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Where would we be without teachers?

EVERY YEAR since 2008, Br. Armin Luistro has been leading a truly heartwarming multi-stakeholder initiative—National Teachers Month (Sept. 5-Oct. 5). When they started throwing ideas around with a small group composed of private individuals and representatives of corporate foundations, Brother Armin and Metrobank Foundation president Chito Sobrepeña set modest goals: Everyone was welcome to join, participation was purely voluntary and self-funded, and the activities could be as simple or as elaborate as creativity would allow, budgetary restrictions notwithstanding.

The overarching message that the motley group back in 2008 wanted to convey was simple and straightforward: Thank you, dear teacher, for being who you are.

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Teachers are—and always will be—indispensable figures in our lives, from the time we became old enough to read. As a testament to the profound effect our teachers have on us, when the National Teachers Month (NTM) committee started circulating the “Thank You, Teacher” messages in the print, broadcast and social media, the emotion-laden and spontaneous gestures of support were a sight to behold.

Since then, the annual celebration of NTM has only gotten bigger and better. Unesco, SM, Globe, Smart, Meralco, Microsoft, Synergeia, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Museo Pambata, and, of course, Metrobank are just some of the prominent foundations and nongovernment organizations  in a long and growing list of participants. ABS-CBN, GMA 7, TV 5, the Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Star and the Philippine Daily inquirer were among the first to throw their hats into the ring. When they heard Education Secretary Luistro’s call to thank our teachers, major associations like the League of Corporate Foundations and the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) started mobilizing their respective memberships for this worthy cause. Not to be outdone, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has also signed up for NTM. The two new groups that are joining the 2014 celebration are SGV and the behemoth Government Service Insurance System, of which all public school teachers and retirees are members.

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A couple of years ago, the NTM committee began something that seems well on the way to becoming tradition: the nationwide invocation of the Prayer for Teachers at 10:05 a.m. of Oct. 5, World Teachers Day. The Eggie Apostol Foundation, with the assistance of various language groups, helped make this possible by having the Prayer for Teachers translated into 40 Philippine languages and even in Russian and Mandarin.

In 2012, the NTM committee made the celebration more meaningful with a heartfelt message: “My Teacher, My Hero,” which continues to be the theme for this year’s activities. Metrobank Foundation executive director Nicanor Torres Jr. sees 2014—NTM’s seventh year—as doubly special. “This year, we shall have a special place in our hearts for all the teachers affected by the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon ‘Yolanda,’” he said.

Meanwhile, Sobrepeña has said that while the Metrobank Foundation earned excellence awards from Anvil and Philippine Quill for its stewardship of NTM, nothing would please him more than to see as many NTM participants as possible earning their own excellence and honorable-mention awards. He urged every organization affiliated with NTM to enter nominations to the awards-giving bodies. “I would like to share these public affairs award with all. Let us have as many trophies as possible. It’s the pride of the entire NTM council,” Sobrepeña said.

As the countdown begins for World Teachers Day, the reform initiatives that are taking place in the realm of Philippine education underscore the pressing need for more high-quality teachers.

Recently, the PBEd looked into the overall quality of the country’s teacher-education institutions using the licensure examination for teachers (LET) as a key performance indicator.

Data from the Commission on Higher Education show that only 16 of 100 enrollees in teacher-education programs eventually graduate.

Only eight of these 16 pass the LET on their first try. Of the remaining eight who make a second attempt at the LET, only 16 percent make it.

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If you or anyone you know (say, your son or daughter) is thinking of responding to the noblest calling of all, the PBEd recommends that you choose any of these schools who have notched an average LET passing rate of 80 percent since 2009: Philippine Normal University, University of Santo Tomas, St. Louis University, University of the Philippines Diliman, Xavier University, Bohol Island State University, University of St. La Salle, University of Southeastern Philippines, De La Salle University, and Ateneo de Naga.

Teachers, meanwhile, have been increasingly vocal about their need to understand precisely what the industry requires of their students. The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) has been one of the more progressive groups in this regard. Penny Bongato, Ibpap executive director for talent development, recently presented the industry-led Global Competitiveness Assessment Tool, the online Basic English Skills Training (BEST) and the Advanced English Proficiency Training (AdEPT), and the Service Management Program Specialization Track training program for BA and IT teachers. These initiatives are all designed to help the academe and industry work cohesively toward narrowing the gap between education and employment.

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com and butchhernandez@ibpap.org) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education consultant for talent development at Ibpap.

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TAGS: Br. Armin Luistro, education, national teachers’ month, PBEd, Teachers, World Teachers Day
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