Photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Notwithstanding the low enrollment in public senior high schools, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro said the opening of classes on Monday, June 13, was the best he has seen, so far.
"When we monitor media reports, we see problems that are very, very solvable. At the central office, we monitor if there is an insurmountable problem that is systemic. There's none, so far," he said in a mix of English and Filipino during a press conference.
As of Monday, Luistro said there were only 530,000 enrollees in the senior high school program, but only because many schools have not yet encoded their enrollment into the DepEd's Learner Information System.
Incoming education secretary Leonor Briones joined Luistro's visit to Commonwealth High School in Quezon City. On Monday, Briones again reiterated that with or without K to 12, student dropouts are inevitable "because of poverty, because of access to education."
Asked exactly how many could possibly drop out of senior high school, Luistro said the number is anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 students.
To address this problem, he has already instructed local education officials to visit these students' houses and encourage them to stay in school. Briones, for her part, said expanding the DepEd's Alternative Learning System is the way to go.
"We call on DepEd to declare our Grade 10 completers as graduates and to allow them to enroll in colleges. That way, if they apply for jobs, they are not high school dropouts, but high school graduates," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Back in Metro Manila
After 3 years of visiting far-flung areas in the country, Luistro spent his last opening of classes in Metro Manila.
His first stop on Monday was San Rafael Technological High School in Navotas, which is offering the technical-vocational-livelihood (TVL) track to at least 126 students.
Principal Joji Fernando told Rappler they chose the TVL track because it is "the aptitude of these children." With 4 available classrooms for senior high, they can accommodate up to 200 students.
No electricity but students are all smiles during their first day of school. #rappler pic.twitter.com/zt7dgelY1c — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 12, 2016
Luistro's next stop was Malabon National High School, where 277 students are taking the following strands under the academic track: general academic, accountancy, business and management, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Maria Victoria Degulan, principal of Malabon National High School, said they have students from as far as Mindanao and Bulacan. Their 9 classrooms for senior high school can house up to 600 students.
Of their 277 enrollees, 208 are their own Grade 10 completers. Asked what they did to make most of their students stay, Degulan told Rappler: "Nag-survey kami, tiningnan namin 'yung mga majority na tracks na gusto nila, so kung ano 'yung tracks na nakita namin na majority, 'yun inoffer namin."
(We conducted a survey, we looked at the majority of the tracks they prefer, so we offered the tracks which we saw were preferred by majority of the students.)
Malabon National High School's first batch of Grade 11 students. Enrollment currently at 277. #BackToSchool pic.twitter.com/d4nDM1DKDW — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 12, 2016
The approach was different in Commonwealth High School, Luistro's final stop on Monday.
Out of the school's 1,500 Grade 10 completers, only 260 stayed for its senior high school program, which offers the humanities and social sciences strand, and 5 TVL specializations:
"Nag-survey kami sa community...'yung mga kurso na 'yan lumilinya sa mga trabaho na nakikita dito sa community," Sheridan Evangelista, the school's principal, told Rappler.
(We conducted a survey in the community. Those courses are aligned with the jobs available in the community.)
"Pati sa aming partnership, madali kaming makakapagtie-up dito sa mga local industries natin, and marami kaming mga teachers na talagang mataas ang kasanayan dito sa mga tech-voc offerings na 'to."
(Even in our partnerships, we can easily tie up with our local industries, and many of our teachers are highly skilled in these tech-voc offerings.)
Bldgs for senior high school at Commonwealth High School. One still under construction is for next year's Grade 12 pic.twitter.com/FDdaBjQbbt — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 13, 2016
With their 24 senior high school classrooms, the school can take in a total of 520 to 650 students.
As for teachers, only one senior high school teacher has been assigned to teach in Commonwealth High School as of Monday. The school has assigned "highly qualified" junior high school teachers to teach in senior high for now. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.