As we close this happy celebration I would like once again to congratulate all our awardees for 10, 15, 20, 25 and 35 years of service in the Ateneo. Especially warm congratulations and well-wishes for our retirees. I thank you for your choice to make ADDU the home of your careers.
As attested by your many beautiful statements in the souvenir program, teaching on the basic education level or giving instruction in the higher education level, doing research and responding to needs of the community, or supporting education at the ADDU through staff work or administrative leadership have not just been a job for making a living; it has been an opportunity to respond to and live out a vocation, to grow in one’s personal identity and spirituality, to make friends – even as dealing with the frictions of cooperation and collaboration in daily life has often been challenging. After all, ADDU is not a fourth-industrial-revolution integrated system of robots; it is a community of human beings. Building a communio that is warm, supportive, creative and productive is not only a human challenge; it is also a challenge of faith, a challenge of responding to the love of God who invites all of us to love one another in our educational service. In this context, it is a priceless gift.
Recently we had a visitor here: Fr. Jose Mesa, the point person for basic education of the entire Society of Jesus. He came here with the notion that “school” means only basic education, and that basic education is a totally different animal from higher education, and never the twain shall meet. I think he experienced here that in a university such as ours basic education is as integral to the university operation as higher education, and that both find their integration in pursuit of the vision and mission of the school.
I am happy that in May of this year, long before the new document of Jesuit Schools, a Living Tradition was published in November, all of us together have been able to reformulate our vision and mission, articulate and approve a new strategic plan, and identify key result areas and indicators so that we will be able to track our performance as we implement it.
Through this strategic plan – with your help – we hope to be able to meet the challenge of survival posed by government’s lopsided spending on public education.
With your help, we will not only survive, we will thrive, insisting on teaching our students, and teaching them well; installing quality assurance measures that will allow ourselves and others to know whether what we are claiming for ourselves is really true, or only a figment of our imagination. After our K-12 reform, in which we are all involved, it was embarrassing to learn that in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2018, of 79 countries when it came to reading, science, and mathematical skills, the PH was at the bottom. The study also sadly revealed that even the best of learners tested were scoring only average on the global scale.
That ignominious distinction has to be painful to all of us who serve in what the Constitution describes as “a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education” responding to “the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” where public and private school play complementary roles. (Art. XIV, secs. 1, 2, 4)
The poor performance has motivated Sec. Leonor Briones to launch Sulong Edukalidad that will review the K-12 program, improve learning outcomes, upskill and reskill teachers, and engage stakeholders for collaboration and support.
For us at ADDU, it will mean checking on the quality of our instruction, making sure that our learners are able to read, comprehend what they read, write, think critically and grow in the scientific and human knowledge and skills that they come to us to learn. It will mean working together to ensure that our teachers are equipped with the best of disciplinal knowledge and pedagogical skills.
It may also mean contributing to the national educational quality reform, examining critically our educational policies in public and private schools from our own experience and data, even if this implies distancing ourselves from policies of the DepEd or of the CHED whose outcomes are not quality assured.
In the higher education level, after rigorous disciplinal instruction in basic education, it will mean making sure that our students are well exposed to inter- and multidisciplinary learning opportunities so that they can be complex problem solvers, critical thinkers, sources of creativity and innovation, and persons of good judgment.
It is in this context that I thank you today for your ongoing commitment to ADDU. There is much that has been done; there is much that has yet to be done. Thank you for being part of it! Thank you for your ongoing collaboration and support over many, many years.
Ad majorem Dei gloriam!