Bridging the gap

An NGO taps college grads and young professionals to teach in public schools and help address the shortage in teachers… As the Department of Education (DepEd) continues its implementation of the K to 12 basic education reform, it is but natural to hit bumps along the way. One of the major concerns is the shortage of teachers. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of more than 60,000 teachers in the coming years. With the additional two years in the basic education system, DepEd is faced with a tremendous task to fill the gap, aside from the existing shortages the education agency is already encountering. “We face an estimated actual shortage of 61,500 teachers as a result of the additional two years. DepEd said that we’ll have a shortage of teachers every year for the next five years,” says Lizzie Zobel, co-founder of Teach for the Philippines (TFP). For this reason, TFP, a non-government organization, aims to bridge the teacher shortage gap by recruiting college graduates and young professionals to teach in public schools for two years. “Teach for the Philippines believes that the Filipino child has a right to an education without compromises. An education that involves and realizes the totality of a person’s possibilities. An education that is inclusive, that is relevant, and that is excellent,” says TFP chief executive officer Margarita Delgado. Teach for the Philippines, formerly Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, is an internationally recognized program and a partner of international organization Teach for All. It is a global network of social enterprises working to expand educational opportunity in their nations. The most recognized partners are Teach for America, Teach First in the United Kingdom, Teach for Malaysia, and Teach for Japan, among others. INVESTING IN EDUCATION Recently, TFP was given a CHF 1 million (Swiss franc) grant or approximately P43 million by UBS Optimus Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of Swiss global financial services company UBS AG. “Since 1999, UBS Optimus Foundation has been supporting projects in the areas of health, education, and child protection. Our donations come from our clients and our employees. We choose projects that are innovative, impactful, sustainable, and scalable. We’re so excited in partnering with Teach for the Philippines which shares that commitment to quality and achieving measurable impact on children’s lives,” says Phyllis Costanza, chief executive officer of UBS Optimus Foundation. The project aims to recruit recent Filipino graduates from top universities in the Philippines as well as from around the world, and young professionals who have demonstrated leadership qualities but who might otherwise not consider teaching in public schools. Before embarking on their two-year teaching stint in the schools, the fellows will first undergo a two-month intensive training on innovative teaching methodologies to be conducted by the Ateneo de Manila University. The program will start this school year 2013 with an initial 50 fellows entering 10 public schools in Quezon City. TFP will continue to recruit until 2017 a total of 250 fellows. They will be deployed in 90 schools in the National Capital Region, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to serve some 22,500 students. “We believe in what the Department of Education is doing and we want to help them enhance it with quality teachers. We also want to change the societal perception on the profession of teaching. We believe that that is going to have a positive effect. The idea of our program is to make people understand that they can give back, even the most promising young college graduates. For us, that is good education,” Zobel says. It is thus important, for their partners to invest heavily in education. “We at Optimus Foundation have a very specific focus on education. We are dedicated to improve the quality of education globally. (For the Philippines), we are looking at an initiative that will enhance the quality of teaching. For us, it’s not about getting more kids to school or training more teachers. It’s making sure that those kids going to the schools, and those teachers who are being trained, are making an impact and improving numeracy and literacy,” Costanza says. IMPROVING PUBLIC SCHOOLS TFP has already signed a memorandum with DepEd for the program which will follow the new curriculum guidelines of the education agency. The fellows will be deployed in the most high-need schools in the country. TFP has also partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Povery Action Lab to provide a system to measure and evaluate the program’s effectiveness. “We have an alumni development program, which encourages all our alumni to remain engaged in education reform for the rest of their lives. The alumni team will create pathways to leadership in the sectors of the fellows’ interests,” Delgado explains. GOOD LEADERS ARE GOOD TEACHERS
TFP is looking for good leadership qualities in the applicants for the program. Zobel says that Education graduates don’t necessarily make good teachers. That is why they are looking for more than an Education degree. Anyone who is interested can apply for the job. “A lot of the qualities leaders have are the same qualities teachers have. So when we select, we select for leaders. We believe that preparing you for education makes you a better teacher. You may have studied Science or Math, and if we can train you, we believe that you can go out there and transform a classroom into a learning environment,” Zobel says. TFP is also recruiting Filipinos and Filipino-Americans from the United States because they have an extensive network in the country. Zobel adds that many Filipinos abroad have already expressed their interest in joining the program. “What we want them to understand is that the world opens up to them and they can be anything they want to be. It is their choice. Fellows will remain advocates in this movement of promising change and education reform in the Philippines. Whether they continue a path in the education system or move to another sector, they will have a different understanding of what it takes to expand educational opportunity,” Delgado says.

Reaction: When I first hear about the K-12 program, I think about that we lack of budget. I don’t want to change the system because I used to our educational program. Some teachers may teach one special subject — usually music, art, reading, foreign languages, or physical education — to a number of classes at different age levels. Rather than specializing in a particular age range, such as middle school, these teachers typically receive state certification to teach Kindergarten through 12th grade. K to 12 is now implemented in our country, so teachers are getting ready for it. We must be equip by knowledge, not only knowledge but also strategy, principle, methods and approaches to our students. So what is the problem here? We need more and more teachers. But we lack of teachers. There are so many teachers needed next year. But there are some organization that helps us in investing for our education. We should thank them and use their donations in education. In this article, the TFP, a non-government organization will recruit Filipino and Filipino-Americans to teach here in the Philippines. Another problem is the facilities. So they said the solution for that is they will use the other rooms in the colleges since there will be no incoming first and second year colleges. I think it will solve a little bit of our problem. The Department of Education should enhance the quality of education, this is for the education of all Filipinos and I hope this will really work out. To bridge the gap of implementing the K-12 program in our country is simple. We just need to cooperate to the government and the people around us. There are no problems without solution, if we help, we’ll do good. We will do good in education and for our children.