Sunio: Students need skills, not just degrees

I’M QUITE excited to see the next school year after the graduation of the first batch of Senior High School students. We are about to see what would happen to those who graduated from the General Education, Science, Arts, Business, Sports, and Technology Strands. Would the product of the K to 12 meet the expectations set on them, especially on skills?

The K to 12 program was implemented to decongest the cramped basic education curriculum which contributes to the reduced ability of the students to learn as well as to update the learnings. The strands on technology and vocational skills were also introduced to make students employable after graduation.

Personally, at first, my heart broke when the K to 12 does not fully encourage students to pursue higher education. I thought, “What kind of system tells it students go to college?” I had that misconception that not going to college is a mistake.

Yes, you read it right – misconception.

I’m not talking about the financial ability of families to send their kids to college anymore (although, that is still an issue). Many students are convinced that the best option after graduating high school is to pursue college – even if one’s interest does not necessarily lean towards that track.

Formal education has forgotten the diversity of learners in terms of interests and intelligences. Gardner’s Theory on Multiple Intelligences states the different learning styles and abilities of people. Some are inclined in thinking and solving, some like to move around and use their bodies, some prefer to be alone or in a small group in working, some are inclined to spirituality and contemplation, while some like to draw, make music, or simply create.

Some students do have an innate desire to go to college – may it be that they aspire higher order of thinking, a need for knowledge, or a certain career path. This is commendable, but other paths other than college are also equally commendable, much to my dismay. We forget that some others still want to pursue other plans other than college which would still lead to success.

Unfortunately, most traditional schools, especially in the Philippines, drill to students that higher education is almost the only way to succeed in life. They then implicitly snub other options other than college as “poor,” “mediocre,” a “failure,” or not fulfilling.

The learner who was pressured into entering a university – even though his interest is inclined to something else – forces himself in the institution. Some like him succeed and gets a diploma in the end, some choose to stop halfway and drop out because of the lack of motivation. When he stops in college, most would then brand him as a failure.

Did anybody even ask what he would really want to do in the future? Nobody in his former school nor his family, who forced him to go to college, understands the confusion he was going through.

College education seduces us to believing that a college diploma is the only way to succeed and be happy in life with the promises of guaranteed high-paying jobs in the future. Other post-high school options are then downgraded.

I realized this when a friend’s younger brother, though his family was financially capable, does not want to continue studying anymore. At first, I also blurted out the lines “What will happen to him if does not go to college? Kawawa siya (He would be pitiful).”

My friend told me that his brother wanted to pursue Tesda courses in painting instead of studying. Higher education was not his interest – but it does not mean that the boy wanted to loaf around and be unemployed in the future. He wished to provide for his family in another way. He knew then what he wanted.

He is not going to college, but it did not also mean that he would become a failure in life.

If you still think that college education leads to cornucopia, the rising rates of college graduates in the Philippines who are unemployed says otherwise.

Part of the reason is not just the unavailability of work, but also the upbringing of the students during their learning years. Most schools are too focused reproducing knowledge and diplomas that it bypassed the real need on the students: actual skills and helping them realize their interests. Just mere knowledge is not enough.

The K to 12 program now offers trainings to students on different technical skills such as programing, culinary, fisheries, welding, and others.

To poorer families, it does not necessarily mean the removal of their option to pursue higher education. It’s just that we address an immediate issue of the need for employment for these students to be able to contribute to the families’ financial needs. The track to college is still available.

The K to 12 address both the immediate needs for employment through the Tech Voc strands; and preparation for higher learning needs through the GAS, STEM, ABM, and HUMSS strands.

George Leef, in his article, “Forcing Students to Apply in College is a Bad Idea” republished in www.IntellectualTakeout.com, said “So what if college enrollments have been declining?” Referring to the bill passed in New Mexico that would require students to apply to at least one college. The legislation aims to reduce the number of people who make the ‘mistake’ of not going to college.

If people want to address the possible lack of competence of students if they do not enter a university, then that problem should already be addressed on the level of basic education by pushing for better training of students. After all, not everyone who were able to graduate in college was able to come out as expected because of the lack of training in either or both basic education level or college level.

Nonetheless, whether the students pursued college or another path or track, as long as he or she is fulfilled or is productive, basic education has already succeeded at that level. After all, education should only be driving people to make money in the future, but should also holistically contribute to students’ overall growth as a person.
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