Philippine Standard Time:

Some 1,454 personnel and management representatives from 878 participating Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) joined the 16 regional consultations conducted by the DOLE Regional Offices, through their respective Education Industry Tripartite Councils, to discuss on the government’s proposed Action Plan on the Implementation of the K to 12 Program and the proposed Tertiary Education Sector Transitory Fund (TESTF) Bill. Conducted from July to September 2014, these consultations were directed by the DOLE Secretary to find the right balance in addressing transition concerns in the implementation of the 12-year basic education program.

Both action plan and the proposed bill are products of the technical working group (TWG) composed of the DOLE, Department of Education (DepED), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which was tasked to deal with issues such as impending job displacements and loss of employment benefits, precariousness in teaching and non-teaching personnel’s employment, and the perceived additional costs to parents for Grades 11 and 12.

“We have thought of these initiatives at the national level, but we are now going down at the regional level to get the sense of the stakeholders and be able to capture the peculiarities in the local setting,” Director Benjo Santos M. Benavidez of the Bureau of Labor Relations said.

The Action Plan aims to optimize employment retention, prevent displacement of faculty and non-academic personnel, and ensure the sustainability of private and public educational institutions. It outlines short, medium, and long-term government interventions which include employment facilitation services (i.e.: job referrals; employment guidance and counseling; livelihood and entrepreneurship; and training/retooling), educational assistance (i.e.: E-GASTPE and SHS Vouchers), and welfare/loan assistance.

The TESTF Bill, on the other hand, is envisioned to enable many qualified Senior High School students to enroll in private HEIs through complementary tuition or schooling subsidy in addition to DepEd’s E-GASTPE. It shall also provide financial assistance to retained employees who are not transferred to teach and/or work in the secondary education of the same HEI, and retrenched employees of HEIs through the DOLE Job Search Assistance.

Participants of the consultations manifested support for the initiatives that are lined-up by the government, particularly on employment facilitation and welfare assistance services. They, however, wished that information on these services shall be intensively and widely disseminated so that those who will be affected by the K to 12 implementation would know their options. They also welcomed the proposed Tertiary Education Sector Transitory Fund as they believe that it would help students, parents, HEIs and their personnel to cope during the transition period. “This program is very ideal especially if it is going to be implemented correctly and effectively. Having a standard of procedures or guidelines is very important to avoid abuse and misuse, and to ensure that judicious releasing of funds and availment is observed,” one participant said.  

Director Benavidez gave assurance that the inputs and comments gathered from the regional consultations shall be taken into consideration in the finalization of both the action plan and the proposed bill. He also said that this is just the beginning of the many engagements with the education industry stakeholders to ensure that all concerned are involved in the formulation of policies and programs to address the challenges posed by the implementation of K to 12.