Monday, December 18, 2017
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SAS reborn as Teach for the Philippines

To this day, 45 years after the fact, I still envy two college buddies, both English majors, for their daring and idealism in choosing the path less traveled. Back then, there was yet no structured outreach program in place for fresh college graduates wanting to make a difference for a year before carving out their own careers.

Paulynn Paredes Sicam, who eventually became an outstanding journalist and human rights activist, chose to teach in Lianga Bay, Surigao del Sur, in the backwoods of Mindanao, having discovered Bislig through summers spent there with her cousins. Chita Vallejo Pijano, executive director of the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines and the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities, and newly elected president of the Asia Pacific Quality Network, decided on a high school in sleepy Kolambogan, Lanao del Norte. It is evident that for Paulynn and Chita, these initial work experiences were life-changing, to use a cliché. Clearly, their teaching and classroom exposure influenced their adult lives and made them the sterling professionals they are today.

This academic year’s promising college graduates and young professionals have a similar path opening up for those similarly inclined to transform school communities. Teach for the Philippines (TFP) is recruiting such student leaders from universities in the Philippines and abroad, especially from the children of the Philippine diaspora to teach in the most disadvantaged public schools nationwide. Having an education degree is not essential, though they have to be Filipino nationals and able to speak conversational Filipino. They are offered 2-year contracts with a competitive compensation and benefits package. This is not a volunteer program, and the time, talent, and commitment of the teacher-recruits are honored. An intensive 8-week summer institute is required and designed to immerse them in pedagogy and the K to 12 curriculum that TFP endeavors to support by addressing the perennial problems of teacher shortage and the decline in the quality of education graduates.

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The 12-year-old Sa Aklat Sisikat (SAS) Foundation has, in its years of promoting the love of reading in Grade 4 students, emerged as a recognized and accredited partner of the Department of Education. While its reading program has found unqualified legitimacy and commendation from the assessment of the Poverty Action Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SAS has seen the need to be more aggressive in pushing for quality education for all. While the promotion of reading is not viewed as less important and an advocacy now to be abandoned, the status of the Philippine public school system calls for more drastic and comprehensive measures.

Yes, this may be considered the reinvention of SAS, which wholeheartedly supports the K to 12 program that would give all, and not only students in the private schools, 12 years of elementary and secondary education, in addition to the now-mandatory kindergarten. TFP shares the DepEd vision “All Filipino children have a right to an education that is inclusive, relevant, and excellent.”

How does TFP promote this vision?  By recruiting individuals who are the potential future leaders and decision-makers in the country, it hopes that the experience of the 2-year immersion in the public school system will allow them the full understanding and appreciation of the root problems in the sector. And as they transform classrooms, they themselves cannot but be transformed as individuals. Thus, in their future positions of responsibility, the issues of public education will always be a special concern and advocacy of theirs.

TFP is a network partner of Teach for All, which is made up of similar social enterprises in 26 countries all over the world, the most widely known partners being Teach for America and Teach First in the United Kingdom. Its alumni have eventually distinguished themselves in the government and the private sector.

TFP is scheduled to be launched in the 2013-14 schoolyear with the first set of teacher-recruits for Quezon City public schools. As in all other new endeavors, much preliminary work is needed to plan out program details and other minutiae under the leadership of Margarita Delgado and Lizzie Zobel. TFP has the advantage of being built on the track record of SAS, certainly a positive beginning.

TFP is an exciting program for its teacher-recruits and for the public school system. At the annual SAS board meeting when the birth of TFP was announced, fellow board members in attendance (Bobby de Ocampo, Doris Ho, Lisa Gokongwei Cheng, Kristen Suarez Quintos, RayVi Sunico, Luigi Bernas, Monique Villonco, and Malou Erni) were unanimous in saying that were we in college today, we would certainly apply to be in the roster of possible candidates.

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

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TAGS: column, education, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, sa aklat sisikat, SAS, teach for the Philippines, TFP
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