Makati produces first senior high school graduates

Anthony Q. Esguerra

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The senior high school graduates from the Higher School ng UMak are the first and the largest batch to graduate in the Philippines.
PILOT IMPLEMENTATION. The senior high school graduates from the University of Makati are the first and the largest batch to graduate from the program in the Philippine. Photo by Anthony Esguerra

MANILA, Philippines – More than three thousand Grade 12 students, all members of a pilot batch of DepEd’s Senior High School (SHS) program, received their diplomas during the 1st Commencement Exercises of the Higher School ng UMak (HSU) at the University of Makati (UMak) on Saturday, April 12.

The senior high school graduates from HSU are the first and the largest batch to graduate from the program in the Philippines, while some 500 students are also expected to graduate from 33 other SHS pilot schools.

In 2010, the DepEd began reformatting the 10-year basic education program into the present K+12 format, which spans from kindergarten to grades 1-12. 

The government selected UMak to pilot test the program during school year 2012-2013, way ahead of the mandatory implementation in 2016 as mandated by Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013. 


UMak considers the graduation as a milestone not only for their university but also for the Philippine education system. 

The senior high school program of HSU is now considered as the model program for other public high schools in the country. Other educators and program developers in the country constantly review the curriculum.

Public and private schools across the country visit the HSU year-round to learn about the program. 

Challenge accepted

University President Tomas Lopez, Jr., in his congratulatory address to the graduates and parents, said the SHS program in UMak was born out of a challenge presented to them. The city government of Makati accepted the challenge to pilot test the program. 

“When we were offered to join this program, we did not do it on a one-section pilot basis. We made the decision two years ago, in your case, kung gusto niyong pumunta sa University of Makati, kailangan pumunta sa Grade 11. Sinara namin ang First Year (college). Walang First Year sa University of Makati in the last two years,” he declared.  

(If you want to attend University of Makati, you need to attend Grade 11. We did not accept First Year college. There were no first year college students at University of Makati in the last two years.)

Lopez said Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr. agreed to the program after a dialogue with school officials.


HSU informally began classes in June 2012 with 5,000 students. In August of that year, a memorandum of agreement was signed between UMak, DepEd and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to formally launch the senior high school.

Today, it has its own dean, college secretary and a principal. The faculty is composed of dedicated HSU professors and professors coming from the different colleges of the university. 

Lopez said they only had 2 months to prepare for the implementation.

Noong aking tinanong sa DepEd ‘so ano ang curriculum?’ Ang sabi nila sa akin ‘wala pa.’ Ang tinanong ko, ‘Anong gagawin namin Bro. Armin Luistro?’ Ang sabi ni Bro. Armin, ‘Bahala kayo prof. May tiwala kami na gagawin ninyo ang tama,’” recalled Lopez. 

(When I asked DepEd for the curriculum, they told me there’s none yet. When I asked Bro. Armin Luistro, Bro. Armin said it’s all up to you. We trust that you will do the right thing.)

The university had to rush the curriculum, syllabus and materials following a conference with the university constituents. 

Lopez said they were able to do this quickly because they had been offering technical-vocational courses already. 

“Because we scrapped the first year and second year, we had the faculty to do it. We simply moved down first year and second year to the senior high school and tweaked it a bit so it was not really difficult to do,” he added. 

Lopez also told Rappler they spent about P80 million to P200 million a year on top of the current university budget for the SHS program. 

ON THE JOB. Senior high school students at University Makati undertook on the job training at various institutions in Makati including this one at the HRDO of Makati City Hall. Photo courtesy of Corps of Sponsor

High school kasi sila eh. And sa Makati libre lahat. Libre uniporme, libe libro, libre lahat,” he explained.

(In Makati, education is free, including books and uniforms.)

‘Better prepared’

Lopez is confident that their K+12 graduates are better prepared for college or work. 

“What this has done is that our children in Makati are now better prepared to select career opportunities even after senior high school and they are better prepared to go to college,” he emphasized.

The elective courses offered by HSU are meant to guide the students in their choice of a college course or a profession after high school. These electives include bookkeeping, tourism, marketing, and hotel and restaurant management among many others.

Prof. Rhoneil Tabora, OJT and special projects coordinator, said they based the elective assignments of the students on their National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE) results which the students took in junior high school.

HSU students underwent on-the-job (OJT) training as part of their class requirements. They even worked in companies in Makati. 

Tabora said some graduates were absorbed in the companies they interned with, while some decided to earn a college degree. 

Students’ reaction

For Ceil Mae Oppus, HSU’s first class valedictorian, attending the HSU was not her first choice. 

Oppus, who hails from Camiguin Island, wants to be a certified public accountant and lawyer. 

Oppus applied and got into UMak because her hometown is a sister municipality. 

She said HSU has helped her learn about her own talents and interests. 

“It was in the bookkeeping elective that I really excelled. I topped the class and at the end of the year, I’ve become more resolved to pursue a career in accounting,” Oppus said. 

Initially seeing HSU as a setback, she believes it is now a blessing for she could have been one of the many victims of Typhoon Yolanda had she chose to attend the University of the Philippines in Tacoloban City. 

Oppus is now a National Certification III holder for Bookkeeping.

Fellow student Grace Alcazar got offered a job on her last day of her internship. She is now a certified interpreter at Lassages Rehabilitation and Development Center in Pasig. She plans to enroll in the college of education in June while teaching part-time. –

Anthony Esguerra is a Rappler Mover and a former member of the Rappler Ambassador program that covered the 2013 mid term elections. 

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