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Sustaining Baguio City as educational capital of the north
by Karl Lapniten

The City of Baguio continues to live up to its moniker as the “education capital of the north.”

Despite only covering 57.5-square kilometers, an overview reveals 22 tertiary schools in the city are registered with the Commission on Higher Education, where enrollments every semester average 80,000 students, mostly not domicile.

This is the most number of tertiary schools located in a single city or town in northern Luzon.

EDUCATION CENTER OF THE NORTH -- There are 22 tertiary schools in the city, registered with the Commission on  Higher Education where enrollments every semester average to 80,000 students; 23 public secondary schools, catering to an average of 21,000 students in a school year; and 45 public elementary schools receiving an average of 35,000 learners. -- Harley Palangchao



Bulk are officially enrolled at Saint Louis University, University of Baguio, and University of the Cordilleras – the so-called “Big Three” – which are also among of north Luzon’s biggest universities in terms of population.

Baguio’s education lure can be attributed to these universities’ exemplary performances in various licensure examinations and recognition from various competitions and award-giving bodies.

For instance, in the latest licensure examination results, UC was the country’s top performing school with all 101 takers passing the Criminologists Licensure Examination released in June.

Shiela Rose Balangue was its top taker, making it as top eight. In the same exam, UB was top five with an 80 percent passing rate while its alumnae Claire Rufino ranked fourth.

Also in June, SLU bannered three top examinees in the Architect Licensure Examination with Audrey Eunice Rillorta placing fourth, Grace Evangeline Piaga – sixth, and Frank Lloyd Tulagan – 10th. The university was also top four in the overall performance of schools across the country.

Aside from this showing, the schools’ length of existence in the education sector continues to back their cre-dibility.

Catholic missionary priests built SLU in 1911 while Atty. Benjamin Salvosa started UC as a Baguio Colleges in 1946. UB was built as Baguio Technical and Commercial Institute in 1948 by spouses Fernando and Rosa Bautista.

CHED has also conferred institutions here as Centers of Excellence (COE) for having high levels “continuously demonstrating excellent performance in the areas of instruction, research and publication, extension and linkages, and institutional qualifications.”

There are also Centers of Development (COD) or institutions that demonstrate the potential to become a COE in the future.

As of 2018, SLU has three COE programs – Information Technology, Nursing, and Teacher Education – and eight CODs – Business Administration, Entrepreneurship, Medical Technology/Laboratory Science, and Engineering in the fields of Mining, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical.

UB has a COE on Criminology and COD on Teacher Education while UC has COEs on Criminology, Information Technology, and Teacher Education while University of the Philippines Baguio has CODs in Biology, Mathematics, and Physics.

Not included in the statistics are thousands of foreign students who settle in Baguio to attend in rapidly growing education centers offering English as Second Language (ESL) programs.

During the Philippine Education Tourism Conference in July, ESL teachers’ association president Eli Natividad said at least 7,000 learners come to Baguio per month.

All these are strong indicators that Baguio continues to be the leading educational center north of Manila.

Sustaining these gains comes as a priority agenda as new mayor Benjamin Magalong outlined in his 10-point agenda.

The mayor said there should be strengthened efforts to “sustain Baguio’s competence as center of quality education in all levels.”

He expressed support on the upgrade of facilities and faculties as well as the expansion of existing scholarship grants to deserving students.

“We must be producing graduates well-trained for responsible citizenship, are morally conscious, and are capably equipped for the needs of business, industry, and the professions,” were Magalong’s pronouncement.

Expansion sites for tertiary school campus needed

The growth of the tertiary education sector, however, also means need for additional space as schools expand their programs to accommodate the evolving needs of industries and be globally competitive.

This is a shared need in the secondary education sector, which also finds itself in need of additional classrooms and laboratories with the full implementation of the Senior High School program.

