Excerpts from the Message of Education Secretary, Bro. Armin Luistro

PAREF Annual Membership Meeting
11 August 2012, University of Asia and the Pacific, City of Pasig

First of all, on a personal note, I think this is a good way to express my gratitude to the PAREF schools and all of you on behalf of my five nephews and nieces who went through the PAREF system in Woodrose and in Southridge. I distinctly remember my elder brother, Toni Luistro, was into a major crisis because of his wife’s long standing illness, and with five children he barely had time to bring the children to school and work so he’d be able to support them, and take care of his wife during those years. And I only found this out after Monet died to realize that the support from the parents both in Southridge and Woodrose has become a constant source of support for her all the way until she died, and even beyond that, by helping my brother to take care of the five children.

During the wake of Monet I realized that a lot of the PAREF parents have actually doubled to be caregivers for Monet, because she was left all alone in the hospital, and you were a constant source of support for her during her illness, during her death, and after that for Toni and the rest of her children. With God’s grace the five children are doing very well. Toni has not remarried. I think he has devoted his life for his kids, and I have always thought that given the opportunity I would like to express the family’s gratitude to all of you. I think that mirrors the type of mission that PAREF parents have. It is beyond taking care of your kids in your PAREF Schools. It is about a PAREF family: a community of parents taking care of each other; it’s taking care of the family, taking care of kids, and beyond just school hours, realizing that is the very heart of your mission.

I would like to start with that and segue into what I feel maybe a lasting legacy, perhaps a distinct help, that PAREF community could give to Philippine education. As you very well know, our Constitution enshrines the role of parents as the primary source of education for their kids. That enshrinement in the Philippine Constitution is something that would have to taken seriously, although in reality, I am not sure if people understand what that exactly means.

I think one model, an extreme model, is a model 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 actually 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.

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 counselor. Those are the two extremes of what Filipinos generally understand as what is enshrined in the constitution as the primary role of parents as agents of education.

In several instances, and we have these in the public schools, we have a Parents-Teachers Association. And yet that model is a model 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 in the experience of the public schools, parents who have stayed on, sued us, because they want to stay on as officers of Parents’ Associations twenty years after kids have graduated in that school.

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 finished schooling.  I have not seen any other model that worked so well, but I am sure in your years of engagement and the many communities that you have already formed, you have a lot of insights on how this may actually work, what are the learnings and what are the tensions that are brought together in an engagement where both parents and teachers see themselves as working in tandem in creating that learning environment. I am sure you have dealt with tensions and struggles to trying to find our specific places within that paradigm and I think that is something worth sharing with the rest of the country. After all no school can be ran without the definite support and engagement of the parent; but what type of engagement? what role do parents actually play? And maybe the PAREF community will be able to model what exactly that engagement should be….

My appeal is two-fold. Number one, maybe the PAREF schools can first of all look at your model of how your parents can engage the school and maybe publicize it to ensure that the rest of the schools in the Philippines can learn from your model. Secondly, maybe you can think of other areas where existing PAREF schools with your resources, can actually partner with the Department in addressing, at least portions, of the community that we need to serve… I am sorry to give you an assignment, but the task of addressing all the problems in the Department can seem to be overwhelming at times and we need all the help we can get and I just assume that this will be a great opportunity to plant some seeds either to continue to be engaged in farm schools or maybe night schools in your current areas of responsibility and institutions. But more importantly something very distinct to the PAREF community and a model that I think is worth sharing now to both private and public schools: how parents can actually be fully engaged and how they can implement what is enshrined in our constitution that the parents are the primary agents of education for their children.

Thank you very much for this invitation to join you this morning. I am very pleased to call myself an affiliate of the PAREF Community. We hope that you can continue to work even more closely together.

Bro. Armin Luistro

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