A school that opens doors for drop-outs

Leilani Chavez, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jul 13 2009 02:52 PM | Updated as of Jul 14 2009 10:43 PM

The education department works to lower drop-out rates through a more flexible schooling program.

Seventeen year-old Christine Joy Claveria had to stop going to school last year due to her sudden pregnancy. Ordinarily, such a condition would have hindered her from finishing her high school education. Luckily, it did not.

What prompted Christine to pursue her senior year was the Department of Education’s Open High School Program, which enabled her to go to class only once a week. She currently goes to class every Thursday.
“It’s not very hard because I do not have to come to school everyday, only once a week. When you think about it, I should not be going to school because it is embarrassing… But this is very helpful,” she told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Christine is one of the 90 students under the 2009-2010 Open High School Program (OHSP) being offered by the Marikina National High School. OHSP is part of the education department’s Drop-Out Reduction Program, an answer to curb the decreasing participation rates in secondary public schools throughout the country.

Rising drop-out rates

“The primary goal [of the program] is to give access to secondary education. If you can give access to all those of high school age, your participation rates will go up,” Prudence Sanoy, coordinator of the OHSP, said.
Drop-out rates in the last five years have been alarming. In school-year 2008-2009 alone, an estimated 48,822 students dropped out of school nationwide. The total population of secondary students last school-year was 6,459,305.
Unlike the Accreditation and Equivalency Exams offered by the Bureau of Alternative Learnings System, Open High School is a “formal and structured” program. This means a student needs to learn eight core subjects and graduates by completing the four levels.

The program started in 1998 as a pilot project funded by the Asian Development Bank. Nowadays, there is an increasing number of high schools nationwide that are offering this program.
“Whatever you have to do in regular schooling, you also do it here in this program, Sanoy explained. “Classes are based on the contract between the student and teacher.”
Open High School has three modalities: 1) the modular, 2) the blended technology, and 3) the Internet-based.
In the modular type, teachers make use of modules in teaching the students during the agreed time. The modules are also taken home by the students.

Content of the modules are not that different from textbooks. Perez said that the modules are even more comprehensive in terms of activities than the textbooks.

The schedules of classes are flexible, only depending on the time agreed upon by teachers and students.

The Marikina National High School however has standardized its schedule for Open High, allotting one day every week for each level. Mondays are for freshmen, Tuesdays are for sophomores, Wednesdays for juniors, and Thursdays are for seniors. Classes start at 6:55 a.m. and ends at 3:45 p.m.
Internet-based learning is not yet practiced but is currently being developed by Bureau of Secondary Education on selected pilot schools in Baguio, Cebu, and Davao. It will take 4 more years before the department can check if the Internet-based program can produce quality graduates.
Blended Technology, on the other hand, is a merging of the two prior types, according to Sanoy.
The grading system is also the same, and students get to graduate with the regular class at the end of the school-year.

Schooling for everyone

The education departments’ open high schools cater mostly to young people who are forced to quit school because they needed to work, hence the flexible schedule. But there is a provision for mainstreaming in case the student’s financial situation changes. “If the financial situation [of the student] is better, the student may opt to go back to regular schooling,” Sanoy said.
Garwin Bernabe, 31, was forced to stop secondary education because he got sick in 1990. He came back to school in 2005 and was already married when he decided to enroll for the program this school-year.
“It’s a good opportunity,” he said, noting that he had wanted to go back to school for some time but that he couldn’t because he is working.

According to Felicitas Perez, OHSP coordinator in Marikina National High School, there are many reasons why students stop studying and prefer the open high school program.
“Many of our students are already married with children. The others are already old and are embarrassed to go to regular school,” she explained.

Perez also adds that because most of her students are working, they find the everyday classes too time-consuming. Some, like Garwin, have health problems.
“We also encourage parents who want to study because there is nothing than can get you out of poverty more than education. They can be examples for their children,” says Marikina principal Victoria Naranja.

Since the program started in 2007, the number of students enrolled with the Open High School at the Marikina high school has remarkably increased. It started with only 48 students. “In 2008, it increased to 63, and now we have 90 students!” Naranja said.
Successful in Romblon
OHSP has also been successful in the province of Romblon. Three years ago, Romblon had one of the highest drop-outs in the country. OHSP in the province started in 2007.
Most of their students were forced to stop because of poverty, according to Rufino Roz, assistant coordinator of the OHSP in Romblon. “They need to work for their families’ needs. Some take care of their siblings, some work on marble which is Romblon’s key produce, while others work either as porters, salesladies or houseboys,” he added.
When the program started, they only had 148 students for all 10 schools under the division. In the following school-year, 2007-2008, there were already 81 students enrolled in the program. This number is only for four schools. The number of those enrolled with the program in the other schools is not yet available.
Roz said the provincial government of Romblon, which is very supportive of the project, is helping establish open high school programs in Romblon’s secondary schools.
In the last three years, Marikina National High School has already produced 33 graduates from the program. Most are now either in college or working abroad.
“I have a student who will go back from Saudi next month. He told me that he and his classmates will be visiting me,” Perez narrates. Most of her students took the program to get better jobs, she says.
Garwin, who is looking forward to getting his diploma next year, says this will open doors to numerous possibilities for him. “I can study further or get another job. It is better, you see, if you have proof that you finished schooling. This could help me get a better paying job,” he beams. - abs-cbnNEWS.com