(Know more about the pilot run of the APC Higher School and its model students)
By: Ralph Nikko P. Ducot and Ryan Joy Juanico

Philippines was once tagged as “The Sick Man of Asia” due to lagging in its national economic gross and net growth rates. The never-ending increase in poverty and hunger among Filipinos aggravated the effect of the country's economic crisis in the past 30 years.

Filipino people however, did not stop hoping and aiming to improve their lives. Through the efforts of the present government amidst global economic crisis, Philippines is one of the few countries who have shown significantly high growth rates and development these days. Juan Dela Cruz has lifted up his nation and now dubbed as “The Rising Tiger of Asia”.

The Philippine government continues its efforts to keep economic stability through business, tourism, infrastructure and industries. More importantly, it has made a new development and transformation in the Philippine educational system. Educational Institutions are one with the Department of Education (DepEd) in promoting the 12-year basic education.

RA 10533 which states the full implementation of the K to 12 program in the country by 2016 was officially signed last May 2013. This means that the students will have to take the Senior High School (SHS, Grades 11 and 12) before entering college. Despite of the negative responses and budget issues, DepEd remained firm and confident of the positive outcomes that the Senior High School Program could bring. Education institutions were sought to model while some Private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) volunteered themselves and expressed strong interest in modeling the Senior High School program. Asia Pacific College (APC) in consortium with Don Bosco Schools and TVET Centers, and the Manila Times College, was first to model the Higher School Program using the ADM Higher School Model.

Among the three tracks offered in the Senior High School Program, namely Technical-Vocational, Sports and Arts, and Academic, the ADM Higher School chose to model the academic track, hence identified as the only Higher Education Institution (HEI) in the country today that offers academics. It aims to train and prepare students to either work in an industry or pursue a college degree of their choice after graduating from the program. APC offers an academic program leading towards specialization in Information Technology. Don Bosco Schools offers a program linking towards Engineering while The Manila Times College links their program to Healthcare Services and Journalism.

Higher School students at APC are currently taking the core subjects as required by DepEd, IT specialization subjects and subjects under the Service Management Program (SMP) for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). APC works in partnership with the Information Technology-Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) to ensure relevance and quality of the SMP courses. The IT-BPO industry is currently one of the strongest industries in the country and of the top industries offering job opportunities for Filipinos. A career placement on the IT-BPO industry awaits model students of the APC Higher School Program. It recognizes the readiness of the student to enter the work force after Grade 12 without the need of having a college degree.

At present, most students in APC Higher School program are graduates of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) while only few came from the formal secondary school system. APC provides them full access to the learning facilities of the school as well as the use of the Moodle Learning Management System. They are taught and trained by both academic professors from APC for the core and specialization subjects, and the industry professors for the SMP subjects. On-site visits are also given to provide students a foretaste of a work environment inside a BPO company. After the three semesters of academic learning, students undergo a full 6-month internship in BPO companies under IBPAP. This aims to help strengthen their competencies and prepare themselves for future employment in an IT-BPO industry.

Just recently, DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro cited the successful run of APC for modeling the academic track for Higher School. Luistro recognizes the support and help of APC President, Dr. Paulino Y. Tan and APC Managing Director, Ma. Teresita “Tata” P. Medado as partners in bringing and delivering DepEd's Senior High School Program to deserving students.

Grem Rex Gremio, Jessabel Buelba, and Sarah Mae Duligues, three of the current model students of APC Higher School shared their thoughts and experiences about the program.

When asked about his greatest experience in the program, Gremio made an emphasis on the benefits of having a Public Speaking class as a part of the curriculum. “My greatest experience was the day when I was finally able to speak in front of an audience. I have never volunteered myself to speak in front of the class way back in high school because I didn't have enough confidence. My classmates and teachers also make every classroom experience fun and exciting.”

Buelba, on the other hand, openly expressed that she faced some challenges along the way but is very excited about the upcoming 6-month internship experience. “I feel like every moment's filled with tension, especially for us who came from the non-formal school system (ALS). But I am very thankful because our teachers are giving their best efforts to teach us and to support us whenever we are challenged. Every experience is truly a treasure for us and we will forever be grateful for this. I am very much excited yet a bit scared about the internship period because that won't be an ordinary experience but challenging experience in the 'real world' of the IT-BPO industry.”

Very thankful about her experience, Duligues clearly stated, “The Higher School program is set as a 2-year course and I find it as an easy way to study because you don't need to pursue for a 4-year degree course just to have a high-paying job. If you are a graduate of this program, you also get the chance to land on a better job experience because of the academic track experience and the 6-month internship in a BPO company. What I am very excited about is to finally graduate from this course and to be absorbed in the IT-BPO industry. It's indeed a blessing. For me, having a better life does not always depend on having a degree but it depends on one's competencies and skills as a person and a future employee.”

As one of the current scholars and model students of the APC Higher School program, Nikko Ducot is very thankful and blessed about the opportunity that was given to him. He is looking forward for more opportunities and open doors as he goes along the career pathway that he has chosen. He just have to give his best in everything he does and never neglect his responsibilities as a student. By so doing, he knows that everything is possible and that he will be successful in the future.

Education is indeed an important treasure. It is something that will never fade, burn out, or taken away from anybody. Education is a never-ending process. We learn different things in our day-to-day lives. The Higher School program of APC demonstrates better ways and strategies in bringing out the best in every student and forms us to become globally competitive individuals.