My IREX-TGC group had the opportunity to visit 3 schools in Manila and the U.S. Embassy during our first few days in the Philippines. Our wonderful guides, Alex and Norberto prepared us with an introduction to the education system and the history of the Philippines on our first day.
On June 21 we traveled to St. Paul College, Pasig, a Catholic school for girls. On June 23 we visited Beningo “Nimoy” Aquino High School, which is a public school and Makati Science High School magnet school and the home school of our host, Alex. At each school we had the opportunity to talk with teachers and students. They all provided us with a reception and shared delicious traditional Filipino foods with us. The choral students at St. Paul entertained us with traditional songs during the reception. At Makati Science High School we were greeted by the chorus, who presented each of us with a rose, and by the student Council.
One common challenge that is being faced by all of the secondary schools and colleges is the implementation of K-12, where up until now they have had K-10. The most obvious challenge is finding the space to house the additional grades and finding new teachers. To deal with the space issues, some of the schools are opting to teach in shifts, some students will come for morning classes, from 6:00 to 11:00, and others will attend school from 11:00 to 4:00, or something similar. The government is seeking recruit additional teachers with the 1000 teacher program, in which they provide training to new teachers beginning their careers, or those who wish to enter teaching as a second career. Adding 2 additional years of high school will also impact the universities, as during the first two years of implementation, students will be staying in high school when they may have been entering college. The professors who will be displaced will have hiring priority as the high schools are being staffed to take on the additional load. They will also have assistance with additional training should they opt to seek employment outside of education.
In addition to the practical aspects of implementing K-12, there has been some resistance from parents and students because students have to wait longer to enter the work force. There are many vocational programs in place now that prepare students to enter the workforce at 16. However, many jobs that do not require a college education do require that employees must be at least 18, which has meant that some high school graduates are in limbo for 2 years. A strong advantage of the K-12 program is that a lot of the education students will receive in the additional 2 years is the equivalent of what they would have learned in the first two years of college, so ultimately families whose children who attend public schools will save money.
The Filipino education has largely been influenced by the American Education System, as the country was occupied by Americans before and after WWII. Their goals and philosophies are the same, aiming for holistic, learner-centered education. The 3 schools we visited had very different atmospheres. We were greeted warmly in all 3 and found the students very respectful and engaged. Just as in the United States, resources available to different schools vary, and students come from widely different backgrounds. A high value is placed on education and the students we met were
Another challenge we learned about is the early childhood program in which children in K – 4 are taught reading in their native language. All schools teach English and every student is bilingual, but there are over 100 native languages in the Philippines. Research shows that students learn reading best in their native language. For the Native Language reading program, they narrowed the program down to 19 languages, but there is no early reading curriculum available for so many languages and dialects. Teachers are on their own to provide the reading curriculum and reading assessment for these students in all but 4 of the 19 major dialects.
A highlight of our first visit to Manila was meeting Philip Goldberg, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. He was very engaging. We met in a conference room at the embassy dedicated to Claire Phillips, described as a Philippine Mata Hari during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Next door was the ballroom where they held the trials for Japanese war crimes following WWII. He spoke to us about history and bonds between the U.S. and the Philippines and about the current challenges politically and internationally. Later we took photos (actually they took photos as we weren’t allowed to bring cameras into the building – I don’t have my copy yet) an enjoyed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. We returned to the conference where various representatives spoke to us more about the structure, progress, and challenges of education in the country. They are passionate about helping students become globally competitive citizens and promoting cultural exchange. Finally, we had a limited tour of the building and of the grounds. The flagpole in front of the building was heavily damaged by bullets and shrapnel, yet it stands today to commemorate the Battle of Manila.