Which parent does not want his or her children to grow better, smarter, wealthier and luckier than previous generations? None.
Right. So, they invest in education.
Think eskolar ng bayan-graduate whose diploma is a virtual badge that can be brandished around when going the rounds of potential employers. Or the rare breed of teeners trained early on to make their mark in the sciences in this place they affectionately call Pisay.
There, too, are schools that have made their own reputation because of their rich history. Recall Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. In Chapter 12, he described how students from Ateneo, Letran and University of Santo Tomas could be distinguished by their attires, the way they walked, and the number of books they carried.
Today, of course, beyond the schools that had established themselves through the decades, there are up-and-coming ones that aggressively go beyond the curriculum set by the DepEd.
….And then there are the rest of the riffraff that simply disappoint every time the National Achievement Test (NAT) results come out.
So, how then do we sift the wheat from the chaff? Here are some areas I think parents ought to look into when “shopping around” for the right high schools (This listing is in no particular order):
- Basic of basics: The school must be permitted to operate by DepEd. Yup, “colorum” schools—or those operating without permits—do exist. Believe it or not. If a school is fairly new, it would not hurt to check with DepEd first. You wouldn’t want to see at least a year of your child’s tuition fees gone to waste, would you?
- Accredited by accrediting agencies. Most accrediting agencies in the country—including the lead agency called PAASCU—are under the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP).
Accreditation under these agencies, though, is not mandated; it is voluntary.
For example, there are less than 500 PAASCU-accredited schools. This info is put in proper context when we consider that there are around 12,800 high schools (mostly public schools) alone in the country. While one cannot conclude that institutions that did not volunteer are worse than those who did, we can still give those who came forward some brownie points for being transparent and brave enough to undergo the accreditation process.
After all, an accreditation denotes that a school is effectively doing what it says it should be doing according to its goals and mission.
- The matriculation fees. It is assumed that high matriculation fees mean more capability to hire the best teachers and add new facilities. But is this often the case? Whether the fees are directly related to a school’s quality or not depends on parents’ assessment of the cost (the “ouch” in fees) and the benefits they know they will get out of paying so much. Again, do your research.
- NAT Results. Results of NAT are important for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: It allows all to compare how a school fared vis-à-vis the national mean NAT score. The second one is that since only students from schools that are permitted to operate by DepEd are allowed to take the test, it filters out the fly-by-night schools.
- Specialized offerings. Exceeding expectations is the name of the game. For some schools that have the muscles to flex, this means offering more in their high school curriculum than what the DepEd’s K12 curriculum imposes: (1) the “core subjects”—i.e., those that must be taken if students want to pass the institutional entrance exams at least; and (2) the two types of track subjects, one of which is the “specialist tracks” offered in senior high school (or Grade 11 and 12 starting 2016).
How effective the subjects offered (and quality of the teachings) by each school are can be put to the test once its very students start taking college entrance exams.
- Track records in inter-school Olympiads and debate or science competitions, or artistic/sports events. Does the school walk the talk? That is, if the mission and vision that it shares with the public is “to do x” (e.g., “to ignite scientific curiosity in children so that they will consider a career in science), does it support these by joining inter-school competitions or workshops on the subject of focus? And do their students bring home enough “badges” (medals, trophies, certifications) that showcase their school’s quality?