Fri. May 14th, 2021

By Mario Ferdinand A. Pasion, CPA

The tri-media has not been reporting about a very important matter – the elephant in the room – which is the actual unprecedented rise in our real unemployment rate despite of the millions of unfilled positions and vacancies in the government and the private sector. 

We use the terms “actual” and “real” because our unemployment rate would be higher today if those who have surrendered or given-up in trying to find jobs were not excluded from the category of the unemployed by our somewhat strange government statistics system. 

For there are millions of Grade 12 graduates who have given-up in their job-hunting due to the fact that the government and the private sector are not keen on hiring graduates of Grade 12 but are, in fact, requiring and hiring only college graduates or, at the very least, those who have finished their second year of college education.

What Grade 11 and Grade 12 or Senior High School has resulted to is actually in contravention of the mandate of Sub-Section 1 of Section 2 of ARTICLE XIV of the 1987 Constitution regarding “Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports,” which states that the State shall “Establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society

Apparently, the Senior High School program of the government is not relevant to the needs of the people and society – that includes the government and the private sector – which both refuse to hire Grade 12 graduates since they both mostly hire only college graduates or, at least, those who have attained second year college level education.

Republic Act No. 10533 increased the number of years for basic education by particularly adding two (2) more years in High School – designated as “Grade 11” and “Grade 12” or “Senior High School” clearly without exhaustive consultations with the employers, industry, parents, and students.  In fact, it is now quite obvious that even the hiring managers of the government itself were not properly consulted.

The Senior High School system has not even been given any proper review nor analyzed for its effectiveness and relevance since it was initiated. 

For even before the Covid 19 pandemic began in 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority already stated that 3.8 million or 1 in 10 children, aged 6 to 24, were not in school and that most of them, or almost 3.3 million, were aged 16 to 24 years old who were supposed to be in Senior High School, wherein more than half or about 53% of them belonging to the poorest families. 

This very clearly means that Grade 11 and Grade 12 are very heavy burdens on parents and students and that they can no longer afford these two additional years in High School.

Many parents and students have only one dream – for the students to finish at least four years of college education. However, the hasty imposition of Senior High School dashed the hopes and dreams of parents and students, and realizing that it is now impossible for the students to finish college education, many parents and their children have surrendered their dreams and ambitions such that almost 8 percent of Grade 6 students in 2017 did not graduate and did not even reach Grade 7, while a rather high 18 percent of Junior High School students opted to no longer enroll in Senior High School.

But even before 2017, it was already clear that to add two more years to high school education will only result to a worsened state of affairs. 

The tell-tale signs include the fact that 4.8 million youth were out-of-school in school year 2015-2016, which was an 11 percent increase in just 5 years, and out of this number, out-of-school children in elementary more than tripled from around 431,000 in 2011 to 1.4 million, while out-of-school youth in high school remained high at around 3.4 million.

Just recently, on September, 2020, or during the prevailing pandemic, at least 2.3 million children have not enrolled for the current school year with a notable 30% drop in enrollments in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region alone, while all across the country, a 9% decline in enrollment was recorded when the statistics for the current school year of 2020-2021 were compared with the previous school year of 2019-2020.

Massive poverty due to the pandemic can be gleaned from the figures presented by Department of Education (DepEd) which showed that 22.3 million students have enrolled in public schools – 98.89% of last year’s enrollments – while only a little over 2 million students have enrolled in private schools, covering only a measly 48.37% of last year’s number.  Furthermore, based on figures the DepEd presented during a September, 2020 hearing of the Senate Committee on Education, the “difference” in the total enrollment in public and private schools, and in state and local universities and colleges between this school year and the previous one is at a very alarming 3.3 million – a mere “difference” which is even higher than the 2 million students that have enrolled in private schools this school year. 

Mr. Joseph Noel Estrada, managing director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), in fact, affirmed that only 2 million out of a former 4.3 million students have so far enrolled in private schools during this school year of 2020-2021.

What makes matters worse is that the pandemic has caused financial problems and massive poverty for many families, and this has forced them to transfer their children from private schools to public institutions, where tuition is free, with a gargantuan number of 2.3 million former students no longer signed up for school altogether – public or private. 

