A MEMO from Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ, dated March 13, 2015, changed the landscape of high school education at the Ateneo de Manila.
After a meeting with the school’s board of directors on Feb. 7, Father Villarin, Ateneo de Manila University president, announced through his memo the redivision of the junior and senior high schools starting school year 2016-2017.
Instead of two years of junior high school (JHS) and four years of senior high school (SHS), there will now be four years of JHS (grades 7 to 10) and two years of SHS (grades 11 to 12). The SHS program will serve as preparation for college and integrate some college subjects in its curriculum.
While these changes are big, they’re not as major as this news: Starting school year 2016-2017, the university will open its doors to female students for the first time at the senior high school level. “The Ateneo Grade School and the Junior High School remain to be exclusive schools for boys,” clarified Father Villarin.
Since the inception of the Ateneo High School in the 1800s, it has been an exclusive school for boys. When the school expanded with a college, it still had an all-male population until 1973, when the first batch of female college students enrolled in the Loyola Heights campus.
This was a big change for the school in terms of culture and activities. The change was initially met with mixed views, but it was eventually welcomed, and has been accepted as the norm since.
Since the high school’s founding, its culture has been built on brotherhood and camaraderie. There is something about the exclusivity that makes high school at the Ateneo a unique experience.
Nothing has changed since I graduated in 2008. The boys still get excited at the sight of girls from other schools visiting the campus. Soirees and interactions remain important events.
Compared with other schools, Ateneo High School’s prom and graduation ball are big deals because it takes more effort for the boys to find a date.
For years, boys bonding has meant sports events, video games and kakulitan. These will all change when the girls start enrolling.
Naturally, high school alumni have been vocal about their thoughts. Some disapprove of the coeducational system because they want to uphold tradition. There are those who are OK with the decision because it gives diversity and a new perspective to Ateneo education.
For the boys, it will be advantageous because it will allow them to interact with girls on campus. It will give them a chance to be well-rounded. It will give a new diversity to the Ateneo High School experience.
The presence of girls will affect the lifestyle and attitude of the boys. Hopefully, they become more refined gentlemen.
For the girls, being in the Ateneo will give them the chance to be molded in the Ignatian values at an early age.
It will also give them opportunities to contribute to other aspects of Ateneo High School life. A woman’s perspective will certainly make a difference in the Sanggunian ng Mga Mag-aaral ng Mataas na Paaralan ng Ateneo (SANGGU-HS).
In sports, the coed setup will allow the Ateneo to field teams in the female division of athletic events, like the UAAP (in which the Ateneo had been the only high school without female athletes). It will also bring a breath of fresh air to the High School Blue Babble Battalion.
The Ateneo’s Senior High School offers a seamless transition to the Loyola Schools, or to any other college in the country and abroad. It might not be easy in the first few years, but it will only get better in time.