Guidance counselors serve a higher purpose
The continuing public conversation on K to 12 invariably revolves around the consequences that the additional two years of schooling will bring to bear on the learner, the family and the existing education infrastructure especially at the tertiary level.
Some parents are fretting that the additional expenses of Grades 11 and 12 (i.e., books, uniforms, school buses, baon and so on) will further drain their meager household budgets. University executives, on the other hand, are deeply worried about their business continuity because the number of incoming freshmen will be drastically reduced in 2016, with the situation only starting to ease in at least a couple of years.
Then there is the issue of preparedness. The entire Department of Education family led by Secretary Armin Luistro has been firm that the system is ready to meet the logistical challenges that will come when some 1.6 million fourth year high school students transition to Grade 11 in 2016.
As far as I can tell, the debate has largely focused on K-to-12’s ramifications on education stakeholders, rather than on senior high school’s qualitative influence on teaching, learning and the learner’s preparedness for work and life as well.
The senior high school curriculum offers four possible exits for the learner: middle skills development through the technical-vocational track, higher learning through the academic track, entrepreneurship, and immediate employment, made possible because the senior high school graduate is now of legal age.
And here, the argument intensifies. Choosing which track to pursue in senior high school presumes that very young learners have thoughtfully considered what they want to become later in life. But what if they have not, given their youthful exuberance? What if they make a wrong choice, and end up miserably regretting their decision? Clearly, young learners need knowledgeable and trustworthy adults to help them become the best version of themselves. That role naturally belongs to the schools’ guidance counselors.
These dedicated men and women, many of them not much older than their wards, are a crucial determinant for maximizing the learners’ senior high school experience. More importantly, they are a critical factor in the learners’ postsecondary choices, which is the point where global evidence strongly suggests that many of our youth err.
I was privileged to meet a number of these remarkable individuals on the first day of the Mid-Year Convention of the Career Developers Association of the Philippines held last month. Led by the seemingly ageless Josie O. Santamaria, CDAP president, the career counselors gathered to listen and discuss the insightful presentations of Jocelyn Pick, managing director of Profiles Asia Pacific; Robert M. Policarpio, president of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Felicidad B. Zurbano, assistant executive director of Tesda’s National Institute for Technical Education and Skills Development; and Ma. Teresa “Tata” Medado, managing director of Asia Pacific College.
Pick, citing education writers Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, outlined the new learning ecosystem where “we have to educate people to do jobs that don’t yet exist, which means we have to invent them and train people to do them at the same time. That is harder, and it is why we need everyone to aspire to be a creative creator or creative server.” Pick challenged her audience to become game-changers, especially given the disturbing fact that the Philippines languishes in the bottom half of the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index for the region.
In her presentation appropriately titled “Imminent Change,” Medado discussed at length the academe-industry trends engendered by globalization and the world’s continuous push for education reform and the ensuing challenges in the 21st-century education landscape. She said that in the innovation-driven global economy, it becomes imperative for learning institutions, industry and education stakeholders to clarify their partnership strategies that would collaboratively develop and match talent with demand.
Medado pointed out that while there is a perceived short-term enrollment deficit for colleges and universities in 2016, the Grade 12 graduates in 2018 will have different skills and competencies acquired from the new senior high school curriculum. This will serve them well in terms of employability and higher learning. Furthermore, there will be around 1.2 million senior high school graduates in 2018, which is more than double the annual number of college graduates, estimated at 450,000. This is a tremendous boost to the talent pool. Historically, about 60 percent of basic education graduates choose to go to college, which in turn augurs well for our higher education institutions.
Policarpio said that according to PMAP studies, the biggest reason employers are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies despite the large number of applicants is that the latter do not have the competency and/or skill that the jobs require. The second biggest reason is that the salaries being offered fall below the applicants’ expectations.
Santamaria herself stressed that guidance and career counselors serve a higher purpose. She maintained that we all should see God in our work because “we are in the people-caring business.”
Butch Hernandez (email@example.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines.
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