to the needs of their own communities and neighboring areas.

These would have the advantage of giving students skills that would make them readily employable locally and also have the additional benefit of making them stay instead of seeking jobs elsewhere.

The UMak is, in fact, doing just that. The fourth stream in its senior high school program, needs of locality/community, aims to provide Makati barangays (villages) the human resource they need like people trained in grassroots governance, social work, peace and order, etc.

As Brawner explained, the DepEd wants senior high school to focus on agriculture, fisheries and similar programs to keep students where they were. Batangas, a coffee producer, has the Coffee Academy, for instance, while agriculture in the rice terraces is the focus of a similar academy in Banaue, Ifugao.

As the senior high school would be under the DepEd, the department was also trying to help ease the transition. Among others, Luistro said the DepEd would expand the Education Service Contracting program that subsidized public elementary school graduates enrolling in private secondary schools to ease the congestion in public educational institutions while helping ease the money woes of private ones.

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Fourth article

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TAGS: Education, K to 12, Philippines, University of Makati (UMak)
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