UPIS hoping for fresh start at new campus site

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Take a drive northward on the C5 and you just may notice a school displaying the abbreviated signage “UPIS” around the Balara area. If the school buildings look a bit underutilized, it is because they are. While the school population once proudly stood at 1,400 pupils, today that level is a mere 400. Currently, the future of UPIS (University of the Philippines Integrated School) remains at something of a crossroads as it struggles to raise the funding necessary to continue operations. By shifting to a new location, on the site of the old Narra Residence Dormitory, there is hope that UPIS will prove capable of revitalizing itself for future generations.

A different kind of school

The UPIS serves as the laboratory school of the U.P. College of Education. It was formerly known as the U.P. High School. Before that, it was known as the U.P. Preparatory School. UPIS is the elementary and high school arm of the University of the Philippines.

Admission is highly competitive as there are less than 10 slots open for new high school level entrants any given year. From kindergarten to grade 10, there are 100 students per year level. To enroll, the students must pass the UPKAT, the UP Kindergarten Admissions Test. There is another entrance exam at the grade 7 level to fill up any slots left by students who have transferred to other schools.

What sets the school apart, and makes it a trendsetter, is the nature of the curriculum. One of the aims of UPIS is to graduate students able to secure immediate employment, even without a college education. To this end, for many years the school featured a work training program for fourth year students. The integrated curriculum has since then been adopted by the Department of Education and been used by other schools.

But UPIS has been steadily marginalized in recent years. With a declining student population, there are now many unused classrooms and a smaller budget to work with. The UPIS “new building” was built in 1978. Relocation to the old Narra site is the first major infrastructure change in over 30 years.

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Moving to a new building

Two years ago, the road widening on Katipunan cut a swath out of the front of UPIS. It was also at the time that UP signed an agreement with Ayala Land to develop the UPIS land into a multi-use commercial and shopping complex. UP has been trying to find ways to raise funds through joint ventures and become more self-sufficient.

From its 10-hectare location along Katipunan Avenue, plans are underway to move just across the street to a smaller block of land in what was formerly the site of the Narra Residence Hall. UPIS will move to its new campus at the start of the 2013 school year.

Starting next school year, the Grade 7 to 10 students of UPIS will be going to school in the new building beside the College of Education. The construction appears to be on schedule for the opening of classes. In spite of this promising partnership, strong headwinds remain. The agreement with Ayala Land was for the construction of a new building only. It does not include the necessary contents of the building, specifically desks. While former alumni are pitching in to help remedy the situation, it remains an open question as to whether or not the facilities will be properly resourced.

While the move to lease the property is part of efforts to make the school pay for its own upkeep and be more self-sufficient, it might also be an indication of further cost-cutting in the coming years. Continuing to raise adequate funding levels remains a constant challenge. The possibility that UPIS will be done away with altogether – to preserve funds for the broader University – remains in the back of the mind of the administration at all times.

The change in buildings may herald a new era for UPIS but it could just as easily signify the final chapter for a stagnant and cash-strapped program. The school produced numerous alumni occupying high profile positions in business, politics, academia, science and the arts. It would be a shame if UPIS stopped altogether.

Published at: http://manila.coconuts.co/

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