Pioneer program advocates adult education, learning amid disabilities
IT WAS IN the early 1960s while doing their apostolate in urban poor communities in Quezon City that the Maryknoll Sisters noticed a number of residents around Loyola Heights who have not completed basic education. Some of them, mostly provincial migrants, have not even attended school at all. This deeply moved the missionary group, who believed that sending the migrants to school meant presenting them
with a chance to eventually be employed and provide for their families. "The Maryknoll Sisters' concern was rooted from their advocacy to provide quality yet affordable education, especially for the marginalized members of society," said Glenda R. Villanueva, a school administrator from Miriam
College, formerly known as Maryknoll College. The simple yet profound desire of the Sisters for the poor members of the communities they served marked the beginning of a groundbreaking literacy program: Maryknoll Adult Education, which was founded in 1967 by Maryknoll Missioner Sr. Blaise Lupo, the first administrator.
Pioneer in adult and alternative education
Fifty years later, the project now known as Miriam Adult Education (MAE) continues to spearhead adult, alternative and inclusive education in the Philippines. "We offer Basic Education and Technical Vocational
Education and Training (TVET) programs for underprivileged youth and
adults, especially to those who have been out of school for years," stated Villanueva, who is currently the principal of MAE. The special academic unit's Basic Education Program provides students with life skills, knowledge and values to help them improve their lives. On the other hand, MAE's Technical Vocational Program hones students' competencies, in accordance
with industry standards, to prepare them for a wide range of occupations.
In SY 20122013, the school started to transition the regular high school to Junior High School (JHS) Grades 7 to 10, and continued to progress towards the implementation of Senior High School (SHS)Technieal
Vocational and Livelihood track with Home Economics and Industrial Arts
strands as areas of specialization in SY 20162017.
Miriam College through MAE also opened its doors to students from public
schools, particularly those in Marikina and Quezon City. This brought the school to create partnership with the Schools Division of Marikina City to be able to absorb their Grade 10 cohorts for the SHS.
Likewise, DepEd granted MAE as an accredited service provider of the Basic Education Program for Alternative Learning System (ALS) Accreditation and Equivalency Learning Support Delivery System. It is a parallel learning system in the Philippines that provides a practical option to the existing formal instruction to enable the students to complete basic education in a mode that fits their distinct situation and needs. ALS graduates are classified at secondary level who may proceed to Senior High School.
In line with the MAE program reform, the TVET courses were re-classified
into one-year and semestral programs following the nominal duration requirement of TESDA in order to provide students with thorough training and preparation for immediate employment.
At present, MAE is offering 10 Technical Vocational courses centered on Service Excellence, Career Professionalism, and Global Communication to prepare graduates for the workplace. Various improvements in MAE's physical facilities were also undertaken in support of the various programs such as the expansion of the MAE Training Center laboratories and upgrading of tools and equipment in compliance with updated TESDA requirements and in accordance with industry standards.
Several initiatives to provide meaningful practicum experiences for students
were set in place. Intensified partnership building for expanded on the job
training (OJT) opportunities were undertaken to assist students. Cafe Gusto, Barista @ Cafe Gusto and KULAY Salon were launched as in-house incubation spaces for practical training and business simulation as training grounds of students other than the industry training and exposure required of them. These extended laboratory learning spaces were designed to establish the work integrated learning venues which enables the students to practice the skills learned in food-related and beauty and wellness courses, respectively.
Furthermore, workplace readiness programs were also designed around the following topics: Work Ethics, Entrepreneurship, Power Dressing and Confidence Building, and Effective Resume Writing and Job Interview Skills are conducted to train and prepare students for employment.
The program, through the years, has produced many inspiring success stories. One of them is Ramil Kim Pacheco, who was already 17 years old when he decided to finish high school in MAE. Ramil used to repair jewels as a job to help his family when he discovered about the program.
He hesitated at first since he knew that Miriam was an all-girls school, but his desire to finish his secondary studies was greater.
