Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Pearl Advocacy Makes Landfall in Occidental Mindoro

(Article written by Virgilio Paralisan, Executive Director of the Pearl Principle, for Volume 3, Issue 2 of The Village Centrex and published here with permission. The Village Centrex is the Official Publication of the Centre for International Education.)

Mamburao is an out of the way town in Occidental Mindoro. The sleepy capital town of the province, it has a population of 30,378 people and 6,259 households. It can be reached from Metro Manila by taking a bus to the Batangas City pier, taking a roll-on-roll –off (RORO) to Abra de Ilog Pier, which is about two hours travel, and finally riding a vhire, jeepney or bus to the town proper.

Mamburao is geographically cut off from most government services and most government agencies are not based in Mamburao but in Oriental Mindoro. There are limited opportunities for development.

Most of the time nothing much happens in Mamburao. This has changed. Last June 2007, the Centre for International Education (CIE) opened a Pearl Principle Formation School (PPFS) in the town in partnership with the Jubilee Parents Association (JPA). This special pre-school is called the JPA Learning Center.

You might ask why all the excitement about a pre-school in Mamburao? The PPFS is part of our Pearl advocacy- our effort to initiate positive change in our community and country. The PPFS, in particular, is our response to illiteracy in the urban and rural parts of the country. Making a PPFS work and even turning a profit in a community like Mamburao will give us the opportunity for learning and experience to make PPFS work in other areas with no investment from government, and no grants from foreign funding organizations. Since a PPFS is a social enterprise and a social franchise, it operates on a sound business model and has the capacity to replicate its success.

The establishment of a PPFS in a far off province like Occidental Mindoro was made possible through our partnership with the Jubilee Parents Association, an association made up of parents of children who were beneficiaries of the programs formerly managed by the World Vision Development Foundation.

World Vision Development Foundation is a foundation based in Canada. Preparing for the eventual phase out of the project funded by World Vision Development Foundation, the parents decided to establish their own support program for education and formalized the existence of their association. The Jubilee Parents Association was formally recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission on September 1989.

JPA is currently governed by a Board of Directors made up of parent volunteers. These directors have served JPA for almost ten years now. The members of the board are:

Mary Ann Nares

Lorena Umali
Vice Chairperson

Estrellita Alafriz

Givi Paglicawan

Soccoro Tesorio
Assistant Treasurer

Pilar Alfaro

Rowena Aquino

The program funded by World Vision Development Foundation was officially terminated on September 30, 2005. When the JPA considered running their own school, the development of the curriculum and the management of the school itself became a challenge. Initial information gathered by officials of JPA introduced them to the difficulty of setting up a school not only because of the legal requirements but also because of the experienced needed to set up a school that can deliver quality education.

The Pearl Principle Formation School is a special pre-school program developed by Professor Nelia Cruz-Sarcol, the founder and president of the Centre for International Education. It draws on her long years of experience in starting and running the Child Development Center of CIE, Cebu Campus. The PPFS uses the first-rate curriculum developed by Teacher Nelia for preschool children.

The PPFS was introduced to the Jubilee Parents Association through Jay Tabana, a Pearl Principle Advocate. Pastor Jay, as we call him, works through his Lighthouse Ministries. He encouraged one of JPA's most dedicated volunteer and youth leaders, Arturo "Art" Alafriz, Jr., to get involved in the Pearl Principle which eventually got him educated about the PPFS concept on August 12, 2006, in a PPFS Phase 1 Orientation held in Cordova Condominium, Makati City.

On August 14, 2006, the Board of Directors of JPA led by its Chairperson, Mary Ann T. Nares, unanimously voted for the operation of a PPFS and the creation of a committee to oversee its operation. The board also authorized the participation of Mr. Alafriz and two more teachers, Lianne Joy Saberola and Chandeleth Yanzon, to the PPFS Phase 2 Orientation in Cordova Condominium on December 9, 2006.

Even though CIE would have helped JPA prepare the feasibility study for the PPFS in the Municipality of Mamburao, JPA took the initiative of investing on a feasibility study themselves. It gave them confidence that they can actually operate a PPFS in their community. Clearly, JPA wanted the school to operate as early as June of 2007.

Against the limitations imposed by their own project schedules, JPA sent its volunteers to the CIE PPFS Training Workshop for Administrators and Mentors on May 21-23, 2007, at Cordova Condominium, Makati City. The three-day intensive training started as early as 8:00 am and finished as late as 8:00 pm.

The three volunteers, Art Alafriz, Lianne Joy Saberola and Chandeleth Yanzon, who all have bachelors in education and are licensed teachers, went through a rigorous introduction to the CIE methods and techniques of teaching developed by Teacher Nelia. These principles and strategies form the foundation of 21 years of pre-school education in CIE. Now for the first time these methods and techniques are being shared with institutions outside CIE in a common effort to end illiteracy.

In a wholehearted effort, Teacher Nelia not only gave them access to CIE programs an methods for preschool teaching, she also mentored them herself. The whole Presidential Management Staff (PMS) was also in the workshop learning for the first time how we are making life-long learners out of our own CIE pre-school kids through our academic programmes.

The JPA team was clearly very interested in learning more about preschool education. They took a lot of notes and asked very good questions about the learning process of pre-school age children. Teacher Nelia was very patient in going through the slow process of explaining the teaching principles she used in designing lessons for our pre-school.

The workshop covered topics on learning, the reading process, teaching math, teaching science, and critical thinking and culminated in the actual writing of lesson outlines. The participants were then required to make a teaching demo using their written lesson outlines for the different learning areas.

The PPFS training is an on-going process because the rest of the training is spent on site. The JPA mentors are submitting their lesson outlines via email and we critique each of these lesson outlines and then send them back for use for a week's set of lessons. Presently the mentoring and consulting are done through our Global Examinations and Qualifications or GEQ (pronounced "Check") and of course under the very methodical supervision of Teacher Nelia.

After the JPA Team successfully completed the 3-day intensive workshop they had to start the tedious process of organizing their school, marketing it and preparing for the opening of classes. We were quite optimistic that the school would not start empty. However, we did not expect them to get more than ten pupils by opening week.

They had barely two weeks to prepare for classes and they were still sending their lesson outlines a week before classes. Added to the challenge was the fact that there is a reputable pre-school in the poblacion that almost all pre-schoolers go to. Everyone's fingers were crossed.

We sent them the forms they will need to get their student registration process up and running. The Office of the CEO also sent designs for collaterals they can use for marketing the school. JPA tapped its network of volunteers to distribute flyers to inform the community that JPA Learning Center would be opening this June 2007.

Just as we were opening classes here in CIE Main, JPA informed us that they opened as scheduled with two classes in their first term with more than thirty pupils. It was an exciting feat for JPA Learning Center considering that they had barely a month to market the school with severely limited resources.

The JPA Learning Center just completed their first grading examinations. CIE has sent the first batch of official report cards for students to Mamburao. Parents’ sessions for Pearl Principle value formation are done at least an hour and a half every Saturday. Everything is coming into place for the JPA Learning Center. We will be evaluating the JPA Learning Center this coming first quarter of 2008 to find out if they have come up to CIE GEQ standards. We are very optimistic about the outcomes.

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