Countryschool children

Coconut trees chime with the mountain breeze cooling this country school in a cozy town known as the ‘fruit and flower basket of South Cotabato,’ a province an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital of Manila. Children were queuing up to get to their classrooms when I got in for a friendly business chat with the principal.

Cashew Fia, girl in white shirt and sneakers, far left, runs to greet CJ (little boy blue with his back to the camera) who was late for flag ceremony. They are classmates in first grade. Srifle, the Red Riding Hood holding CJ’s hand, is a girl I hired to help (the Grandma who is official guardian) look after CJ. Cheeky, my niece’s dog escorted the duo. That must be his way of saying thank you for the free breakfast I gave him that morning.

There’s a class entrance protocol that is new to me. Each child takes the teacher’s right hand to have it touch lightly on his forehead, and then give the teacher a peck on the cheek before he enters the classroom. The teacher in turn hugs each child and says words of blessing before letting him in. It is done quickly and then the children settle in comfortably on their chairs. They start the class with a song, a Bible verse and a prayer.

Almost three decades have passed since I studied briefly in this school. Corn and lemon used to grow on the front yard. A couple of my family elders have since retired from the school board. Computers now work in the offices, no more yummy ube jam in the canteen, but the christian country charm continues to warm the heart. I will always like it that way.

~ This post is shared with ABC Wednesday ~

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Benefiting from English

Monday, June 11th was CJ’s first day in first grade and the next day I was still on the phone, hungry for updates. My foremost concern was how did he find and take it. Any friends? The first day, I was told, they did mostly orientation stuff. What I liked hearing best of all was that CJ found a friend and behaved just fine.

“Oh, that’s good,” I said to the Grandma. “Who is that kid?” Like any mom I am interested to know who are my child’s friends. CJ’s new school friend, I found, is a transferee student from Cebu. “Looks like a smart kid,” Grandma observed, “he and CJ hit it off quickly as they have one thing in common – they both speak English.”

Apparently, CJ’s English language training has benefited him. And I have yet to ‘unboggle’ my mind about all this talk of local dialects in Philippine schools being adapted as medium of instruction, translations to English, and back to conversational lingo. Sometimes it seems to me Moms have more schoolwork to do than kids.

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The first grader

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Due to a previous school experience in Thailand that CJ had when he was 3, we relaxed adherence to schooling tradition and let him take his time at kindergarten in the Philippines.  But two weeks ago he turned 8 and from the info that the Grandma got from his K1 teacher, CJ would be in K2 next. K2? At 8? Time for horribly expensive overseas phone calls again.

Things could sometimes be downright opaque with long-distance parenting. I know though that CJ lacks learning motivation despite surprising shows of reasoning that under his circumstances I never thought he would be capable of.

Thanks to DepEd guys-slash-close friends Vi and JL who shared what they know upon which I based my decision to sort out CJ’s grade level. JL alerted me to the K+12 basic education program that kicks off this year. That certainly bears an impact on CJ’s age angle even more. Remedial classes should be available for children with difficulty catching up. All matters considered, including recommendations from CJ’s psychologist and developmental pediatrician, he ought to be in first grade this school year.

Department of Education (Philippines)

Department of Education (Philippines) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That K2 thingy hangs like a black cloud above my head. Plan B includes sending CJ to public school if CJ’s present (private) school refuses to admit him to Grade 1. Vi tried to diffuse my tension by saying everything will be fine. Let Grandma pull a few strings as a school board member. Wry smile: Grandma is no longer holding such post, and even if she does I still need to arrange things properly.

So krinnnnggggg goes my phone. I sorted CJ’s case with the school principal who discussed with me exactly what I hoped to hear from him. He also confirmed my observation that most of whatever the Department of Education regulates or implements, private schools follow. CJ would be in first grade come Monday, June 11th.

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