In 2016, higher education institutions (HEIs), our colleges and universities, will have no freshmen. In that year, the students who complete four years of high school move on to senior high school, following any of the tracks presently open to them, only one of which leads to university or college-level education. The debate on whether we should adopt the K to 12 scheme is behind us. We have accepted it, but we must now cope with the challenges that it has engendered.

Obviously, the most pressing problem has to do with our Catholic educators — both academic and non-academic partners — who will have no students to attend to in the first year of higher education, for the first year of the implementation of K to 12, and then for the first two years, in the second year of the scheme’s implementation.

Labor Law, of course, makes available the options of the redundancy and retrenchment provisions, provided legal conditions are complied with.

But charity is a law for Catholic schools that takes precedence over all human law, for its origin is the very reason that our Catholic schools exist — the Lord Jesus. Turning away many of the faithful co-workers we have had who have been loyal to our schools and to the local Church for all these years is a most unwelcome prospect, and we dissuade our Catholic school administrators from finding recourse in these provisions of law all too easily.

We urge the trustees of our Catholic school corporations and school officials to be creative. We strongly exhort our school administrators to provide opportunities for the re-tooling and re-training of our instructors and professors in tertiary education to be able to handle subjects in the academic track of senior high school. Our Catholic school teachers and instructors should not be left to their own devices. Our priests who serve on positions of school directorship, must, in all charity and solicitude, aid them so that they may continue as our partners in the apostolate of Catholic education.

Consequently, we also urge that our existing Catholic colleges apply, where deemed feasible and appropriate, to operate senior high school. Since most of our diocesan colleges also offer secondary school education, this should not be a problem. And in the design of the curriculum for the additional years of high school, we direct that Catholic schools keep ever in mind the raison d’etre of our Catholic schools: evangelization and formation.

In this respect, whatever the purposes of the government might be — many of which are laudable — our Catholic schools cannot excuse themselves from the responsibility of tailoring curricula to fulfill their mandate of evangelization and formation by slavish adherence to model curricula.

I also appeal to our Catholic school teachers, instructors and professors. It is a problem commonly confronted by our school administrators that many teachers seek employment in our Catholic schools while waiting for more lucrative offers from higher-paying institutions. We exhort graduates of teacher education courses who qualify themselves to teach by passing the requisite licensure examinations not only to be committed to service, but to take to heart — and as the prime motive for applying with Catholic schools — the command of the Last Supper: to love with such an unconditional love that we can wash each other’s feet.

By accepting appointment and engagement with our Catholic schools, a Catholic teacher is given the opportunity to truly serve God’s people, especially the young. This should not, however, lull our school administrators into complacency about the legitimate needs of our Catholic school employees. The Catholic school must be person oriented and mission driven.

We must also remind the government that since our Catholic schools provide the education that the State is mandated by the Constitution to provide, the Church in fact provides service to the State. It is not unreasonable to declare that the assistance to private schools from the State must not be given grudgingly, but should be generous as our Catholic schools have been generous in helping build the nation.

The Church’s roster of saints gives us innumerable examples of men and women, gifted by God with incisive minds, capacious intellects and also generous hearts who, responding to the Spirit, made of their lives an oblation through a life-long dedication to Catholic education.

The Catholic educator who chooses to continue serving even when material rewards may not be hefty are assured by God’s Word of the abundant harvests of the Spirit.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, June 26, 2014

+SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

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