Data from the Department of Education shows there are 23 public secondary schools in Baguio catering to an average of 21,000 students in a school year while 45 public elementary schools receive an average of 35,000 learners.

In a May interview, senior education program specialist Ellaine Cabuag of DepEd-Baguio Division said that enrollment figures annually grow by at least 2.5 percent.

In the private sector, there are 106 elementary and 75 secondary schools registered with DepEd’s Enhanced Basic Education Information System as of Aug. 1 this year.

Enrolled are 14,810 elementary pupils and 9,038 secondary students, but the numbers could be higher since most private schools have scheduled their opening of classes in August.

Across the eight school divisions in the Cordillera, Baguio has the second highest population of learners next to Benguet.

The 40 private schools offering senior high school programs, the highest in the region, actually helped avoid crowding in public institutions with delays in construction of additional buildings, especially at the early implementation of the program.

The Senior High School Voucher Program made this possible as beneficiaries received subsidy on their tuition and other school fees, said Public Affairs Officer Georaloy Palao-ay of DepEd-Cordillera.

Under the voucher program, students get a subsidy amounting from P16,000 to P20,000.

Earlier interview with Baguio Division Schools Superintendent Federico Martin also revealed there are still vacancies in senior high school positions that require specialization. The vacancy gap may widen with many large public schools gearing for possible opening of all program tracks.

As of Aug. 1, Baguio has 132 senior high school teachers, including four Special Science teachers, in public schools.

In coordination with schools, indigenous culture and traditions are taught via Schools of Living Tradition like the Chiva ni Doakan which caters to Ibaloy values and practices. -- Karlston Lapniten



Expanding outside Baguio

Expansion is a vertical and horizontal challenge for schools located within the central business district and in highly populated zones.

Spaces for horizontal growth have already been practically exhausted in the CBD while vertical growth are limited by a city ordinance which puts halt up to six stories (eight in certain areas identified in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan).

This challenge is depicted in the decision of SLU to open its six-hectare Maryheights campus at Barangay Bakakeng, at the outskirt of the city, in 2010.

But schools may need to put on their brightest thinking cap to find creative alternatives should the proposed moratorium on buildings, hatched by Magalong, cover their expansion.

In a statement in August, Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo Año said a draft executive order on the one-year building moratorium has been submitted to the Office of the President.

As of this writing, no copies of the draft are made available to determine definite bounds of the moratorium, but Magalong has been quoted in previous engagements referring to “construction of skyscrapers” as well as cutting of healthy trees.

Extension of the moratorium is also possible depending on the needs assessment, the mayor said.

Tertiary schools that have no more space for expansion may only be able to put up campuses in nearby towns of La Trinidad, Tuba, or Itogon, which are the adjacent areas to Baguio.

In a January consultation on the proposed BLISTT Development Authority, UC Vice President for Administration Leonarda Aguinalde said the university intends to develop a property along Marcos Highway in Tuba, Benguet as an extension of the school in the future.

Dr. Achilles Costales of UP Baguio, meanwhile, said the state-owned school is in the process of requesting land grants either in Tuba or Itogon to also expand its programs.

Indigenous education

Also among Magalong’s thrusts in his education agenda is pushing for strategies that “inculcate deeper knowledge of Cordillera culture and traditions in the K-12 curricular program.”

In 2016, DepEd Cordillera launched its 2016-2021 Indigenous People’s Education (IPED) roadmap from which school divisions will draw their own framework or programs to implement.

DepEd hopes the education system in the region will be truly rooted in the know-ledge, skills, attitudes, and practices of the Cordillera peoples by 2021.

Baguio’s being a melting pot of all cultures, including non-Cordilleran IPs, make it challenging for schools to craft specific programs that uphold the virtues of “ili” (culture and traditions) while considering rapidly crawling urbanization and influence of urban lifestyle.

Educators, however, are reminded that IPED is not confined to teaching cultural practices and mentioning historical accounts but instilling into the learners the timeless values derived from them.

