Bernardo M. Villegas
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Parents As The First Educators (Part 1)

          The Philippine Constitution clearly states that the parents are the primary educators of their children.  Schools only complement and assist the parents in the education of their children.  In a recent issue of the World Bank Research Digest (Volume 11, Number 2, Winter 2017), this primary role was shown to be especially crucial at the preschool level for poor households in developing countries.  Research in several countries in South America and elsewhere revealed that for informal preschools in resource-poor settings, integrating support of parenting can be more effective than simply improving classroom quality.  Several studies were conducted in Chile, Columbia, Mexico and Malawi.  The findings concluded that improving classroom quality had only a negligible impact while improving parenting quality had significant and large effects.  The results suggest that group-based parenting support can have significant benefits for child development in an informal preschool setting.

         A foundation in the Philippines that takes very seriously the role of parents in the formal education of their children is the Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) that was established by a group of parents headed then by Dr Placido Mapa Jr. forty years ago.  There are now schools under the PAREF system in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo, and another assisted by PAREF in Cagayan de Oro.   In these schools, parents are very much involved in the financing, marketing and administration of the schools.  Parents receive continuing education through the mentoring or coaching by older and more experienced parents as well as members of the faculty of the school.  There is constant interaction between parents and teachers about the education of the children.  Formative sessions are held for parents to help them in their primary task of educating their children.

         Five years ago in August 2012, prominent educator Brother Armin A. Luistro, FSC—who was then the Secretary Education and now the President of the De La Salle Philippines—delivered a message to the PAREF community on the occasion of their 35th Anniversary.   In his address, Brother Luistro—who against great odds introduced the K to 12 system in our basic educational system—presented a very succinct history of parent involvement in Philippine schools.  Let me quote what he said: “I think one model, an extreme model, is one of a Home-Study where parents take the full responsibility.  They do the modules inside the comfort of their own homes.  They take the responsibility of actual teaching their kids and maybe with minimal or no help at all from real educators, unless they themselves have real training in pedagogy.  That is one extreme.”  As a university professor, I can attest to the fact that some Filipino parents have been very successful in homeschooling.  We have accepted in our University of Asia and the Pacific products of homeschooling and they compare very well with those who graduated from traditional formal education.  Of course, these parents are exceptionally dedicated to the education of their children and give up a lot of their free time in giving classes to their respective children.

         Brother Luistro continues:  “On the other extreme, you have the general sense that education must be left alone to the responsibility of experts , those who are licensed teachers, those who run universities and schools and the role of the parents is to provide the resources, if they have them, bring them to school, leave them at the gate and pick them up and not have anything to do with the school unless called by the principal or the guidance counsellor….In several instances, and we have these in the public schools, we have a Parents-Teachers Association.  And  that model is one that seeks to implement and put into place the partnership between parents and teachers.  But I have, even in our La Salle schools, our own bad experience of parents overdoing it or maybe doing it for the wrong reasons.  We have the experience of the public schools parents who have stayed on, sued us, because they wanted to stay on as officers of Parents’ Associations twenty years after their kids have graduated in that school.”

         He then complimented the PAREF system:  “I dare say, among the different models that try to put in place what is enshrined in our Constitution, I cannot think of any other model except the PAREF Foundation—where parents take on a very definite role, engages teachers and educators and institutionalizes this model of how parents and teachers can work together so they are a part of the curriculum, the community, and the environment that the school will be and what they intend their children and their graduates to be after they have finished schooling.”  He then appealed to the PAREF community to go out of their way to share their working model with other schools in the Philippines.  As far as I know, PAREF has begun to spread its system by helping communities in the Metro Manila area put up preschool learning centers in which parents are the primary movers in the establishment of the schools.  As validated by the World Bank study mentioned above, the close collaboration between parents and teacher is especially effective at the preschool level when the foundations of the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) as well as character training are laid.  (To be continued).