Saturday, July 2, 2016

Filipino Education -- A New Era

Did you know that up until 2016, only 3 countries in the world did not have school up to 12th grade? As of June 13, the Philippines changed that number from 3 to 2, and the nation has begun its implementation of 11th grade this year. 12th grade will happen next year, although a handful of schools piloted 11th last year, and will pilot 12th this year.

In visiting schools and talking to teachers in larger cities and more rural provinces; in large 6,000-10,000 student schools and smaller 160-student schools; and in private as well as public schools, emotions and opinions ran the gamut. Teachers teach an 8-hour day or more, with little say as to how they run their scripted instruction. There are typically 8 1-hour classes per day, and sometimes as many as 12 or 13!

Teachers are exhausted, exhilarated, and realistic about the need to remain optimistic in spite of this year's election cycle uncertainties and history-making chaos. The media and the government insist that "all is ready" for the additional students, including their classrooms and resources. Yet, there are still students traveling by makeshift rafts to school, walking 60-90 minutes, and taking multiple modes of often cost-prohibitive transportation.

Photos of students traveling to school
On the ground, it's easy to see that many schools are struggling to provide resources for both students and teachers, from curricula to classroom chairs. Many of the classrooms we visited were full, averaging 45-55 students per teacher, while some crammed up to 120 students into a single room. In general, students remain in their classrooms, while teachers move from one group to the other; needless to say, the concept of personal space is much different than in the United States. This also means, however, that students then become responsible for their space, and can be seen sweeping and cleaning the classrooms and the walkways.

 Despite the lack of resources and deep frustrations, every teacher we spoke to was passionate about their students and their roles this year. Teachers might earn less than bankers, but are highly respected, even though the average $300-500 salary doesn't seem to reflect that. Teachers in more remote areas face a dire lack of communication, dangers of travel to and from school, and an even starker lack of resources.

Personal space holds much greater tolerance than our
American classrooms are equipped for. 
Optimism and hope are mainstays, though, evidenced by the perspective of some teachers: those in the rural areas are "good at math because they count the stars." As nostalgic and romantic as that may seem, it might be a good thing, since the ever-present obstacles may be as numerous as the stars.

Thankfully, the Filipino spirit remains evident in the face of challenges. It embodies historical resilience and perseverance, fueled by an optimism and hope that things will improve. And as they understand fully: "those who experience hardship in education, value it more." ​

1 comment:

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