President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may have wrongly conflated senior high school with tertiary-level education in his call for mandatory ROTC training

CLAIM: Senior high school programs belong to tertiary educational institutions

RATING: MISSING CONTEXT

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may have wrongly conflated senior high school with tertiary-level education in his call for mandatory training under the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25. 

Enumerating his legislative wish list, Marcos said he wanted “Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and National Service Training Program (NSTP),” for which he was cheered by lawmakers.

“This seeks to reinstitute the ROTC program as a mandatory component of senior high school programs (Grades 11 and 12) in all public and private tertiary-level educational institutions. The aim is to motivate, train, organize and mobilize the students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building for risk-related situations,” he said.

The statement is confusing at the very least and needs clarification.

Under Republic Act 10533, which overhauled the country’s basic education system, senior high school, or Grades 11 and 12, is categorized under secondary education and is under the purview of the Department of Education. 

The law states: “Secondary education refers to the third stage of compulsory basic education. It consists of four (4) years of junior high school education and two (2) years of senior high school education. The entrant age to the junior and senior high school levels are typically twelve (12) and sixteen (16) years old, respectively.”

Tertiary education refers to higher education, beginning at the undergraduate level, and is mainly regulated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd). This structure, CHEd states on its official website, was brought about by the “trifocalization” of education under reforms instituted by the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) in 1992.

If Marcos meant to confine ROTC training to senior high schools within tertiary-level institutions, the mandatory qualifier is negated as there are senior high schools that are standalone and not part of tertiary institutions.

NSTP is already mandatory in tertiary-level institutions under RA 9163, and students may choose from three service components: ROTC, Literacy Training Service, and Civil Welfare Training Service.

RA 9163 is titled “An Act Establishing the National Service Training Program (NSTP) for Tertiary Level Students, Amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 7077 and Presidential Decree No. 1706, and for other purposes.”

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