By Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President
During the recently held 13th International Mathematics Contest (IMC) in Singapore, 39 students from Makati’s public elementary and high schools won three gold medals, seven silver medals, and 14 bronze medals.
The students from Makati’s public schools were part of the Philippine delegation which also included students from leading private schools. Overall, the Philippines ranked first in the competition, besting students from China, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Australia, and India.
Makati’s impressive medal haul in Singapore was not the first for the city. Since 1986, Makati’s public school students have been awarded for their sterling performances in various international competitions, primarily in Mathematics and Robotics.
After instituting needed reforms and getting the support of the business community during my first year in office, the local government had enough funds to address the basic need of our residents. Aside from health care, education was a priority.
We wanted to provide our public school students with an atmosphere conducive to learning. Sadly this was not the case in Makati. In 1986, Makati’s public schools were poorly constructed and poorly maintained. Classrooms were dimly lit, the desks were dilapidated, and the toilets were clogged. One school did not even have a toilet for hundreds of students and their teachers. We cannot expect our students to learn under these conditions. We wanted our students to enjoy going to school, to learn better, and to excel.
We repaired and rehabilitated existing schools, constructed new ones, and upgraded facilities. We insisted that the local government, not the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), build the school buildings to ensure that the buildings meet our standards. We made sure the buildings were well-maintained.
But I noticed during my regular school visits that many students were going to school in tattered or hand-me-down uniforms. They wore old, scruffy shoes. Some wore only slippers. They carried their school stuff in old schoolbags and even plastic bags. Still, you could see in their bright eyes and bubbly disposition an eagerness to imbibe new ideas, to learn, and to soar.
For many families, the cost of their children’s school needs strains their meager budget. I decided to provide free school supplies – notebooks, pad papers, pencils, ballpens – as well as workbooks, uniforms, and shoes for our students. We were the first local government to do so, and we do it every school year. Other LGUs would follow several years later.
For 2017, the present Makati leadership allocated a budget of P741.6 million for the school needs of all students, from day care to college.
We also implemented a feeding program for malnourished pupils that continues up to this day. We have full-time nurses and dentists in our public schools.
Makati was also the first local government to promote computer literacy among our students in 1995. At that time, governments agencies were barely starting their computerization program and computer learning in public schools was unheard of (In private schools, computer training was being offered but the parents had to pay extra). We saw the vast potential of computers as a learning tool and a way of putting our students ahead of the pack.
We began with computer literacy classes in pilot schools. Later we constructred computer laboratories and included computer classes in all schools. Teachers began using computers as teaching aids. Today, the student to computer ratio in Makati is 1:1. Makati has been recognized as the first school division to integrate computer subjects and computer-aided instruction in its curriculum from preschool to high school.
Makati has also introduced several specialized education programs to further hone the skills of our students.
An English Proficiency Program aims to develop verbal communication skills of students by training and participating in various competitions.
A Robotics program instructs students in the design, construction, and operation of automated robots. Makati students have consistently brought home awards from international robotics competitions.
Another program, the Mathematical Challenge for Filipino Kids Training Program, is a specialized program for students who excel in math. This program is conducted in partnership with the Mathematics Trainers Guild (MTG) Philippines. Through this program, Makati was able to build an impressive pool of math wizards who compete with the best from other countries.
I had the privilege of watching our students in action during an International Math Competition held in Manila when I was mayor. Our students were up against the best from other countries. Makati won the gold. It was a proud moment to see our students up on the stage, celebrating their gold medal win. I was as proud as their teachers and parents. It was truly gratifying to see for myself how far Makati’s public school students had gone since 1986; from creaky, old classrooms to the international stage.