By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE COMMISSION on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department and Education (DepEd) must come up with a plan to ensure students affected by the discontinuation of senior high school (SHS) programs in state universities and colleges (SUCs) are not left behind, lawmakers said on Thursday.

“To prevent any disruption in learners’ education, DepEd should proactively explore options such as admitting these learners in public schools or facilitating their transfer to the private sector where they can benefit from the voucher program,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs Senate committee on basic education, said in a statement.

In a memo dated Dec. 18, CHED said it is discontinuing the senior high school program in SUCs and local universities and colleges (LUCs).

Based on data from the DepEd, there are about 17,751 grade 11 students currently rolled in SUCs and LUCs. At present, there are 2,030,451 Grade 12 students enrolled in state colleges.

Senator Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero, who heads the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational education, said the DepEd should closely monitor its regional offices to check on students in danger of being left behind by the program phaseout.

“Even though this is within CHED’s legal authority, it is still important to ensure the welfare of our senior high school students and that no one is left behind,” he said in a statement in Filipino.

In a public briefing on Wednesday, CHED Chairman Prospero E. de Vera III said his agency in the past two years has been instructing public state colleges to “wind down” senior high school enrollments since there was no more legal basis for their offering of high school education.

“The transition period (from K to 12) is over,” he said. “State colleges and universities are full, and they need to use the classrooms and teachers.”

The transition period for K to 12 was from school year 2016-2017 to school year 2020-2021.

In a separate memo, CHED also cut off financial aid for Grades 11 and 12 students in SUCs and LUCs.

Mr. De Vera earlier said he was prompted to release the memo after discovering that some SUCs and LUCs were still accepting senior high enrollees even after the transition period.

DepEd spokesman Michael T. Poa said students affected may opt to enroll in public schools and avail of the voucher program.

For her part, Sen. Mary Grace N. Poe-Llamanzares said: “There should be an assessment to know if public schools nationwide have the facilities and personnel to accept to influx of student.”

ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France L. Castro said CHED and DepEd should have consulted teachers, students and other stakeholders before cutting off financial aid for senior high school students.

She said students risk studying in overcrowded public high schools and teachers may have irregular workloads due to a lack of cash aid.

“The senior high school program should hold its promise of employability and more competitive graduates, not as burden to Filipino learners,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said.