YOUTH and teacher coalitions expressed their distress over the discontinuance of the senior high school (SHS) program in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs).
They are worried that the move will displace both learners and educators.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) and the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) said that “haphazardly discontinuing” the senior high school program without ensuring enhanced quality in the education system would jeopardize the learners’ right to education.
In a joint statement sent to SunStar Cebu on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024, the groups also lamented that the discontinuance would lead to economic struggles for teachers.
“While we understand that SUCs and LUCs are mandated to offer the SHS program only during the K-12 transition period, we fear that mechanically following suit without serious consideration of the drawbacks on education stakeholders will lead to another learning crisis leaving 17,700 students affected by dislocation and hundreds of thousands more by imminent congestion,” they said.
The Commission on Higher Education (Ched), in a document dated Dec. 18, 2023, announced the discontinuation of the SHS program in state-run tertiary educational institutions nationwide.
Ched Chairman Prospero de Vera III said the engagement of SUCs and LUCs in basic education shall be limited to the K-12 transition period.
In accordance with Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, the transition period should cover only school year 2016-2017 to school year 2020-2021.
The Ched memorandum instructed SUC presidents and officers-in-charge to guide their respective boards of regents and boards of trustees in ceasing the program, emphasizing the absence of a legal basis for continued funding.
In their statement, the youth and teachers’ groups said the transition timeline for the SHS program should be extended.
They outlined three factors that education agencies should take into account, mainly the time and resources needed.
First, they said senior high schools, whether public or private, possess the capability to accommodate all affected learners due to the discontinuation.
They said there should be ample instructors, classrooms, and necessary facilities like laboratories and libraries, mitigating the risk of congestion.
They also took into account the necessity to uphold the quality of education delivered by SUCs and LUCs.
The groups recommended that the Department of Education (DepEd) take measures to assure the performance of schools and eliminate diploma mills and transient institutions that have surfaced since the inception of the K-12 program.
Lastly, they said no teacher should lose his or her job since it might cause economic dislocation to affected educators.
“Public high schools must be able to absorb senior high school teachers employed in SUCs and LUCs without loss of compensation and benefits; otherwise, teachers risk economic displacement,” they said.
The statement referenced youth leader John Lazaro of Spark and teacher Benjo Basas of TDC.
Allaying public fears
Last Wednesday, Jan. 3, Department of Education (DepEd) 7 Director Salustiano Jimenez said the public had nothing to worry about, pointing out that no senior high school student is enrolled in state-run tertiary institutions in the region, except in laboratory schools.
Ched said SUCs and LUCs with laboratory schools can admit enrollees, but they will not receive vouchers.
Jimenez said that in Central Visayas, only two institutions, namely the University of the Philippines Cebu and Siquijor State College, have laboratory schools.
“There is nothing to worry about if ever state college universities will cease operations in offering senior high,” he said.
Jimenez said parents can either enroll their children in public schools offering basic education or opt for private schools, taking advantage of the government’s voucher program, which provides subsidies to qualified students.
The financial aid ranges from P11,250 to P22,500 per voucher, depending on the school’s location. It provides beneficiaries with the opportunity for either free or discounted tuition.
The education official reported that Central Visayas has at least 200,000 senior high students, with the majority attending public schools.
Jimenez said if the discontinuance displaces teachers, those affected have the option to apply for teaching positions at DepEd.
He said licensed teachers are always welcome, particularly when teaching positions become available.
However, he said that in the event of displacement, SUCs and LUCs will still absorb affected teachers, given that the majority of teaching positions in these institutions are permanent.