Saturday, November 14, 2015

Global City Innovative College: Applying 21st Century Learning for K-12's Incoming Senior High School Students

Our youngest son is an incoming Grade 11 student. Until last week, my husband and I were as confused as many other Filipino parents as to what awaits the first batch of students who are now required to undergo two more years of basic education before they can graduate from high school.

enlightened parents
The Philippine education equation of 6 or 7 years in elementary + 4 years in high school + 4 years in college no longer holds true for Filipino youngsters. In the K-12 framework, beginning SY 2016, kids have to undergo 6 years in elementary + 6 years in high school with diplomas only to be issued if students finish 12th grade.

The first time I heard about this mandate, my first questions were: "Can our school systems handle this what with the never-ending problems of insufficient classrooms and lack of competent teachers year in and year out? Why burden parents with paying for high school tuition fees for another two years? What benefits, really, would this system give our children?"  

I finally found answers when I visited Global City Innovative College (GIC) last week. Finally, I've met people in the education system who can clearly explain what K-12 is all about!

According to Engr. Mike Tan, GIC President, "Senior high school will allow our graduates to meet the global standard requirement of 12 years of basic education. It will let Filipinos be globally competitive. Those who want to work abroad will not have to take additional state examinations or certifications and will receive commensurate compensation."

GIC's Mackintosh room

"Ten years of basic education is not enough," agreed Dr. Gerry De La Zerna, GIC Chairman for Senior High School. "We churn out half-baked high school graduates who still lack communication skills by the time they enter college."

Dr. Gerry further explained that international standards agreements (such as the Washington Accord, Bologna Accord, and Seoul Accord) that accredit certain degree programs do not recognize the qualifications of graduates from the Philippines because there is that assumption that we have not completed the necessary academic requirements (which is 12 years of basic education). Simply put, graduates from the Philippines still need to take additional courses in other countries before they can be hired for higher positions and given fair compensation.

"We are intelligent and hardworking people but we have to be competitive globally. K-12 is good because it will get us the recognition we deserve in the international arena," stressed Dr. Gerry who said Grades 11 and 12 will still be like high school but with specialization.

"The curriculum will be geared towards the student's interest. The specialization will be reflected in the student's choice of tracks and strands," he described. "The tracks and strands offered at GIC will prepare students better for specific college programs so they can move up to the next level better equipped." 

Dr. Gerry De La Zerna
Before you get confused, a "track" is similar to what we refer to as "course" in college while a "strand" is similar to what we know as a course's "major". GIC offers two tracks with very limited slots per strand:

1. ACADEMIC TRACK with three strands: Accountancy Business and Management (ABM), Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS).

2. TECH VOC TRACK with two strands: Home Economics, which includes pastry and bakery production; food and beverages; and tour guiding and tourism promotions; and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which is comprised of animation, computer programming, and medical transcription.

Other tracks that students may have more interest in and may be found in other schools are the SPORTS TRACK and ARTS AND DESIGN TRACK.  GIC concentrated on tracks that are their forte as the school offers Bachelor of Science courses on Business Administration, Hospitality Management, Information Technology, Tourism Management, Medical Technology, Accountancy, and Accounting Technology.

one of the classrooms at GIC
At GIC, incoming senior high school students have to go through a career assessment prior to enrollment. Results will be discussed with the parents so that it can be emphasized that students who pursue their interests are more likely to succeed. 

K-12, added Dr. Gerry, addresses the issue of legality of age because students will be 18 years old by the time they graduate high school. This protects them from exploitation such as wage negotiations that usually happen when a 16-year-old high school graduate already wants to work and no longer desires to go to college.

"GIC wants to play a role in the country's new education framework and do our share in bridging the gap between the high school and tertiary levels. We also see this as an opportunity to cascade our approach of 21st century learning to more students," Engr. Mike pointed out. "We offer a kind of education that addresses the needs of students to thrive in the future. We teach timeless skills that will serve as a strong foundation regardless of what the future holds. This is done through holistic and innovative education."

GIC graduate, Kevin, shared how his alma mater
helped him discover and develop his full potentials
Students who enroll in GIC are given a unique 3D experience -- discover, develop, and direction. "We believe that these two years are critical yet confusing to a young student's life stage. GIC's 3D approach will help them discover their innate talents and gifts. Our unique enrichment programs for grades 11 and 12 aim to develop these talents by honing them with the skills needed for the 21st century," assured Engr. Mike.

"GIC will likewise help them determine and focus on the direction to take for the important life choices they will make for their career or further education. This innovative approach will be rooted in the 21st century education framework and fully compliant with the requirements of the Department of Education."

Dr. Gerry shared that no homework will be given to students. "We want them to do the assignments in school. We want them to be well-rounded and enjoy their social life and family life." Plus, there will only be four days of classes! "The fifth day will be spent as immersion in their industry of choice. For example, if the topic is about interviews, we will let them spend the fifth day of the week going on interviews." 

GIC classrooms have printed schedules outside to help students
and teachers easily find their classes  
"We want them to get the experience so that when they return to the classroom, they will understand the discussion better. If it's all lecture, then everything remains abstract. They will not comprehend until they go through it. The experience will make them remember better," justified Dr. Gerry.

He emphasized that senior high school is more about skills but not just technical ones. "We must not forget the soft skills such as attitude and personality. They have to learn more skills that will match with what the industry wants like critical thinking, decision making, and presentation skills. These are the things we will teach you in GIC through our curriculum enhancement."

The Life course, a required subject, is one example of that enhancement. "This is where we guide them to discover themselves and embrace their uniqueness. We teach them to explore their community and relate with others properly. It is also in the Life course where we prepare them for the professional world and life realities," illustrated Jayson Bergania, GIC Director for Innovative Holistic Development Education. Notably, the teachers at GIC are industry practitioners who can provide real life examples and impart their experiences from the field.      

GIC's Windows/Linux computer room
So, what's next after K-12? Students can explore three options: 1) go to college for further studies and pursue the specialization track taken in senior high school; 2) get a job armed with a TESDA certification (when applicable) of the chosen specialization in senior high school; 3) start their own business.

It is important to note though that those who will decide to find employment after high school may have lower chances of moving up beyond middle management positions, at the most, because companies usually require a college degree for promotion to higher levels. That's something for students and parents to think about.

"One thing we know, GIC is ready for K-12. We've been studying and planning for it for the past two years. At the end of the day, the objective is to have GIC's high school graduates be both industry-ready and college-ready," concluded Engr. Mike. 

Engr. Mike Tan
To know more about Global City Innovative College and its Senior High School program, log on to or call (02) 882.4242 and (02) 666.8881 to 82. GIC is located at PET Plans Tower Annex, 444 EDSA Makati City 1211 (walking distance from Estrella Street along EDSA).

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