APC’s approach is to provide a continuous multi-lingual and culture-based education and integrate elementary and high school program with the culture and land practices. The education program is implemented in an inclusive and equitable manner within the culture’s environment. The curriculum is designed to achieve empowerment of indigenous communities in terms of social development and environmental management. APC provides locally relevant and culturally appropriate activities that respond to the educational needs of the current generation.
As a community school, the entire gaup (ancestral domain) in Bendum serves as the learning environment of the students and the community members and helps in the education of the students, particularly in cultural discussions and sense of leadership.
APC education program extends to its dalepaan which serves as a microcosm of the students’ own indigenous community. In the dalepaan, the students have more opportunities to learn cultural skills and develop social responsibilities. A dalupaan has many similarities with the yachay wasi of Bolivia.
Culture-based education continues to grow and evolve in Bendum, in response to the community’s changing needs. For instance, from the basic program of Kinder to Grade 6, APC has now developed the basis by which it can offer Gulang level education; its counterpart to a mainstream school’s junior high. Since 2015, APC has been running classes for students in Grades 7 – 10. APC also has four connecting schools in other villages in Upper Pulangi.
The connecting schools of Nabawang, Nabag-o, Kalasungay and Mindagulos have kinder to grade 3 classes then some of the children come to the dalepaan in Bendum and attend further grades. Nabawang has 49 students, Nabag-o 34 students, Kalasungay 28 students and Mindagulos has 41 students. We are seeking to build solid classrooms with all communities. There are three community teachers in each of these schools that do not have government certification but are very well able to nurture the children from their community in their language.
Grade school bendum has 148 students and high school 115 students with 120 of these staying in the dalepaan as they come from neighbouring villages. The total population is 535 students.
We have twenty teachers in all, several who are graduates of the school over the years. The medium of instruction for the grade schools is Pinulangiuen, the lingo franca is Bisaya, they learn the national language Pilipino and also start on English! These are four languages not dialects.
We have an organic farm where we grow much of our own food and this is a training program for older youth. We also teach short courses, hulas, in civil works, carpentry, sewing, forest management and hope to begin one in bamboo.
Challenges were listed in a recent meeting:
- Recruitment of teachers and staff: for present and future staff needs, both local (with cultural knowledge) and external (with technical and curricular knowledge)
- Improved management: 1 Administration, 1 Communications Officer, 2 Academic Coordinators
- Youth accompaniment: need a guidance counselor
- Developing teachers’ capacities
- Teacher accompaniment: improving quality of classroom teaching, not just summer workshops
- Curriculum development
- Developing the salary scale to support and retain teachers, and backing this up with financing as no government subsidy
- Partnership with JBEC schools and exchange with Marywoods Academy
We have had people come from Fe y Alegria and other groups who contributed deeply through their presence. I learned much from my visit to Bolivia and value growing with a Jesuit network for education that is inclusive.
The achievements of the schools are that we even exist and that we hold together and share hope in the life of the culture and the land. We celebrate and we are not ashamed before others. We seek to participate in society and make a contribution and share in the opportunities. We share with our neighbours peace and ask this be respected. Once children we are now our children’s teachers and we care for the land of our ancestors in building a future.
To see the profiles of the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center and Connecting Schools, click here.