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The Learning curve

Ensuring that no child is left behind

I have always been amused by how cleverly Teach for the Philippines (TFP) cofounder and CEO Clarissa Delgado’s signature in all her correspondence gives a glimpse of what the eight-year-old organization is like: “7 Years • 78,000 Students • 307 Teachers • 40 Staff.” Succinct and simple.

Those statistics may have been abruptly reduced these days, but TFP’s fervor and commitment remain undiminished. The current challenges in education, with the urgent questions on how best to ensure that no child is left behind (a lovely slogan—apologies for sounding pessimistic, but with plans as they stand today, all students and teachers are doomed to be left behind), do not faze TFP.

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In looking for rays of hope—for I never ever want to give up—in the education sector that spells the difference for a country’s state of democracy and nationhood and its citizens’ quality of life, I find pockets of inspiration in nongovernment entities that are as concerned and passionate about empowering the young toward better and more fulfilled lives. They all still dream of a Philippines that provides quality education for all, no matter one’s economic status.

In the spirit of transparency, I am proud to say that I have had many years of professional association with TFP and its long-running predecessor, Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, which tried to promote a love of reading among Grade 4 public school students through a month-long reading program and classroom sets of locally published children’s titles, to allow leisure reading for a month! A boy’s comment in Filipino while hugging a new book close to his heart haunts me all these years: “Ahhh, so this is what a new book smells like.”

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That breaks my heart—even just one book for every child, we cannot provide? And we are aghast that our Program for International Student Assessment scores are that low? A worldwide study of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on 15-year-olds’ scholastic performance in math, science, and reading in 78 countries, it gathers data toward educational reforms. Some distinction for the country in 2018—lowest in reading, ranking No. 77, and second lowest in science and in math, with Dominican Republic at the tail end for both subject areas. The only reason we were not No. 78 in reading was that results for Spain were not published “after the OECD detected ‘anomalies’ that indicated the students responded unnaturally quickly to the questions—’in less than 25 seconds,’” according to Spanish daily El País.

How is TFP attempting to respond to the times? With its program of recruiting committed college graduates for a two-year teaching tenure in public schools, it continues to be one of the Department of Education’s accredited partners. Never mind that its teacher recruits are 50 percent lower and its budget 30 percent less. There are enough success stories to continue.

A noteworthy one is the Reading Remediation Program (RRP) described in its Student Outcomes Update dated May 2020, clearly proving that with focused tutorial assistance, the many learning gaps may be addressed. Consider these: 273 students from Grades 2-6 participated in a 40-session cycle taught by 21 teachers. Fifty-nine percent of students started as nonreaders, while the others were at Grade 1 or 2 reading level. Why only 273 students—a handful when one considers the staggering population in public schools? That was all that the RRP could accommodate. Sometime ago, the DepEd’s catchy slogan was “Every Child a Reader.”

After the program, the number of nonreaders dropped to 18 percent, with one student jumping to three grade levels. A math remediation program was also undertaken.

TFP had its own “rapid” test, a rapid access assessment survey to establish how its learning communities could be served best in the next schoolyear. These are the findings: 97 percent of homes have some form of internet/data, with the majority on prepaid basis; 98 percent have access to a mobile phone, 93 percent to TV, 51 percent to radio, and only 38 percent to a computer. From these findings, TFP plans to develop its 2020-21 modes of learning.

It is hoped that these meticulous measures would be replicated by other educational planners. No child should be left behind, or let that be on one’s conscience.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Clarissa Delgado, education, learning, students, teach for the Philippines, Teachers, TFP
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