Also, due to financial problems and massive poverty brought about by the pandemic, some parents still opted to let their children wait out the school year despite government efforts to push the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and alternative delivery modes of learning materials which are free and at no cost but still could not be afforded by millions of parents and students!

It should be noted that a separate study by the advocacy group, Philippine Business for Education (PBED), recently indicated in a survey that only about 20 percent of 70 of the country’s leading companies across all sectors were inclined to hire senior high school graduates, with PBED Executive Director Love Basillote stating that many companies accept only job applicants with at least two years of college education, which excludes senior high school graduates, and that this hiring policy explains the discrepancy between the graduates’ supposedly high competency and their low chances of getting a job.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Human Resources Development Foundation Inc. (PCCI-HRDF) believes the hesitance to hire fresh graduates may be due to the absence of the necessary skills and training that industries need but not yet provided by the current Senior High School program, as stated by PCCI HRDF president Alberto Fenix.  Likewise, PBEd president Chito Salazar explained that most companies prefer college graduates over mere graduates of Grade 12 or Senior High School whenever they are hiring new employees or workers. 

Therefore, there is obviously an urgent need to encourage and give a fighting chance to our parents and students to ensure that our youth will continue their education despite of the pandemic and the massive financial difficulties and poverty that it has brought about.  And the only way to encourage our parents and students to persevere in education is to shorten the rather long six (6) years of high school with no assurance of getting a job after finishing it due to the fact that employers are not keen on hiring senior high school graduates as they prefer graduates of 4-year (Bachelor’s Degree) or 2-year (Associate Degree) college courses.

The situation or, the elephant in the room, is indeed an emergency while being ignored by the mainstream media and it requires extra-ordinary intervention by Congress in order to address both the alarming increase in school drop-out rates and the massive unemployment rate among graduates of Grade 12 or senior high school as business and industry still clearly requires graduates of 4-year (Bachelor’s Degree) or 2-year (Associate Degree) college courses rather than the mere graduates of Grade 12 who are quite obviously still unemployed up to now. 

There is therefore a need to authorize the President of the Philippines to suspend the implementation of the Senior High School program and allow graduates of Grade 10 or junior high school and passers of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) junior high school equivalency examination to enroll directly in first year college of a 4-year or 2-year college course or in first year of a 2-year post-senior high school technical-vocational (Tech-Voc) course without first having to finish Grade 11 and Grade 12 or Senior High School, at least for the two (2) incoming school years – 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 – during which the pandemic is still expected to bring massive financial difficulties and poverty on both parents and students.

The Senate and the House of Representatives must ensure that the suspension of the implementation of the Senior High School program shall benefit not only the graduates of Grade 10 or junior high school and passers of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) junior high school equivalency examination this year but also those of previous years and the coming year of 2022 so that they can enroll directly into the first year college of a 4-year or 2-year college course or the first year of a post-senior high school technical-vocational course for the school years of 2021-2022, and 2022-2023, without first having to go through senior high school.

The implementation of this proposed suspension of Grade 11 and Grade 12 or the Senior High School program should take effect on the opening of school year 2021-2022 to initially benefit the graduates of Grade 10 or junior high school and passers of the ALS junior high school equivalency examination in the year 2021 and previous years thereto. 

After this, we can then be assured that in the year 2023, we will have an army of human resources that have reached second year college level who can then be immediately employed by both the government and the private sector.  And two years thereafter, in the year 2025, we will have enough college graduates to fill the millions of unfilled positions in the government and the private sector which are both keen on hiring college graduates.

Mere palliatives will not work. The bitter pill of suspending the implementation of Grade 11 and Grade 12 or the Senior High School program must now be taken before the situation turns for the worst! 

Anyway, our ten million OFW’s abroad, many of whom are college graduates, were accepted in their present-day jobs without their employers first asking them if they passed through Grades 11 and 12 or not.

Mario Ferdinand Pasion is the chairman of the Nationalist Filipinos Against Foreign Intervention. He is a Certified Public Accountant who works as Supervising Legislative Staff Officer I at the House of Representatives. He has a radio program at DWAD, a regular guest at Ang Maestro Atbp, The Unfinished Revolution at Radyo Pilipinas 1, 738 khz and other radio-TV talk shows around Metro Manila.

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