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Why schools no longer have valedictorian and salutatorian awards

02 students MB Visual Content Group.jpg
DepEd / MB Visual Content Group

Aside from the school vacation that follows right after, one of the most anticipated events after the end of the school year is the awarding of honors to the top-performing students during a recognition or graduation ceremony.

At the elementary and secondary levels, the titles “Valedictorian” and “Salutatorian” hold prestige as they are awarded to the top two students who excelled academically during the school year.

Being “valedictorian” means the student is the highest academic achiever, while the title “salutatorian” represents the second-highest rank in a graduating class.

While most parents, especially those who graduated from elementary and high school before 2016, are accustomed to having valedictorians and salutatorians at the top of their class, did you know that these titles have been abolished since the new grading system was implemented under the K to 12 Program?

Equal opportunity

DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Cesar Bringas, in a TeleRadyo Serbisyo interview in May, confirmed that schools offering basic education have stopped giving out the titles “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” since the K to 12 curriculum was introduced. The K to 12 Program was implemented in 2016.

“Nung in-introduce natin yung K to 12 curriculum natin, nagbago na rin tayo ng grading system (When we introduced our K to 12 curriculum, we also changed our grading system),” Bringas explained.

“With the new guidelines on awards and recognition under the K to 12, it’s more about attaining the standard competencies drafted by the department,” he said.

“So meron na tayong ngayon ‘With Honors,’ ‘With High Honors,’ or ‘With Highest Honors’ — so depende iyan kung mami-meet nila yung guidelines (“So now we have ‘With Honors,’ ‘With High Honors,’ or ‘With Highest Honors’ — it depends on whether they meet the guidelines),” he added.

Unlike in the old system, Bringas said the new grading and awards system gives equal opportunity for learners since the recognition is not limited only to the top 10 learners per school.

For the academic honors, Bringas explained learners who have an average grade from 98 to 100 will be recognized with “Highest Honors.”

Those with grades from 95 to 97 will be recognized “With High Honors” and “With Honors” for those with grades from 90 to 94.

“Hindi iyan limited sa isang tao. Kung madami ang maka-meet ng standards na iyon, that would mean na marami tayong awardees (That is not limited to one person. If many meet those standards, it means we will have many awardees),” Bringas said.

The recognition is not limited to those belonging to the top sections, Bringas said, thus, anyone who can meet the standards will be qualified for the awards or recognition.

Healthy competition

Bringas said that in recent years, the titles valedictorians, salutatorians, and honorable mentions were no longer awarded during graduation to prevent students from focusing too much on competing with others.

“Wala nang [valedictorian, salutatorian] ngayon kasi ang policy ng department kapag may valedictorian and salutatorian, the learners are competing with the other learners (There are no more [valedictorian, salutatorian] now because the department’s policy is that when there are valedictorians and salutatorians, the learners are competing with each other),” he explained.

Bringas stressed that with the new grading system or awards system, students will be competing with themselves, and if they meet the standards, they will be recognized.

Aside from academic awards, Bringas said DepEd also allows schools to give other awards to recognize other traits of learners.

“Iyong ganitong awards system it really highly encourages our learners to strive (This kind of awards system really highly encourages our learners to strive),” Bringas said.

The new system, he added, is “more inclusive” because it is no longer limited to just the top 10 in the class.

“Ito ay nage-encourage sa ating mga learners to strive even more because they know that they are competing with themselves and not with other learners (It encourages our learners to strive even more because they know they are competing with themselves and not with other learners),” Bringas said.

Learners’ holistic development

Based on DepEd Order No. 36, s. 2016, or the Policy Guidelines on Awards and Recognition for the K to 12 Basic Education Program signed by former Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro, the new awards system has been effective since School Year (SY) 2016-2017.

In the rationale of the order issued by Luistro, the adoption of the new awards system for learners who have shown exemplary performance in specific areas of their school life was anchored in a K to 12 assessment system that supports learners’ holistic development for them to become effective lifelong learners with 21st-century skills.

“This policy aims to give all learners equal opportunity to excel in relation to the standard set by the curriculum and focus on their own performance rather than to compete with one another,” the DepEd order read. “It recognizes that all students have their unique strengths that need to be identified, strengthened, and publicly acknowledged,” it added.

To support the holistic development of Filipino learners, DepEd stressed that it is “important to veer away from valuing only academic achievement based on high grades and move toward valuing and celebrating a wide range of student achievements.”

Thus, DepEd said the awards aim to “acknowledge and promote student excellence in various areas and to provide formal recognition of student achievements that can motivate learners to strive for excellence in academic, leadership, and social responsibility.”

Aside from acknowledging and promoting the development of the learners’ unique cognitive and other skills that underpin success in school and at work, DepEd noted the awards also aim to “nurture the formation of the learners’ values and attitudes anchored on the core values” of the department.

“Awards and recognition bestowed on learners who have successfully attained standards set by the school support the efforts and accomplishments of these learners and affirm their latent potential, abilities, and dispositions,” DepEd said.

“Learners who feel good about their abilities and contributions to the school and society are more likely to be happy, content, and motivated. When these learners are recognized for their efforts, they will also persist in their desire to excel,” it added.

DepEd also stressed that a motivating environment, one that promotes respect for student diversity and dedication to learning, contributes to the “creation of a positive school climate that supports the well-being and achievement of all students.”

‘Surplus’ of honor students?

Without a cap for learners who will be recognized as long as they achieve the requirements set by DepEd, there has been a “surplus” of honor students in recent years.

This is somewhat in contrast to the results of local and international studies gauging the quality of education in the country as well as the performance of Filipino students.

For instance, findings of the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed no significant improvements in the performance of Filipino students in mathematics, reading, and science.



However, Bringas pointed out that the parameters used by PISA to determine the scores of countries are “different.”

“Iba rin naman ang parameters ang ginagamit natin for the awards and recognition sa schools based on achievements (We also use different parameters for awards and recognition in schools based on achievements),” Bringas said.

“So hindi natin pwede i-compare iyong results ng ating classroom performances with that of international large-scale assessments (So, we cannot compare the results of our classroom performances with those of international large-scale assessments),” he added.

Asked whether or not the number of honor students signifies that Filipino learners are “more intelligent” compared to the earlier generation, Bringas said this would depend on how intelligence is being defined or gauged.

“It all depends on how we define yung matatalino or intelligence because there are many forms of intelligence (It all depends on how we define ‘intelligent’ or intelligence because there are many forms of intelligence),” he explained.

“Naniniwala tayo na kapag na-measure yung intelligence ng isang learner, it should be multi-dimensional, meron tayong iba’t-ibang aspeto ng pagka-matalino ng isang bata (We believe that when measuring a learner’s intelligence, it should be multidimensional. There are different aspects of a child’s intelligence),” he added.

While DepEd has been implementing a new grading and awards system since the K to 12 Program took effect, Bringas underscored that the agency’s policy does not focus on “purely academic” efforts.

The grading of learners, Bringas said, is based on DepEd guidelines.

Thus, despite the absence of prominent titles such as valedictorian and salutatorian, Bringas expressed hope that the new awards system would eliminate the “pressure” for children to focus so much on getting high grades.

“Kapag walang competition with other learners, it gives the learners opportunities for better relationships with other learners (When there’s no competition with other learners, it gives them opportunities for better relationships with their peers),” he added.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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