Three weeks ago, I visited Bani, a coastal town in Pangasinan, upon the invitation of my cousin Boyboy who is on vacation from his work as second engineer on an international bulk carrier. He takes pride on the two-story house he is building for his family and the completion of the mortgage over a brand new car.
Over dinner, Boyboy reminisced the sacrifices his late father who was the sole breadwinner of the family of 12. His father was a janitor in the town’s public elementary school. Eight of his 10 children were able to finish college. Only Boyboy, one of the four boys in the family, decided to pursue a merchant marine profession. Over time and through education, the family was able to surmount the difficulties of having a large family of limited means.
Boyboy, the seafarer, emerged as the big winner as he was able to redeem a piece of land mortgaged by his mother, the proceeds of which were used to send them to college. At present he is helping out in sending nephews and nieces to school. Remarkably, Boyboy has turned out to be an inspiration to many young boys in the neighborhood, some of them just graduated from Junior high school. Two nephews, his brother’s sons, are pursuing marine transportation courses and already his two sons expressed interest in following his footsteps.
In anticipation of his eldest son’s graduation from Junior high school next year, Boyboy inquired on behalf of his son and the many other young boys and parents who asked him the same question what the K to 12 means to them who are planning to enroll in maritime courses. Not one to pretend knowing the answer to his question, I suggested we try to dissect and examine the K to 12 requirements, an exercise which raised more questions as we went along.
The MOU between the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) gives the impression that the great divide created by the K to 12 between the basic education and senior high school with the maritime tertiary/vocational levels has been bridged. Yet, the following questions still need to be answered: which are the senior high schools with maritime track? Are there enough senior high schools offering the maritime track? Alternatively, can a student who did not graduate in senior high school with maritime track be able to proceed to higher education and take up a course leading to a baccalaureate in Marine Transportation? What specialized subjects are maritime students supposed to take which will indicate they are ready to proceed to higher education or that they are job-ready for those in the tech-voch-liv track? Are the core and applied subjects to be taken during Grade 11 and the specialized subjects reserved for Grade 12 students?
Related questions resonate across the country as many young men (and women) are drawn into the merchant marine profession. The package of attractive economic rewards and of seeing the world continue to inspire men and women to becoming seafarers. School year 2016-2017 is about to open and many high school students who wish to follow the maritime track are at a loss. Indeed, parents and students complain of the undue anxiety while in search of schools offering senior high schools with maritime track.
Through this column, an appeal for government to reach out to the stakeholders by providing clear guidance and information to the public on the where and how of the K to 12, maritime track, is being conveyed.