By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Are they really ready?
As the country welcomes the first batch of Senior High School (SHS) graduates under the K to 12 Program this year, concerns on their job readiness are being raised by various stakeholders.
Contrary to the earlier “promise” of the K to 12 program, solons representing the teachers sector reiterated that the K to 12 system will not solve the rising number of unemployment in country. “It will instead worsen the problem with having a pool of laborers with no jobs or opportunities available to hire them,” said ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro.
Earlier, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (PCCI) expressed concern on the job readiness or competence of SHS graduates for employment. The PCCI – which is considered as the “voice of Philippine business” – raised issues in regard to the minimum number of training hours of SHS graduates.
Tinio said that the PCCI’s concern on the work readiness of SHS graduates is not surprising. “We have said it before and we will say it again, the K to 12 program will not solve the rising unemployment rate in our country,” he stressed. “It only pushes the youth to become skilled laborers working for cheap for foreign companies instead of educating them to become professionals that would help build national industries,” he added.
Meanwhile, Castro said that the government “foisted additional two years of schooling as the cure-all for our country’s problems including unemployment but it does not address job scarcity.” She noted that even college graduates prior to the implementation of the K to 12 “have a hard time looking for jobs with decent wages… how much more do we expect from Grade 12 graduates?” she asked.
Tinio also noted that the country has seen the effects of having a pool of skilled laborers with a government that does not provide enough opportunities for its people for decent jobs with decent salaries. “They are forced to risk their lives away from their families and serve in foreign countries as cheap laborers and are susceptible to discrimination,” he said. “Those who choose to stay in the country are also still vulnerable to contractualization, work for depressed wages, and unemployment,” he added.
Meanwhile, the solons also scored the PCCI’s proposal to increase the students training hours to give them enough time to train and improve their skills. The current curriculum only gives the pupils 80 hours of training.
“This is a dangerous proposal,” Castro said. “This will pave the way for companies using the labor of students for free or way below the minimum wage, which we observe as currently practiced in some establishments,” she added. The Congress, she noted, should “use its oversight function to investigate and conduct an inquiry on this matter.”
Due to this, the solons are once again urging the government through the Department of Education (DepEd) to junk the K to 12 implementation.
“We must continue to oppose and to call for the junking of the neoliberal K to 12 system of education as it does not serve the interest of the Filipino youth and the people for decent jobs with decent wages and national industrialization,” Tinio said.
Instead of implementing the K to 12, Castro said that government should put up a “nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented curriculum and system of education” and “create more decent jobs with decent wages through national industrialization which would make available millions of jobs for Filipinos.”
Ready as can be
Amid these concerns, the DepEd maintained that the first batch of SHS graduates is “job-ready and life-ready.”
In a statement, DepEd said that it recognizes the PCCI’s regarding the minimum number of training hours of SHS graduates but maintained “its confidence in the strong partnerships it has forged and continues to foster with different industry partners” that enable SHS graduates “to strike a balance between theory and practice” – specifically through Work Immersion.
DepEd is also keen to note that the K to 12 Basic Education Program has equipped SHS graduates with values, knowledge, and skills that communities, businesses, and industries need through its four exits: higher education, entrepreneurship, employment, or middle-level skills development.
“The first batch of Grade 12 learners are about to become full-fledged contributors to social development and nation-building,” the DepEd said. The K to 12 Program – which was crafted in close coordination between the DepEd, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), TESDA and representatives of business community – aims to “produce lifelong learners who are locally and globally competitive, and ready to pursue their desired path.”