Written by: Margarite Igcasan
Edited by: Michael Ramos
“We have to improve on our teaching styles and strategies to cope with the demands of the so-called ‘21st Century Learners’. I can proudly say that it was Knowledge Channel’s materials that made us start with the ICT integration of lessons.” – Dr. Maria Cristina Robles
An increasing student population, shortage in classrooms, and lack of access to technology are just some of the shortcomings faced by urban public schools every year. Navotas National High School (NNHS) is no stranger to this, as testified by Dr. Maria Cristina Robles, principal of NNHS since 2008. “When I came to Navotas National High School, it was the time that the school is besieged with large class sizes, limited classrooms and resources that needed to be given to us,” Robles shared.
Working in the academe for more than 23 years, Robles has witnessed the hardships of teaching in such a challenging environment. There were times when more than 80 students were crammed into classrooms fit for 45 students and classes were held until the evenings to accommodate three shifts.
With these recurring problems, students started to get uninterested in learning while teachers remained stuck in reciting lessons, writing on blackboards, and other traditional methods of teaching. “The common type of teaching is ‘chalk talk’,” Robles explained. “Meaning to say, the usual means like using manila paper when we teach.”
With the desire to improve the dire situation NNHS was in, Dr. Robles had to find ways to turn things around. “I contemplated on starting with projects that would enhance teaching and learning so that the quality of education we can provide to the Navotenos will really be useful, happy, smart and service-oriented,” she said.
Interestingly, she found her inspiration from two NNHS Science teachers, Leo Mel Ramos and Russel Samson. They used their own laptops to teach 70 to 90 students, almost double the average size of 45 students per class. They wanted to engage as many children in class in the best way possible. This became the starting point for Project M-CART wherein Dr. Maria Cristina Robles, NNHS Principal IV, saw this as an innovative teaching strategy that may be practiced by all teachers.
Using technology and borrowing from Efren Peñaflorida’s “kariton classroom” concept, Project M-CART was envisioned as the school’s solution in improving the way kids learn in large classes. It “engages and motivates students using animated graphics, videos, and multimedia resources.” (Source: Project M-CART Overview)
When the project started, it was difficult for NNHS to buy and use ICT materials because it was not included in their usual allocated budget. They worked out their way by using their personal computers and other ICT materials to prove that it is, indeed, an effective and efficient way of teaching.
“People are resistant to change,” Dr. Robles shared. The community, officials, and even the teachers in the school were doubtful if the project will succeed.
But her passion and persistence in encouraging her teachers to embrace the potential of using technology in education was the key to the project’s success. “The teachers should be given the chance to accept the idea, to be an agent of change,” Robles said. “The first requisite is for them to accept it. Embrace it, use it as a culture and then later on entice other people in the community and in other schools to do the same.”
A model of excellence
The project was submitted to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in 2011 where it got considerable attention due to its innovative approach in addressing the problem of teaching large class sizes. It was awarded as a finalist in the “Innovative Practices in Managing Large Classrooms” category as conducted by the Science Education Institute of DOST. The money awarded was used to purchase and assemble four more Project M-CART units. Leaders of LGUs were soon funding the project as well, and other teachers were pulling out money from their own pockets to buy their own units.
Project M-CART returned to the spotlight again in 2017 when Dr. Robles received the highly coveted Oscar M. Lopez Leadership Award during the Excellence in Educational Transformation Awards (EETA) in 2017.
“Little did we know that, those little things we have done, embracing the culture of implementing changes will catch the attention of people from the award-giving body,” said Dr Robles. “I can proudly say that it was Knowledge Channel’s materials that made us start with the so-called ICT integration of lessons.”
But Dr. Robles emphasized that the more fulfilling reward in leading the project was how it positively affected the students of NNHS.
“The change or the impact on the student is not immediate. It is something that can be reckoned with later through the process. These changes are little things that have impacted the students in terms of achievement, behavior, and the way they deal with other people. I think these are the big effects of the project,” Dr. Robles said.
Dr. Cristina Robles has worked for NNHS since 2008, and has been serving in the academe for over 23 years.
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Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc (KCFI) is a non-government, non-profit organization that works to help uplift the life of the Filipino through media and technology. Since 1999, KCFI has been transforming classroom experiences into unique and engaging learning journeys. It develops and distributes curriculum-based multimedia learning resources for preschool, K-to-12, and the Alternative Learning System via the Knowledge Channel and other platforms. It also implements professional development programs for teachers and education leaders.