Page last updated at 12:30 Asia/Manila, Wednesday, 11 April 2012 PH
Last December 1, 2011, I traveled to Iloilo City to give an economic briefing to the Iloilo Business Club, an association of business people committed to promoting the common good of Iloilo City and the surrounding regions. The IBC was established twenty years ago under the inspiration of the founders of the Makati Business Club. One of the elements in the vision of the IBC is to make Iloilo City a major educational hub for both Visayas and Mindanao. They can build on the reputation for quality education of a good number of universities in the city which are already famous for their courses in nursing, agriculture, business, engineering, aquaculture and nautical sciences, among others.
I told them, however, that they have to also make sure that they have quality elementary and high schools, the very foundation of quality universities. I was glad to visit the campus of Northfield, one of the schools in the country that have pioneered in involving parents directly in the education of their children as they are given an education at the elementary and secondary levels. I am proud of the fact that 35 years ago, I was one of the educators that collaborated with a group of parents in the Metro Manila area in developing this innovative technology of intense parent involvement in the basic education of their children. These parents--who in the 1970s were in their late twenties or early thirties--adapted a technology that was perfected in Spain and Latin America under the inspiration of St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei. They formed a foundation called Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) that has been instrumental in the spread of this educational technology to other cities in the Philippines. There are PAREF schools in Alabang, Quezon City, Antipolo, Cebu, and Iloilo. In other cities, there are schools following the PAREF model, such as the one in Cagayan de Oro City.
The theory behind PAREF has been in existence for centuries as derived from the teachings of Christianity. Leo Trese, a famous priest author in the United States summarized the theory in his book entitled Trilogy: "In His infinite goodness, God chose to share with us His own creative power. Man, woman and God, these three would be partners. By an act of profound love which would express the complete giving of themselves to one another, man and woman would initiate the new spiritual soul. This would be parenthood, in which the potential strength and providence of God and the maternal tenderness and patience of God would be reflected by diffraction in human mother and father.
"The dignity of parenthood is enhanced by a further privilege accorded by God. Father and mother are not only to be partners of God in the creation of new human life; they also are to be his partners in the nurturing of the child's spiritual soul. Parents not only will be the procreators of children, they will also be the makers and molders of saints. Under the warmth of their love, for each other and for the child, this new soul will unfold and flower with the sanctity willed for it by God. Through the love of his parents for him, the child will learn what it means to love the God Who gave them to him. Through the prayers and the example of these parents, God will channel His graces to the child. Not merely to people the earth with humans, but to people heaven with saints. This is the ultimate meaning of parenthood."
These are beautiful and inspiring words. Unfortunately, basic education for centuries since mass education was introduced had been undertaken with very little parent participation. Thanks to the pioneering work of the parents who formed PAREF thirty five years ago, there is now the possibility for parents to be truly involved in the establishment, management and operations of schools for their children. All the schools under the management of PAREF adopt the following mission: "PAREF holds the principle that education begins at home; that parents have the natural and primary responsibility of educating their children; that parental authority includes the care and upbringing of children towards the development of their moral character and well being; that the children have the right be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and strengthening of their character; that the family is the seedbed of this formation."
Only parents who are willing to actively participate in the education of their children will be allowed to send them to PAREF schools. Parents, the school management and teachers have to be constantly in touch with one another to achieve the following vision: "PAREF affirms the complementary role of the School in the education and formation of children. In this collaborative undertaking with the parents, the School commits itself to guarantee, safeguard and promote the right of the child to be raised in an atmosphere conducive to morality and rectitude and confirms its duty to give the parents the necessary support towards their own formation, to enable them to carry out effectively their sublime calling." Needless to say, all academic courses offered in PAREF schools follow the curricula required by the Department of Education. The schools value and honor the values and ideals of the nation. For those with the Christian faith, the religious instruction is based on the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.
The education offered by the PAREF schools consists of the following: a) Demanding and holistic academic program; b) the mentoring system as the distinctive feature of personal formation and collaboration with parents; c) the imparting of a broad and humanistic and cultural formation; d) and the encouragement of the cultivation of human virtues towards the development of personal maturity, leading each person to achieve perfection in his work according to his ability. Within the framework of the law, the PAREF School Board has the overall responsibility of directing, organizing and developing all the teaching and formative programs and activities of the schools, and of ensuring that parents, teachers, nonteaching staff and students faithfully adhere to the formation described in the mission-vision statement of the Foundation.
Since its establishment thirty five years ago, the PAREF system has already graduated more than 6,000 students who have been admitted to such leading universities as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo University, De La Salle University, University of Sto. Tomas, the University of Asia and the Pacific and others. Many of these graduates have excelled in the various professions such as engineering, medicine, law, education and business. A good number of them are also very active in the running of nongovernmental organization (NGOs) committed to the cultural, social and educational development of Philippine society. Parents who are interested in sending their children to the PAREF schools may get in touch with the main office at Unit 107-109, Cedar Mansion 2, St. Josemaria Escriva Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Tel. No. 631-4292, email address firstname.lastname@example.org. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.