Mr. Cruz’s column amplifies the dilemma of tertiary institutions, especially those in the private sector which rely heavily on tuition income to stay afloat. This issue was brought into focus by Dr. Jose Paolo E. Campos, president of Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) and chairman of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) in a previous post, “Schools stand to lose billions in K+12 program.”
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are understandably anxious about the K to 12 reform. Their concerns center around two major fears: first, the possibility that there will be no incoming first-year students while the first batches of high school students are in Senior High School (SHS or Grades 11 and 12); and second, the possibility that teachers who teach subjects in the General Education Curriculum (GEC) will not have anything to teach when the subjects are moved to SHS.
Let us confront the first fear. Students now graduating from elementary school will use the new curriculum when they enrol in Grade 7 (First Year High School) this coming June. After four years of Junior High School (JHS or Grades 7 to 10), these students will then go to SHS. That will be in June 2016 (four years from this year).
In June 2016, therefore, there will be no one applying for admission to college.
Of course, this is not strictly true, since there are students long finished with high school that will go to college in that year, but they will be very few. Also, there will be students from private high schools that will go to college that year, but they will also be very few.
Let me explain that last sentence. Private basic education schools with two Kindergarten years (K1 and K2) and an extra Grade 7 year will already have complied with the 12-year requirement of K to 12. This has been announced by DepEd.
How does that work? The first Kindergarten (K1) can be considered equivalent to the K of K to 12, as long as the child is five years old at that time. The second Kindergarten (K2) or Prep (as it is sometimes called), as long as the child is six years old, will be equivalent to Grade 1 of K to 12. If we keep adjusting the grade levels as we go up the ladder, the child finishing Grade 6 in a private school will be equivalent (in age and accomplishment) to a child finishing Grade 7 in a public school.
Now, if the private school has a Grade 7, then that grade can be considered as equivalent to Grade 8 in a public school. Again, if we keep adjusting the grade levels, we will see that a child in Fourth Year High School in a private school will then be equivalent to a child in Grade 12 in a public school. These students can then go directly to college, as they do now. These students, however, are also very few, since many private schools have already given up offering a Grade 7.
Most private HEIs will suffer such a big drop in enrolment in 2016 that they will get into financial trouble.
Moreover, the problem will not last only through the academic year starting June 2016. In June 2017, there will still be very few students entering college, because most potential students will still be in Grade 12. Even when the first batch of Grade 12 students enter college, there will still be a problem, because there will be no sophomores (since there were no freshmen the previous year) or juniors. When the freshmen become sophomores, there will be no juniors or seniors, and when the sophomores become juniors, there will be no seniors. We are looking all the way to 2020 with HEIs having problems with missing students.
In fact, even after 2020 and long after the K to 12 program is in full swing, HEIs will still have a big problem. The K to 12 program offers Grade 12 graduates three real options – to go to college directly, to start a business and go to college (if ever) only in the future, and to be employed in an industry and go to college (if at all) only at night. If we assume that these options will be equally attractive to graduates, then HEIs can expect a two-thirds drop in enrollment anyway.
No wonder HEIs are of two minds about the K to 12 program. They know that their graduates right now have a lot of difficulty getting into foreign graduate schools or getting high-level jobs abroad, because other countries expect most professionals to have had at least 12 years of pre-university education. Therefore, HEIs are supporting the K to 12 program. On the other hand, the program is almost certain to affect their finances.
Several solutions to this problem have been proposed. Perhaps the simplest is one proposed by DepEd. DepEd is willing to let HEIs handle SHS. The advantages are obvious. DepEd does not need to build new classrooms or hire new teachers. HEIs will never lack students.
The disadvantages, however, are also obvious. Students will have to move from their JHS campus to the HEI campus, not an easy thing to do in certain places in the country. There are more than 4,000 high schools and only around 2,000 HEIs.
HEIs will also have to lower their tuition rates to the level that DepEd can afford to subsidize (because SHS – being part of secondary education – has to be free, according to the Constitution). Moreover, college teachers have to take the licensure examinations for teachers (LET) in order to be able to teach high school students. (To be continued)