Philippine education has different faces, from the traditional under-the-tree setting to a modern computer-equipped classroom set-up. But over the years, there has always been one common denominator and that is the over population of students squeezing themselves into the four corners of a room. Poor facilities and lack of teachers also limit the learning experiences of our students. Usually, the ratio of teachers to students is 1:70. This situation naturally impacts learning, as the teachers have to spread their attention among so many and at the same time shoulder all the demands of a teaching profession. At their worst, the teachers neglect the welfare and needs of the students, ignore their concerns, and choose not to respond positively. Of course it is the students who suffer. But education plays a vital role in the success of a community and is, after all, a basic right of every child. Basic literacy and numeracy should be considered nonnegotiable rights for everyone.
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Got Roots of Health’s Educational Support Program (ESP) we have been teaching students varying in age from 2 years old to 11 years old. This is indeed a diverse set of students and thus they need different kinds of attention. Some of them have experienced cultural discrimination at school, either because they come from poor communities or because they are ethnically Tagbanua. Many however, just need extra attention and encouragement to start gaining the confidence and skills needed to succeed in life.
Most of the weekday-regular attendees of the sessions are young. Some of them still bring bottles of milk or easily cry when their mothers are out of sight. But the kids are very innocent and expressive: they often hug us, bring us flowers, and bring their works to us for praise. As teachers, we of course appreciate those simple things and give them encouragement.
Our curriculum may not look like much compared to a formal school curriculum, but we do cover basic literacy and numeracy and practical concepts in life. And we encourage and pay attention to every child. We know that we are giving them confidence which will serve them well in regular school.
Just this March 2011, 11 of the regular attendees of our Educational Support Program enrolled in government pre-schools. All our students who took the exams for first grade passed with flying colors. Most of the students will continue their studies in primary and then secondary education. As teachers, we are so proud to see our students in uniform. And every time they say “thank you”, that means a lot to us.
So a conducive environment for learning is not only about the absence of noise pollution, enough classroom facilities, adequate lighting and equipment, but also about the love and care of the teachers and their flexibility to make an atmosphere conducive to learning no matter the setting.