We have now been in the Philippines for three days, but it feels much longer. Each day is jam-packed with experiences. In our time in the Manila Metro area, we visited three schools. Each offered a warm welcome and a different perspective on education in the Philippines.
St. Paul College Pasig is a Catholic all-girls school with over 4000 students in grades K-10. Everywhere we saw encouragement and a positive attitude, from an English teacher who radiated joy to the students who spoke eloquently about a school where they felt loved and inspired. The school’s mission statement, which each staff member could recite by heart, summed it up perfectly: nurture giftedness, shape character, fire excellence.
At Ninoy Aquino Technical High School, over 5000 students learn trades such as dressmaking and electronics. Students and staff repeatedly commented that the school was like a family. We saw evidence of close and nurturing relationships both in the structure of the school and in the interactions between and among students and staff. The students and staff even had a habit of finishing each other’s sentences, like many a family around the world!
Across town at Makati Science High School, we met students who passed competitive entrance exams for the chance to attend a top-notch public school with a rigorous curriculum. In some cases, the students commuted up to two hours each way, stretching out an extended school day even longer. One student I met described how she had trained herself to study on the Jeepney (jeeps converted to small city buses), no matter how crowded the vehicle or bumpy the ride, during her 90 minute commute. Again, we witnessed encouraging, engaging, energetic teachers. A smaller class size, around 30 compared to 50 in the other two schools, allowed teachers to incorporate more movement and interaction in their lessons.
In a panel discussion with local educational leaders, one of the TGC fellows asked what strengths the leaders saw in their teachers. They cited dedication, resilience, and teaching from the heart. From what I saw, I couldn’t agree more.