How to solve education inequity in PH

by Lois Calderon, ANC

Posted at May 03 2013 03:59 PM | Updated as of May 04 2013 04:05 AM

MANILA, Philippines - When "Teach for All" founder Wendy Kopp took the podium, members of Makati's largest business group were all ears.

Before them was a woman named by Time magazine as one of the world's most influential people, who was able to persuade Ivy League graduates to volunteer two years of their life after college to teach at America's public schools.

Twenty-eight thousand young professionals from all disciplines in the past 23 years so far, and this year alone, she convinced 54 young graduates from the Philippines to teach at public schools here at home.

Kopp was able to convince them they can help give every child excellent education, solving the so-called education inequity.

It's a problem she says that she says also pervades the Philippines' education system.

"The problem is that many kids face many extra challenges and schools are not set up to meet those needs. They need as many teachers they can find who are willing to go above and beyond our traditional expectations," Kopp said.

"You have much more privileged kids, who don't have these needs, who go to schools that work for them because they have safety nets around them... If we can expand educational opportunities, lessen educational disparity between the wealthy and the less wealthy," she added.

Kopp estimates the Philippines is short by 61,500 teachers, with very few qualified to join the academe.

"You cannot keep building classrooms and staff them with teachers that are not qualified so we must turn our attention to making teaching profession a dignified one," Roberto de Ocampo, president of the Asian Institute of Management, said.

"If you look at the data, there are huge needs just to realize that only a third read independently by the time theyre in 6th grade, that means there's still a long way to go," Kopp said.

Kopp was able to convince volunteers but was she able to convince donors from the corporate world, too?

The organization got one million Swiss francs from UBS for its Philippine initiative alone. It also got banking giant HSBC's support.

Makati Business Club chairman Ramon del Rosario, who owns schools himself, says the business sector cannot ignore the problems in the education system because they too will have difficulty in finding the best talents.

"The real issue is how do we make the Philippine education system more responsive to the needs of the economy so the kids who come out of educational system are better prepared for a life of work... And also so they have better chances of getting employed," del Rosario said.

Fellows who finish two years at Kopp's organization earn 9 units for a master's degree in education. They may also get preferential treatment from employers looking for people with strong leadership skills.

Co-founded by Elizabeth E. Zobel, Margarita L. Delgado and Clarissa Isabelle Delgado, Teach for the Philippines is the 25th partner of Teach for All, a global network of social enterprises working to expand educational opportunity in their nations.