"One of the best lessons I learned in MAE came from one of my professors who said 'It is very difficult to study, but it is more difficult to go through life without knowledge.' That pushed me to finish my studies and realize that it's not to late for me to achieve my dream."
Today, Pacheco heads a stone and concrete restoration company in Cebu and Kindle Jewellery. He is also the Senior Marketing Director of the group IMG Teaching Financial Literacy to Every Filipino.
Another inspiring story from MAE is that of Lauro Covencido, more famous by his nickname 'Mang Larry' and purveyor of the campus favorite Mang Larry's Isawan in UP Diliman. Hailing from Bicol, Larry was able to enter high school but did not finish his education because he wanted to help his struggling family. A relative told him about the MAE program, and Larry
wasted no time enrolling. He finished high school in 1985, and it
was enough for Larry to be confident enough and look for a better job.
He landed work with the classic LVN Pictures, which he described was a
good job but his time with MAE made him aspire for more.
Discovering isauo or chicken innards during one of his trips around the city, Larry got the idea of 'elevating' the street food to make it clean and delicious. His isaw eventually became a campus favorite, and he was able to open more 'Mang Larry's Isawan' in other universities. To date, he now has seven branches all over the metro.
"I'm very thankful that I was able to finish my secondary education with MAE. This program, along with the grace of God, became my foundations for what I have become today," Covencido said.
Diversity of learners
In line with the celebration of the group's 50th anniversary, and with the
belief that education should be inclusive, relevant, and accessible to all,
MAE recently expanded to accommodate learners with disabilities, specifically deaf persons.
"We want to help them finish secondary education and even continue to
post secondary education, so that they can be productive and sustainable to
have an even chance to succeed in life," Villanueva expressed.
In 2011, the unit opened its doors to students with hearing impairment.
"Deaf learners have consistently shown potentials for future career
tracks that require technical vocational skills," the principal shared.
For their subprogram for hearing impaired individuals, MAE coordinates
closely with Miriam College Program for Learners with Special Needs.
The latter provides support services via interpreters and note-takers
so that transition to MAE will be orderly.
The deaf students are also "mainstreamed" since they are placed in the
same class as other MAE students. "By doing so, deaf students adjust
positively through the support and encouragement they receive from the
hearing students," Villanueva said.
Diverse pool of learners
Accomodating a diverse pool of students has admittedly not been very
easy. "We had to adjust teaching learning strategies so that the deaf learners will be able to adapt into the learning process but without compromising the needs of the regular hearing students," Villanueva pointed out.
There is also the challenge on interpretation of language considering
that the primary language of deaf students varies. "Some are in English,
while others are in Filipino," the principal said. Having deaf students coming from different educational preparations and orientations has also posed challenges with regards to varying development of their basic learning
Nondiscriminatory learning system
In spite of several hurdles, MAE is determined to accommodate more
learners with hearing impairment. In senior high school alone, the number
of deaf students for Grades 11 and 12 has increased by 1,000 percent from
the last school year.
"We believe that the support we have been getting is due to how the
program has established an inclusive learning environment," Villanueva
shared. According to her, the setup reflects the kind of commitment, attitudes, and values that understands the diversity of learners. "This is in terms of age, social status, economic status, and abilities towards a just and nondiscriminatory learning system."
A chance at a better life
As part of MAE's 50th anniversary, the success stories of several program
participants were compiled in the book titled Kinang. Those behind
MAE hope that the testimonials in the memoir will serve as an inspiration
for schools to reach out to poverty stricken youth and adults. "We believe
that the Maryknoll Sisters did not just establish a school, but passed on a legacy of service and mission to the Filipinos," Villanueva expressed.
Moreover, the team hopes to motivate more underprivileged and disabled
people to make education a commitment and priority. "Programs such as MAE will allow them to become productive and sustainable so that they can have new chances to live a better life — not only for themselves, but for their families and for the entire society," the educator said.
"The power to make your life better is dependent on your own will to
reach your dreams, so take courage to finish education and seek better opportunities to prosper in life."
PUBLISHED IN PRINT: Manila Bulletin Sunday, February 04, 2018, Focus Feature Section, pages 14-15