For instance, in the Ibaloy’s bendiyan (circular dance), among the gestures is the “inushungan” where the men face the inner circle with arms stretched upward, over the head of the performers in front of them, mostly women, to form a protective barrier.

This implies that the Ibaloys, the first settlers of Baguio, have given deep respect to women and their significance in the society by making them priority over their own.

Needless to say, educators, too, need to have a deep understanding of the indigenous peoples in their areas so as to make this effective.

Low TESDA takers

Added in Magalong’s education agenda is the promotion of technical-vocational (tech-voc) studies and more scholarships for the financially challenged but deserving students.

Baguio remains the busiest tech-voc hub in the region.

Just this year, the Cordillera State Institute of Technical Education (CSITE) was passed into law. On its implementation, it will integrate the Regional Training Center of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Baguio City School of Arts and Trades (BCSAT) into technological institutions.

This will increase course offerings, implement higher technology courses, and promote higher efficiency of operations, according to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-Cordillera. The CSITE is the first of its kind in the country and could act as precedent for other regions.

Currently, Tesda offers three scholarships: Training for Work Scholarship Programs, Private Education Student Financial Assistance, and Special Training for Employed Program.

Yet, despite at least 1,500 scholarships annually, there remains low response in availing tech-voc education. In 2018, only 419 scholars availed of the grants in Baguio, according to Tesda data.

To entice more enrollees, perhaps Tesda-Baguio might have to resolve to showcasing success stories of individuals whose lives have improved because of the skills they acquired through training.

Dispersed using all possible means, it is a tried and proven effective way of promoting tech-voc education, especially in this region where people have the “seeing-is-believing” attitude.

Student workers

Among the ways forward is also for the city is to create a means to check and monitor indigent students who balance work with school.

In a report last May, DepEd Baguio said it received information from the Department of Labor and Employment of 78 learners from Josefa Cariño Elementary School and 48 from Baguio Central School who are forced to work to help their family in making ends meet.

The findings were based on testimonies from teachers and the learners. Following the incident, DepEd and DOLE have intensified monitoring child labor incidences in public schools.

The past half decade have shown Baguio-educated students rapidly excelling in mechatronics competitions across the country, a testament of competitive dynamism among universities here. Karlston Lapniten



Rising research hubs

It is also interesting to note that education institutions in the city have recently boosted their research and development components with partnerships with the Department of Science and Technology.

In May, a consortium between UP Baguio, SLU, and Benguet State University was launched for the documentation, standardization, and formulation of dosage forms from indigenous plants and microorganisms.

UC has also unveiled its “Innovation and Nurturing Space,” which is a business incubator for startup companies and a technology transfer center for its teachers, students, alumni, and the community.

SLU, as well, launched its “Convergent Resilience Technology Business Inductor” program, which involves the establishment of the SLU Incubator for Research, Innovation, and Business Center.

The center aims to come up with technology solutions that will address actual problems of the community and make a marketable prototype.

Outlook

Realizing Baguio as a builder of empowered and responsible Filipino citizens through its education system, enhanced by its uniqueness as the heart of the Cordillera, is not impossible. It is being done.

It is great to note that tertiary and tech-voc institutions continuously hone Filipino college students to be at par with international educational standards.

With the efforts and commitment from the local government to uphold exemplary education, the Summer Capital will continue to advance in the greatest investments man could give himself – education.
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:: Baguio – the origin of a geographical name
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:: Chasing Baguio’ dream as ‘Safe and Smart City’
:: Looking forward to a sustainable & responsible tourism for Baguio
:: A dream Baguio public market in the making
:: Realizing initiatives for Baguio City’s grand rehabilitation
:: The need to innovate towards a disaster – resilient Baguio
:: Local governance in the time of social media
:: Baguio to recognize four outstanding citizens for 2019
:: Baguio, as a ‘high–tech’ city, vies for efficient, fast services

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