Philippine Self-Help Foundation

The Lighthouse Learning Center (LLC) - Our 20th anniversary year

The LLC story begins on February 15th, 1996, when Teacher Dorothy Burdeos welcomed in 17 pupils aged 4 to 6 for their first term at our Day Care Centre. Our original school house was a roughly built bamboo structure comprising two rooms and a CR (comfort room). In June, we began our first full academic year with 35 enrollees and chose the name Lighthouse Learning Center for our school.

Over the years, we have made a number of structural changes to the school, the most significant of which was the addition of a second floor in 2003. Our enrollment has fluctuated over the years reaching 150 pupils in 2005 and falling to 61 in 2014.

The decline in enrollment over the past decade has been mainly due to two significant decrees affecting education in the Philippines - the requirement that all public elementary schools should have a kindergarten and the introduction of the K12 curriculum in 2012. The latter decree meant children started grade school earlier and finished high school later; the duration of school life has thus been extended from 10 to 12 years.

As far as the LLC was concerned, the introduction of the K12 in 2012 meant that most our six and seven year olds moved on to elementary school at the same time and this resulted in a 40% fall in our K1 and K2 intake for the year. In contrast, our enrollment for the Nursery level (3 year olds) rose by 20%. Overall our pupil enrollment fell from 106 to 88.

In April, 2013 we had a series of meetings in the school to brainstorm ideas to address the decline in enrollment. PSHF coordinator, Ireen Ingles came over from Bohol and together with me and our three teachers, we took two significant decisions for the coming academic year - to open up a playgroup for 2 year olds and to offer electives (Dance, Art and Voice) for the first time. We redecorated one of our two classrooms downstairs to make it ‘play friendly’, placed cushioning on the walls and bought a nice selection of toys. For the electives, Teacher Genevive was assigned ‘Voice’, Teacher Jonah ‘dance’ and Teacher Agnes ‘Arts’. The idea was for the children to choose their elective and for there to be mixed age groups of participation.

By October, 2013, the results of our initiatives however were proving to be disappointing. Our playgroup was attracting no more than two or three children per session and our electives were grinding to a halt. In November, a restructuring of the electives was agreed upon; we switched them from once a week in the afternoons to once a fortnight in the mornings and combined them with chapel time and P.E. Furthermore, we made attendance mandatory.

On March 28th, 2014, our efforts to revive our electives were rewarded; it was our graduation day ceremony and we were proud to showcase our children’s talents in singing and dance and their artwork was displayed for all the guests to see.

As for the playgroup, whilst we were glad our few participants had enjoyed their daily play time, we really needed more children to make the playgroup viable. We decided therefore to combine it with the Nursery 1 class for the 2014/15 year and make it a 90 minute ‘play and learn’ class. Six children were enrolled for this new class and the balance between play time and learning was appreciated by the parents.

Our Lighthouse learning Center in 2015

We held our 19th commencement exercises and graduation ceremony on the 20th of March. The event took place in Talisay’s newly opened South Town Centre. There were 17 graduates (9 girls and 8 boys) and the 1st Honors was Avelona R. Diaz (6) who impressed us all with a fine speech.

Three weeks after the graduation, a meeting took place in the school to finalise our plans for summer classes and to discuss ideas for the new school year beginning June 8th. One significant decision taken during the meeting was to approach the management of the South town Centre to enquire about the scope for promoting our school on their premises.

Our enquiries with the South Town Center (STC) met with a positive response; for a very reasonable fee, we were welcome to hand out flyers to shoppers, have a table and chairs, and a tarpaulin at the two main entrances. We called in our former teacher Rhea to be our front person and our other teachers (Jean, Genevive and Ginalyn) also took turns in distributing flyers and our school brochure in the precincts of the shopping Centre.

We had no idea when we started how this enrollment initiative would work out but it soon became apparent that we were attracting some considerable interest from parents with young children. From day 1 (June 4th) we kept a daily record of ‘encouraging enquiries’ and the number of flyers distributed. By the end of June, we had 18 sign-ups at the STC and a further 8 children were enrolled by their parents at the LLC as a result of being handed a flyer.

When we opened for classes on June 8th, we had exactly 100 children enrolled (2014:61) and all of us were excited about a new beginning for our school. We have as many as 16 children enrolled for the ‘play & learn’ so we have decided to split the class and have a toddlers class for the first time taught by Teacher Rhea. We have 41 pupils (3 classes) in Nursery, 21 pupils (2 classes) in K1 and 22 pupils (2 classes) in K2, respectively taught by Teachers Ginalyn, Genevive and Jean.

At the General Assembly held on June 19th which I was pleased to attend for the first time, I had the opportunity to outline our vision for the school in the coming year. We have a number of ideas for enhancing our school curriculum and activities which I shared with the assembly - the holding of spelling bees, geography competitions, film nights, environmental education and much more. My presentation was followed by a lively Question and Answer period and the election of the officers of the PTA.

Richard Foster

June 2015