UP student councils oppose SHS removal in SLUCs

Student leaders across the University of the Philippines (UP) System adopted a resolution clamoring against the abrupt removal of senior high school (SHS) units from state and local universities and colleges (SLUCs).

The resolution was authored by the UP Diliman National College of Public Administration and Governance Student Council (UPD NCPAG SC) and the UP Diliman School of Economics Student Council (UPD SE SC) at the 56th convention of the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC), held from Feb. 8-10 at UP Visayas, Miagao campus.

In December 2023, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) released Memorandum No. 241, saying there is “no longer legal basis to fund” the continuance of SHS programs in SLUCs.

CHED Memorandum Order nos. 32 and 33, series of 2015 and 2016, respectively, indicated that the engagement of SLUCs in the operations of SHS will only apply to the K-12 transition period from S.Y. 2016-2017 to S.Y. 2020-2021.

Councils from different UP units and campuses condemned CHED’s order, voicing their concerns on the sudden displacement of SHS students, the challenge of accommodating excessive numbers of students in public high schools and the looming threat of the privatization of education.

Among them was the UP Open University (UPOU) SC, which said there should be “transition measures” in place to ensure that students can transfer smoothly.

Kung magsasara ang isang establishimento because of a directive, hindi dapat ito abrupt . . . [dapat] masiguro natin na ‘yung mga estudyanteng madi-displace ay may accredited na paglilipatan,” they said in support of the resolution.

Meanwhile, UP High School in Iloilo (UPHSI) SC, through the UP Visayas College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) SC, opposed the “sudden” and “unilateral” nature of the dissolution of SHS programs.

They also mentioned the lack of “sustainability” and “inclusivity” in CHED’s decision, saying it further undermines the challenges faced by the SLUCs.

The passed resolution also acknowledged the role of SHS units in SLUCs for providing access to quality education to students in different regions, particularly those who cannot afford to enroll in private institutions.

Apart from opposing the removal of SHS units, the resolution also seeks to demand a “sufficient budget towards a free, quality and accessible education.”

Deputy National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) spokesperson Lance Avery Alo said the removal of the SHS programs in SLUCs does not benefit students but rather “forces” them to enroll in private schools.

“Hindi dapat binibigay ang responsibilities ng SUCs sa SHS kundi sa gobyerno para ma-subsidize ang education system. Hindi dapat inaatas ng gobyerno ang responsibilidad na pag-aaral ng kabataan sa kabataan mismo,” he said in a privileged speech sponsored by the UP Los Baños USC.

In a press briefing on Jan. 8, CHED Chairperson J. Prospero “Popoy” de Vera stated that SUCs and LUCs “have full capacity already” and need additional facilities due to increased enrollment rates brought by free higher education.

“When senior high was implemented, there was excess capacity in SUCs and LUCs because their freshman class was smaller.” De Vera said.

However, Alo emphasized that the demands of college and SHS students toward free education should not be pitted against each other.

“Imbis na dagdagan mismo ang pondo para magkaroon ng facilities, pinapasakamay ng CHED mismo sa SHS students ‘yung responsibility para taasan ang ating education system,” he said. 

Moreover, he lambasted the misalignment of the budget following the issues of confidential funds and militarization.  

Back in 2023, the House Appropriations Committee realigned P1.23 billion worth of confidential funds from the proposed national budget for strengthening national security and sovereignty.

Meanwhile, SUCs were recently granted a Php 21-billion increase in their total budget for 2024 after initially facing threats of budget cuts in the previous year.

Some SUCs, however, received lower allocations than their 2023 budget, including Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte and Eastern Visayas State University in Leyte.

Last week, the GASC passed a total of 20 resolutions addressing pressing issues troubling the university and the nation. 

These include opposition against the commercialization of student spaces, calls for the Marcos administration to support the ICC investigation, and the protection of environmental defenders, among others.