“Education is a business of change.”
That’s the reminder of Zenaida S. Peñafuerte, principal of Rizal Elementary School. Peñafuerte has been a principal for 25 years, and one would think she knows everything there is to know in running a school. She said experience is key, but one should always be open to change.
Peñafuerte is one of the top “graduates” of the HSBC Principals Leadership Enhancement and Development Program (PLP). The recognition was given to five principals who have implemented changes in their elementary schools through the program. The awarding was recently held in Makati Shangri-La.
HSBC tied up with Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation in 2009 to come up with PLP. It aims to promote public-school principals as community leaders, and teach them a progressive approach in training new teachers. Over 200 principals have benefited from the program; all were given the Principal’s Handbook which was developed by the foundation.
The other awardees are Marilyn C. Macalma of Cembo Elementary School; Elita T. Lopez of Comembo Elementary School; Marciana de Guzman of Nangka Elementary School; and Aurora Marcelino of P. Manalo Elementary School.
HSBC president and CEO Tony Cripps handed the awards and tokens, together with Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation founders Margarita Delgado and Lizzie Zobel.
These principals knew that the Sa Aklat Sisikat team would check on their school every now and then for monitoring, but they did not know an awarding was planned.
“It was a surprise for us,” Marcelino said. “They would visit us to see if we improved, but we did not know there was a ‘contest.’”
Most of the awardees are long-time principals: Peñafuerte for 25 years; Lopez, 22; and Macalma, 10. They are not new in handling school issues, but going through PLP enhanced their management skills.
It was as simple as writing a proper business letter.
“The main problem of public schools is lack of funds for books, classrooms, educational materials. PLP taught us how to write business letters to possible sponsors, and that ‘formalized’ our cause,” Lopez said.
“We also learned to be more approachable in training young teachers,” added Macalma.
The principals were unanimous in saying that most kids now read less, and most are preoccupied with tech things—computer games, social-media sites, Internet—and while these are not necessarily bad, they are distracting. Kids now learn to read at age 7-8, when it used to be from 4-5.
This is Sa Aklat Sisikat’s advocacy: to achieve “functional literacy.”
“Kids may know to read, but a lot do not understand what they are reading,” explained Zobel. “We want them to be able to comprehend, to be interested and continue reading and learning.”
According to Delgado, it is through education that poor kids could make their lives better, and Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation supports educators in helping these kids out.
The foundation and HSBC are coming up with another campaign—the Teach for the Philippines (TFP) program, which aims to recruit top students from universities and train them as public school teachers.
It goes with this premise: Best students would make best teachers.
“If we could encourage the brightest students to become teachers, they would be able to pass their skills on to their would-be students,” said Cripps. “Imagine the kind of students we’ll have in the future.”