Teach for the Philippines turns 3
What is there to fear about the traditional ghosts of August? The 8th of the month was an auspicious date for Teach for the Philippines (TFP) as it marked its third anniversary. And what more fitting venue to celebrate this milestone than at one of its schools, the Highway Hills Integrated School in Mandaluyong, off Shaw Boulevard?
There are many reasons to celebrate.
For TFP’s third school year 2015-2016, it broadened its number of schools with 86 teacher placements now in 23 public schools in eight cities. For the very first time, it is in Mindanao—in Cagayan de Oro and Siargao in Surigao del Norte. Last year, it was in Quezon City, Marikina, Mandaluyong, Navotas, Biñan and Sta. Rosa.
It is significant that the memorandum of agreement with the two schools in Mindanao also allows third-party assessments during the two-year period that TFP teachers are contracted to teach there. These will be run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in Grades 4, 5 and 6 where the TFP fellows teach. The work that J-PAL does in its development and poverty research based on randomized trials should be familiar to us, for a few years back, it also measured the effectiveness of the 11-year old Readathon program of the predecessor foundation of TFP, the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, with glowing results.
TFP has a partnership with the Loyola Marymount University-LA School of Education headed by Dean Shane Martin of the School of Education and Prof. Edmund Litton. This special tie-up enables LMU-LA professors to travel to the Philippines to train TFP teacher-candidates in the intensive annual summer institute in Dumaguete City to prepare them with the required education units for their teaching school year. That is a rigorous requirement for the applicants to finally be recruited as official TFP fellows.
This arrangement has also enabled the LMU to bring 13 MA candidates to Manila in July, to coteach with 2014 fellows in Marikina public schools in a mentor-mentee relationship as part of the LMU Study Abroad Program. The highlight of this 19-day trip to Manila was a World Café, with the LMU graduate students in conversation with all the TFP fellows and their colleagues in their respective schools.
These visiting graduate students went to teach in our public schools in the morning and afternoon shifts; they were ready for the ride at 4:45 a.m. and, after 6 p.m., they braved the rush-hour traffic to get to their quarters.
In 2012, Litton, a Filipino living in the United States, communicated with TFP and wondered how, with their shared vision, the LMU and TFP could collaborate. Thus did this coteaching arrangement come to be, benefiting not only the students but also the coteachers. One of the visiting graduate students, Shalea Semana, wrote in her blog that the most important lesson gained from the visit to the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm was the definition of social entrepreneurship as the pursuit of an opportunity to create pattern-breaking social change regardless of the resources one currently controls.
Seeing the similarities in public schools in Marikina and in Oakland—the familiar and sad lack of resources and materials—Semana reminded us all: “… [I]t is vital to incorporate the opportunities that are powerful enough to reach the needs of our students and meet them where they are so their development and achievement levels are far beyond what is expected.” Inequality, low quality and achievement gaps in public education need to be confronted every day.
TFP fellow Janel Gatdula wrote: “We may have come from different backgrounds and countries, but one thing remains the same for all of us: We want our kids to have a bright future. A future that is both the best that they can have and one that they deserve.”
The new school year marks a new chapter in the professional lives of the first 39 TFP fellows who have completed their two-year teaching contract. One must bear in mind that TFP fellows enter and leave the program with the zeal to contribute to public education, whether they are directly in the profession or not. The latest statistics are revealing: 92 percent are employed, 61 percent decided to continue to work in the field of education, over 25 percent are working in the government (Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and Department of Social Welfare and Development), others are teaching in private schools, and others work in education startups.
Clarissa Delgado, CEO and cofounder of TFP, heads the lean and mean (but so inviting and conducive to imaginative thinking) office and staff of 25 that coordinate with almost 100 fellows and 49 alumni to date. “The root challenge for us is to improve the quality of teaching in the Philippines,” says Delgado.
Many times people ask if TFP still goes on; they wonder if the seemingly impossible dream that it is, of providing quality education for all, is surviving. And why not? There are enough committed individuals aside from our TFP fellows who care and are convinced that education is the best antidote to poverty. How can anyone in his or her right mind not take up such an advocacy?
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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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