House bill proposes free senior high schools specializing in tech-voc

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A LEGISLATOR has filed a bill seeking to create specialized senior high schools that will teach “highly-technical skills compatible with the manufacturing and other high-value industries.”

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who also chairs the House ways and means committee, filed House Bill (HB) 6287, which if passed will be known as the Meister Schools Act, as part of his education reform agenda, and to help bridge the country’s skill gap and reduce youth unemployment.

“I have always been a believer in Technical and Vocational Education. It’s what will transform our young population into an economic powerhouse,” Mr. Salceda said in a statement Thursday.

The measure is modeled after technical-vocational (tech-voc) schools in South Korea that produce “meisters” or master-craftsmen.

“The effect that Meister Schools had in Korea were dramatic, (achieving) 85% placement of first batch/generation or those who signed employment contracts. In the first two years of implementation, the employment rate of vocational high school graduates increased from 19% in 2010 to 42% in 2012. Imagine, as a tech-voc graduate, you can work first, and decide to go to college later if you think it’s for you. But income-wise, you don’t have to go to college anymore,” Mr. Salceda said.

He cited cultural barriers as one of the reasons why technical-vocational education is not as attractive in the Philippines.

Napakababa kasi ng tingin ng maraming Pilipino sa tech-voc graduates. (Filipinos have very low regard for tech-voc graduates) But I would rather that we have a large base of highly-skilled, highly-hireable tech-voc graduates without college degrees than give out so many college degrees that are functionally useless as far as our skills gap is concerned. Maganda lang pakinggan na may Bachelor’s Degree, pero minsan napakalayo sa kailangan ng bansa (It only sounds nice to have many bachelor’s degree holders, though they do not address what the country really needs),” Mr. Salceda said.

Under the bill, every region will have at least one senior high school to be known as a “Meister School,” to be funded in the manner of National High Schools.

“Meister schools shall be senior high schools where courses for highly-specialized, higher-order industrial and technical skills shall be taught, with the objective of producing graduates who can find employment in highly-technical, high-skill functions in the manufacturing sector and other high-value industries, such as energy, machinery, mechatronics, and telecommunications,” according to the bill.

As with national high schools, the bill provides that Meister schools will not charge tuition and other fees.

The measure also provides that Meister schools be granted autonomy over curriculum, facilities and development of industry linkages.

“You will remember that I filed House Bill 6247, or the K to 12 Reform Act, which essentially makes tech-voc the default senior high school track, para lahat ng high school graduate employable, mag-college man o hindi (to ensure all high school graduates are employable whether they attend university or not). With the Meister Schools Act, magkakaroon ka na rin ng (we will have) highly-competitive tech-voc schools. Parang Pisay ng tech-voc (the Philippine Science High School of tech-voc). Free tuition, with scholarships and partnerships with top companies,” Mr. Salceda said.

Filed on Tuesday, HB 6247 seeks to amend Republic Act 10533 or The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.

According to Mr. Salceda, the measure seeks to address the Philippines’ low ranking in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018, the current unemployability of K to 12 graduates, and the “depressingly deficient” learning materials in terms of content and effectiveness.

On Monday, Mr. Salceda filed HB 6231 or the Teacher Empowerment Act of 2020 to provide free continuing professional development (CPD) training to public school teachers, limit teachers’ administrative functions to eight hours per week and allow highly qualified individuals to teach their areas of expertise.

“I promised comprehensive education reform. This (HB 6287) is the third bill in that pipeline. There will be more,” Mr. Salceda said. — Genshen L. Espedido