Three Philippine schools made it to the Top 10 shortlists of the World’s Best School Prizes, launched this year by T4 Education (t4.education), together with Accenture, American Express, Yayasan Hasanah, Templeton World Charity Foundation and Lemann Foundation.
Each winning school will be granted $50,000, to help sustain and improve their work and fortify their school and community. The schools will showcase their expertise at World Education Week, the biggest online school celebration hosted by T4 Education, in October.
The prizes will be awarded to schools that have developed expertise and shown outstanding systems and practices that impact the lives of students and the community in five key areas: community collaboration, environmental action, innovation, overcoming adversity and supporting healthy lives.
“With over 1.5 billion learners impacted by school and university closures, COVID has greatly exacerbated a global education crisis in which, even before the pandemic, the UN warned progress was already too slow to achieve universal quality education by 2030,” said Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education and the World’s Best School Prizes.
“We have launched the World’s Best School Prizes as a grassroots solution to help build the systemic change needed. By telling the stories of inspirational schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference in their communities, schools can share their best practices and have their voices heard at the top table to help transform education.”
Global warming solutions
Bonuan Buquig National High School (BBNHS) in Dagupan City was shortlisted for Environmental Action. This prize recognizes the importance of youth, students and schools in climate action that engage with global warming solutions.
Being only 1 meter above sea level, Dagupan is vulnerable to floods. In 2009, Typhoon “Pepeng” (international name: Pharma) left most of the city submerged. Fishponds, rice fields and other industries were destroyed. The city government dredged rivers to minimize flooding, but the mangroves died off, too—the rivers were exposed to the direct heat of the sun and killed off aquatic life crucial to the ecosystem. With their main food source gone, many students had to stop schooling to work to support their families.
To help its students and save the local environment, BBNHS mobilizes over a hundred volunteers and plants thousands of mangrove propagules annually, building new homes for marine life. Today, the mangroves along the Longos riverbanks are almost restored and stable.
In 2014, BBNHS also began an International Coastal Clean-up. Volunteers collected garbage along Bonuan Beach. Biodegradable and nonbiodegradable trash were segregated. Plastics were upcycled into plant pots and decor. The school planted trees to rehabilitate a local dump site, too.
Should BBNHS win, they plan to use the prize money to build a nursery that could support about 50,000 mangrove seedlings yearly and fund research to improve their mangrove propagation and preservation.
G.L. David Memorial Integrated School (GLDMIS) in Balanga City, Bataan, was shortlisted for Community Collaboration. This prize recognizes schools that have developed partnerships with their community to have an integrated approach in helping their students, striving for a whole-child approach based on equity and inclusivity.
GLDMIS has special literacy and emotional development programs for its students, most of whom are impoverished and malnourished. The school recognized malnutrition as a barrier to education, so it brought its community together with its Kain Pa project.
Kain Pa consolidated parents, community members, local government and business establishments to give free meals to its students daily. The initiative secures vegetables, fruits and other goods from government officials, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and parents who buy ingredients from the market and sometimes help cook the meals themselves. With this initiative, the school was able to lower its students’ malnutrition rate from 12.11 percent in 2019 to 2.13 percent in 2020.
Moreover, the school gets free eye screening through Essilor, which also donates glasses to pupils and teachers.
If GLDMIS were to win, they would use the funds to improve the school’s library and laboratory, and continue to support its Kain Pa project and their other well-being programs.
Malitbog National High School (MNHS) in Calinog, Iloilo, was shortlisted for Supporting Healthy Lives. This prize recognizes schools that provide access, relevance and opportunities for students, staff and the community to develop healthy habits, behaviors, knowledge and skills.
With the pandemic, the homes of their 1,000 students have become classrooms. When classes began, 90 percent of their students were in poverty, with 60 percent malnourished. MNHS started its Happy and Healthy School Program to promote physical, mental and social health among its students.
The program’s activities included home gardening, home-based wellness and advocacies for healthy eating, clean water, sanitation and mental health.
The school also addressed the complications of home learning. When 80 percent of the parents communicated their inadequacy in helping their children with their studies, the school provided them with intensive detailed guidance. This led to more than 85 percent of parents feeling comfortable being their children’s learning coaches.
MNHS also managed to solicit P2 million for disinfectants, printers and paper for home learning. And, the school increased its staff vaccination rate from below 1 percent due to initial vaccine hesitancy, to 100 percent as a result of its community-focused campaign.
Should they be awarded the prize, MNHS would use the money to share its expertise with other secondary schools in the region, and create a Happy and Healthy Park as a venue for everyone to discuss issues impacting the local community.
“I want to congratulate Bonuan Buquig National High School, G.L. David Memorial Integrated School and Malitbog National High School for making the Top 10 shortlists for the inaugural World’s Best School Prizes. Educators all over the world will now be able to learn from the examples of these outstanding Philippine schools,” said Pota.
The Top 3 finalists for each of the five World’s Best School Prizes will be declared later this year.
After a public advisory vote, winners will be chosen based on rigorous criteria by a judging academy involving distinguished leaders worldwide: academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, civil society and the private sector.
All 50 shortlisted schools across the five prizes will share their best practices through tool kits to demonstrate their innovative approaches and step-by-step methods so others can replicate their success and help upgrade education everywhere. —CONTRIBUTED