Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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The Learning curve

Equal opportunity for excellent education

As another school year ends, the nonprofit enterprise Teach for the Philippines (TFP) celebrates its own 43 graduates, its 2016 cohort of teacher fellows who would be completing their two-year contract in assigned public schools all over the country.

It needs to be pointed out that the teaching contract for these recruited college graduates—all of them driven visionaries and potential national leaders—is a fixed two years. It is expected, as earlier models like Teach for America and affiliates in countries worldwide have witnessed, that the two-year work in public schools will so transform them into lifelong advocates for education reform.

How can one not be transformed after working in a setting  with resources that are far from adequate, books that do not invite learning, classrooms that are cramped and overcrowded, students who are tired and hungry,  and underachievers who have been automatically promoted to the next grade with no ifs, ands, or buts?  Yes, public education is a true hardship post.

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And yet our public school teachers still manage to do amazing jobs despite the system’s built-in challenges.  While the Department of Education valiantly attempts to catch up to cover previous administrations’ shortfalls, the public and even lawmakers in budget hearings tire of that reason, considering the biggest budget given the DepEd.

TFP fellows are provided more than just teacher training. They are required to complete the required teaching credentials, even take the LET (or the licensure examination for teachers), especially because most of them do not have a degree in education (not a negative factor in their application, by the way). It is a two-year leadership development program they undergo, with monthly professional development workshops, along with specialized career counseling, career immersions, meeting mentors in a chosen field, and an opportunity to work at partner government agencies and multinational private companies that champion education.

The TFP fellows graduating in April will join the roster of 123 alumni. While a few have decided to continue working in public or private schools,  the majority will follow the career paths of their predecessors.  Around 80 percent are engaged in education reform, working in various government agencies, helping craft education programs and policies, and collaborating with organizations toward access to quality education.

Consider these alumni stories as proudly recounted by Angel Ramos, TFP interim director for marketing and events:

Alumna Angela Rosal (2014) was assigned to Malanday Elementary School in Marikina City where she had students who could not come to school or concentrate in class because of hunger. She went on to work as a member of Sen. Bam Aquino’s policy research team which introduced the concept of food banks, and in his office to introduce Senate Bill No. 357 or the proposed Zero Food Waste Act.

Since 2015, three cohorts of alumni fellows have been deployed to the DepEd Central Office for one-year contracts. Of the 15 fellows assigned there, three have been employed and given plantilla positions. Over at the Commission on Higher Education, three of the six fellows assigned there have had plantilla positions. This indicates a growing number of young education advocates with actual experience and with the opportunity to make informed policies and top-level decisions.

Alumni Brigitte Lim, Jerome Bactol and Anna Alejo (2013) and TFP staffer Eos Trinidad joined the Geneva Graduate Challenge in June 2017 with their paper, titled “Solar N3E.” The paper, which focused on community and industry needs, did not make the finals but was selected for one of the United Nations’ three special Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth Prizes.

I love TFP’s fearless pledge, “Within our lifetime, all Filipino children will have access to an excellent and relevant education,” as well as its tagline, “5 Years •  20,000 Children • 238 Teacher Fellows • 123 Alumni • 30 Staff.”

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Equal opportunity for excellent education, no matter one’s socioeconomic background, is a birthright of every Filipino child.  We cannot continue to fail our youth in what is their due.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@ gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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