Emmanuel Ramun dropped out of college on his third year as a fine arts student at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. “I wasn’t really motivated. It was my parents’ decision because they believed I had talent in art,” said Ramun, 25. “But what I really wanted was to be an auto-mechanic.”
When he came back to Guam, he took odd jobs not related to his uncompleted college course, such as selling bus tickets at a tour company and selling high-end chocolate products at T. Galleria, while fixing cars on the side as a hobby.
Recently, Ramun found a job at an auto-shop in Dededo. “I’ve always been into fixing cars,” he said. “Now I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do. My goal now is to enroll in auto-mechanic course and get certificate at the Guam Community College.”
Ramun’s account is similar to that of many young people today, who strolled into college under duress. Many shun the pressure to take a job related to their reluctant college degree, then drift away after graduation without any real plan.
“We don’t ask for our students to choose between college or career,” said Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez. “We want our students to be prepared for both options when they graduate and to make the most of their options.”
The typical notion that economic success is guaranteed to come for one with a college degree is the basis of the education system’s failed policy for many decades. Such familiar assumption has been debunked many times.
Then the modern times gave us Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates—all college dropouts, who changed the world and have become the poster boys for college skeptics. But let’s be real; not everyone is destined to traverse that path without actual preparation and planning. And this is where the College and Career Readiness Act comes in.
On July 17, the Guam Education Board approved a new policy requiring all incoming 9th graders at the Guam Department of Education to be on a unified track called the College and Career Readiness track. The new policy takes effect immediately and will automatically apply to the incoming freshmen for School Year 2017-2018.
According to Guam Department of Education, the new policy mandates that the department “align and integrate the required academic subjects and Career and Technical Education methods to prepare every student for a higher education and a broad career field.”
Before this new track was established, students who enrolled in high school could choose either college or career track depending on what their plans are after graduating. Now, students have the same requirements for graduation. “Our new track and the individual course of study will allow us to help all students to succeed,” Fernandez said.
Incoming high school students will have an individualized course of study to meet their interest, needs and future plans. Joe Sanchez, GDOE deputy superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, explained that the department will be working closely with the school counselors in finding ways that students can start thinking about what courses they want to take.
“We want to help students choose their high school experience that would align to what they want to do after high school. They can choose College, Career, Life courses,” Sanchez further explained. “ If students are interested in writing, they can take creative writing and journalism classes. If students are interested in advanced math, they can take it. We will work with the departments to design courses of study that students can get into along with their 18 required credits.”
One of the biggest changes in the policy is that all students are required to take four years of math classes. According to Sanchez, this change allows for greater support for both struggling and advanced students in math.
“One concern that was brought up is ‘what if a student isn’t ready for certain math courses?’ There will be more developmental math courses available who needs additional preparation. What we want is to make sure our students are ready. We don’t want them to get into a class they’re not prepared for. Other math courses that will be available include Applied Math, Practical Math, Consumer Math, and Personal Finance Management,” said Sanchez.
All returning students who were previously on the college path will see no change in their course schedules. Students who were previously on the career path will have the option to follow the new unified track but it is highly encouraged.
“We wanted the upperclassmen to be able to take advantage of the change. If they want to take more courses, it is encouraged.,” Sanchez said. “If current students in the career path change their minds and decide to go to college, they won’t be ready to take the entrance or placement exam. The entrance exam requires a mastery of algebra and geometry. This new track is going to get you ready for that.”
The new policy also gives the superintendent the authority to review special cases and may waive or replace required courses to meet the specific needs of students and gives the school administration or the Superintendent the authority to correct administrative and technical errors affecting students.