WHAT can be done to assist senior high school (SHS) students?

Recently, tertiary education officials found “many” SHS graduates ill-equipped for college. Last Dec. 4, SunStar Cebu’s Wenilyn B. Sabalo reported that Cebu City educators noted during the Dec. 3 consultative conference organized by the Department of Education (DepEd) 7 Cebu City Schools Division that SHS graduates desiring to enroll in a college course that doesn’t match their SHS academic strand have to undergo a bridge program before proceeding with the regular course offerings.

A bridge program covers academic prerequisites that may help students cope with college course work. However, the effectiveness of this “crash course” still depends on the competency of the student. A bridge program also demands additional time and resources, valuable resources already exacted from Filipino students and their parents under the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, or the K to 12 Program.

These educational innovations were aimed at producing SHS graduates who have many options to consider: To seek employment, work as an entrepreneur, or proceed to college.

Realities for the first batch of Grade 12 students are harsher than predicted. According to a Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) study conducted by Aniceto Orbeta Jr., Marites Lagarto, Ma. Kristina Ortiz, Danica Aica Ortiz and Maropsil Potestad, hurdling a bridge program is not the only challenge facing off-track SHS graduates entering college.

The study, entitled “Senior High School and the labor market: Perspectives of Grade 12 students and human resource officers,” documented that aside from coping with bridge programs, many SHS graduates failed in college entrance exams, faced financial difficulties as undergraduates and struggled to meet academic requirements to maintain college scholarships.

According to a synthesis posted on www.pids.gov.ph, the study respondents were selected members of the first batch of Grade 12 students; 18 schools located in the National Capital Region (NCR), Region III and Region IV-A; and 26 firms based in the NCR, Region IV-A, and Cebu, locations considered by the research team as “hubs of Philippine business and industry.”

Educators must work more closely with youths and their parents to understand the K to 12 Program and its link with the post-SHS plans of students and their families.

The same PIDS study also found that many members of the first batch of SHS graduates are compelled to proceed to college due to their lack of confidence that their SHS training is sufficient to go into entrepreneurship, find a well-paying and stable job, or successfully compete with college graduates for job openings.

Some Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) student-respondents experienced that undergoing trainings to improve eligibility and obtaining the National Certificate (NC) Level II and Certificates of Competency from the Technical Education and Skills Development failed to convince employers, many of whom prefer college graduates and experienced applicants.

For students and families already burdened with the additional years and expenses resulting from the K to 12 Program, industry standards prioritizing college graduates for employment further curtail the options of SHS graduates and push them to proceed to college, if they can afford it and if they qualify.

Learning from these experiences of the first batch of SHS graduates, educators, parents and other stakeholders must review the K to 12 Program and address the inadequacies resulting in the mismatch between academic training, college enrollment, and employment after graduation.

It is tragic that after all the students and their families’ adjustments, expenses and personal sacrifices made with the implementation of the K to 12 Program, the old glass ceilings prevent them from attaining quality education, job security and a better way of life.