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PH studes optimistic K to 12 can help them develop their technical, soft skills

SENIOR high school (SHS) students are optimistic that the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, also known as the K to 12 Program, will help them firm up their choices and plans for their college education and future careers, as well as develop their technical and soft skills.
This is according to a study released by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) titled “Senior High School and the Labor Market: Perspectives of Grade 12 Students and Human Resource Officers”. The research team was composed of PIDS Senior Research Fellow Aniceto Orbeta, Jr., Consultant Marites Lagarto, Senior Research Specialist Ma. Kristina Ortiz, Supervising Research Specialist Danica Aica Ortiz, and Research Analyst Maropsil Potestad.
The authors interviewed selected first batch of Grade 12 students as well as employers and firms to get a grasp of the labor market prospects for SHS graduates. At least 18 schools from the National Capital Region (NCR), Region III, and Region IV-A were included in the research study. Meanwhile, at least 26 firms from NCR, Region IV-A, and Cebu were chosen as these areas “are the hubs of Philippine business and industry”.
The interview showed that “SHS education was believed to be useful and effective” by the students “in terms of enhancing the[ir] skills and expanding [their] knowledge”. It also “allowed them to be trained further in their chosen areas of specialization”. 
However, the authors noted some challenges in the K to 12 program.
While one of the rationales of the program is to equip SHS graduates with necessary skills so they can work or engage in entrepreneurial activities, some of the students interviewed said they are not confident to land a job after completing SHS.
This is particularly true for those under the academic track, who “believed they would still need to go to college because the training in SHS was not meant to make them more employable, unlike in the case of the Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) students” who can strengthen their employment eligibility by obtaining necessary certificates.
But to some TVL students, obtaining the National Certificate (NC) Level II and Certificates of Competency from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority does not guarantee employment. Students revealed that employers, especially large firms, still prefer applicants with college degrees and work experience.
This is one of the reasons why they pursue college degrees. 
“Most of the students were firm about their plans to pursue higher education because of the perception that college degree raises better employment opportunities and salaries,” the authors said. They are, however, faced with challenges such as schools requiring a “bridging program” for off-track SHS students, failing the entrance exams, financial constraints, and difficulty in maintaining the required grade for scholarships, among others.
The study also noted that employers and firms lack in-depth knowledge of the SHS program. “They do not know what kind of training the SHS students need from the businesses and what the SHS graduates could possibly offer to the industry in return,” the authors pointed out.
While majority said they would hire SHS graduates, only two of the interviewees “believe that SHS graduates already have the skills to be employed”. Moreover, those willing to hire SHS graduates provided preconditions for recruitment such as “requiring competencies and specialized skills, improved work immersion, and offering only low positions due to the nature of their business as well as existing government hiring policies such as that of the Civil Service Commission”.
The issue on work retention was also brought up by the firms as some SHS graduates have the tendency to work for only a short period of time. “Most of them proceeded to college while a few just gained experience and hopped to other companies for higher compensation,” the authors explained.
To resolve these issues, the authors recommend improving arrangements for taking NC assessments to strengthen the employability of those in the academic track, intensifying the SHS program information campaign among employers, and adjusting the hiring policies of the government and private firms to accommodate SHS graduates.

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