The UE Caloocan Elementary and High School Department is Back!
By Prof. Crisol A. Bruza, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences-Caloocan
MORE than two decades ago, the UE Caloocan Elementary and High School Department has returned. It reopened this school year—June 8, 2006, to be exact—with the promise to impart the same quality education as it did before at the same affordable school fees but through better facilities.
The UE Caloocan EHSD was first established in the 1960s. As attested by its former teachers and alumni who are either still working in UE or parents of students of the reestablished EHSD, it afforded quality education for thousands of students. However, it was closed in 1982.
The EHSD was closed at the time when extension classes for Colleges in UE Manila were opened at the Caloocan Campus following a government campaign to decongest Manila of its student population. Appa-rently, the Department was closed to solve the problem of lack of facilities to accom-modate increasing college enrollment, which ballooned to more than 60,000 in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Now, the situation has reversed. UE Caloocan has more facilities especially with the construction of the Tan Yan Kee Academic Build-ing. And, like other higher-education institutions, it has been facing an enrollment shortage attributed by many to the opening of tertiary schools in many provinces, the mushrooming of com-puter and nursing schools in Metro Manila and outside, and the deepening national economic crisis.
Considering the above situation, the UE Caloocan College of Arts and Sciences Dean, Dr. Eleanor R. Javier, proposed last year the reopening of the EHSD for two main reasons: to solve the enrollment problem of UE Caloocan and to respond to the impending shortage of elementary and secondary schools in Caloocan City.
Like all other schools, UE Caloocan has to compete with other colleges and universities in attracting more enrollees. It has launched outreach programs aimed at establishing strong relationships with neighboring high schools or feeder schools, so as to encourage their graduates to enroll in the Caloocan Campus.
Dean Javier’s proposal pointed out that the reopening of the EHSD can help solve our enrollment problem because, doubtlessly, there can be no better feeder high school than one’s own. Of course, such high school needs feeder elementary schools. And there can be no better feeder elementary school than one’s own.
The proposal also pointed out that the reopening of the EHSD is an apt response to the impending shortage of elementary and high schools serving Caloocan City. The city had a total population of 1,177,604 in 2000 and a school-age population of one-third of the said total. It is the third most populous city in the country. Its population grows by 3.06 percent annually. Such growth rate is much higher than the national annual growth rate of 2.3 percent, which is already considered high. It is served only by 192 schools, whose number of classrooms is not expected to increase as rapidly as that of the population growth rate.
The proposal pointed out that responding to such an impending shortage of schools is consistent with the mission of the University. As expressed in its mission statement, UE categorically states that it “dedicates itself to the service of the youth.” While offering college courses already means service to the youth, no one can deny that adding basic education courses means much greater service.
To support the proposal, a study on the feasibility of offering the basic education courses was conducted by CAS Caloocan with the help of Mr. Enrico M. Pilongo (pronounced “Pilong-go”—Ed.), a CAS Caloocan Language Department teacher who would later contribute significantly to the preparation for the EHSD reopening and become the EHS Principal.
The study concluded that the reopening of the EHSD is feasible demographically, geographically and financially. With the population size of Caloocan City and its high population growth rate discussed earlier, the operation of the EHSD is demographically feasible. Considering that UE is in the middle of residential areas, accessible to residents of several areas outside Caloocan City, very near the terminal of the soon-to-open North Rail, and is in an area served only by four public and four private elementary and secondary schools, the operation is geographically feasible. And considering the above demographic and geographical data and the relatively high tuition in competing schools in the area, the operation is financially feasible.
Some of the top university officials expressed reservations on the proposed reopening, such as whether the EHSD can attract enrollees considering the number of public schools in the area and whether it can get quality teachers. Additional data were gathered and analyzed in response to the said reservations. Soon, the proposal was approved.
After several months of preparation of the documents for the Department of Education permit, putting up the facilities and processing enrollment, the EHSD is back.
Now, did it attract enough enrollees? Surprisingly, it did! The projected total enrollment was 300; the actual total enrollment is 957, or more than 300 percent of the projected figure. And many still wanted to enroll but had to be turned down due to lack of classrooms. The plan was to open only Grades I, II and III and first- and second-year high school. But because of the parents’ demand, Grade IV and V and third-year high school were opened as well. Some classrooms in the TYK Academic Building for College classes are now occupied by Elementary and High School classes.
Did the EHSD attract quality teachers? Surprisingly, it did. Close to 300 application letters and résumés, most of which were personally delivered, poured into the CAS Caloocan Dean’s Office, yet neither advertisement nor simple announcement for the opening of teaching positions in the Department was ever issued. After a rigorous selection process, 20 teachers were selected. All of them graduated from schools known for their academic quality and six graduated from college with honors.
Can the resurrected EHSD fulfill its promise to offer quality basic education? With its rigorously selected teachers facilitating learning based on their academic expertise, and with salary rates almost twice those received in their previous teaching jobs by most, if not all, elementary and high school teachers in the area, plus several benefits upon attaining regular status—it probably can. With the quality of facilities it has, it probably can.
The EHSD has air-conditioned offices, library and classrooms. The classrooms are spacious, with sturdy armchairs and shelves for students’ books and other belongings (except for the classrooms at the TYK Building). It has a computer laboratory of its own. Its students and teachers can avail of the high-tech facilities of the entire University, including the Benjamin G. Chua Jr. Library with its online public access system (OPAC) and multimedia section, the Internet rooms, the computer laboratories and the multimedia rooms—all of which are air-conditioned.
But then, quality education does not have to be expensive. This is what UE has proven in its college education courses. And this is what it wants to prove in its basic education offerings. Despite the above quality teachers and quality facilities, its school fees are the lowest in Caloocan City. Of course, this is a matter of commitment for UE—of being committed to its mission of offering affordable quality education for the youth.