Sustaining The Philippine Federation Of Family Farm Schools Education Essay

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A 2001 national survey revealed that four million, or 16.2% of the country's children, ages 5 to 17 years, were working. Of this number, 60% work in farms.

The Philippines is mainly an agricultural country with more than 40% of Filipinos living in the rural areas. They are engaged in farming, fishing, and other small enterprises. Most of these Filipinos only finished basic elementary schooling. Unfortunately, the secondary education there is not responsive to the requirements of the rural areas. Furthermore, the regular school year coincides with the farming cycle. Children who work in farms are thus prevented from fully participating in class, if they attend classes at all. For example, the dropout rate for elementary students in Mindanao is 11% to 12%. This is significantly higher than the national average of 7% to 8%. [2] 

Due this, poverty can be very well seen in the countryside. Education offers an opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty. It enables to people to become competent for better jobs or to be self-employed. But most children in farms are denied of this chance to escape poverty.

The Family Farm School

The concept of Family Farm School (FFS) was established in 1935 in a small town southeast of France where a community laid the foundation for the alternating training system.

The information in this case was consolidated by Learning Team 2 from open web sources and documentations shared by PHILFEFFARS and DISOP-FRS Project aside from personal interviews. This case is for classroom discussion purposes only. The insights provided here are not conclusive as to the negative and positive management of the organizations mentioned.

Supported by the parish priest who was an advocate of rural development, the first interested parents decided to form an association. Then a year after, they decided to build a house called Maison Familiale (family house) and they recruited a technician to do the young people's training and to give advice to the parents as well. That was the way the first Maison Familiale Rurale (MFR) was born.

The FFS today are small units of community schools which adopt an alternating cycle of education where the students spend part of their time in the farm or rural enterprises and part of their time in the school (Exhibit 1- The Four Pillars).

The school is an association itself.  It is an "association of families, institutions, local government units (LGU), professionals, businessmen, NGOs, civil society organizations (CSO), national government agencies (NGA) and the church." All these sectors should be represented in a family farm school for planning, policy-making, and decision-making. Through a General Assembly (GA), the association elects its Board of Trustees (BOT). The BOT will assume the decision-making function when the GA is not in session. The association/school assumes the responsibility of development and the promotion of the rural environment through integral educative actions, especially with the youth, as a way of responding to common problems. They make sure that the educational system is relevant to the needs of the rural areas for development. The association will be the one to decide on the design of the school and the curriculum based on their needs. It also designs mechanisms on how to access support from various agencies and individuals, aside from deciding as to how resources are made available, mobilized and utilized. The students are educated and trained to become entrepreneurs, skillful farmers, or fishermen. They may also become employees in rural businesses. The system has been proven effective in other countries for more than 66 years.

Three FFS were created in the 1940s. There were 460 FFS in the early 2000s. Now, there are more than 1,400 FFS established in 40 countries in 5 continents worldwide (Exhibit 2. A map showing the locations of FFS all over the world).

Precursors of PHILFEFFARS

In the early 1980's, a Spanish-Filipino philanthropist / businessman, Fritz Gemperle, visited Spain and was exposed to some of the existing FFS in some of the communities there. He was impressed and content with the relevancy of this educational model that he wanted to established same FFS in the Philippines. Upon coming back to the Philippines, he founded the Pampamilyang Paaralang Agrikultura, Inc. (PPAI) in 1986 who established the first FFS in Barangay Dagatan, Lipa City called the Dagatan Family Farm School (DFFS). It catered to the boys only which was inaugurated by the former President, Corazon C. Aquino, on August 8, 1988.

The establishment of the farm schools at Balete and Tuy, both in Batangas, followed. These areas were selected because the group of Mr. Gemperle owned properties in those areas.

PPAI mobilized resources from Mr. Gemperle and his network. It is notable that some of the donors of PPAI were prominent businessmen in those areas and from Metro Manila, aside from international linkages.

Other farm schools were later established, including: Dingle FFS, Iloilo (1996); Bais FFS in Negros Oriental (1996), Lanao FFS, Lanao Del Norte, Canili FFS , Aurora and Yason FFS, Oriental Mindoro. Establishment of these FFS were facilitated by intensive networking of the PPAI. Forerunners of these newly founded FFS were friends of Mr. Gemperle particularly, the elite Cacho Family in Iloilo, Congressman Dimapuro in Lanao del Norte, Escano Family in Negros Oriental, the prominent Angara family in Aurora, and the Institute for Development and Environment Sustainability (IDEAS), a NGO in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.

PPAI formed the National Pedagogical Team (NPT) as a technical support for these family farm schools while mobilizing funds to support the operations of each school. Gradually, the PPAI initiated to affiliate itself to Association Internationale des Maisons Familiales Rurales (AIMFR), an international federation of family farm schools based in France. When PPAI successfully became part of the federation, it sought technical assistance and financial support from the latter.

The technical arm of the AIMFR is the Solidarité Internationale des Mouvements Familiaux de Formation Rurale (SIMFR) wherein DISOP International has great contribution in funding. DISOP International has a regional office in the Philippines.

In response to the request of PPAI, the SIMFR recommended to PPAI to collaborate with DISOP Philippines. Hence, from 2005, support funds were given to PPAI through DISOP Philippines. The first phase of the project aimed to standardize the farm schools in the Philippines. Implemented from 2005 to 2007, it consolidated the gains of every farm school. Through the cooperation of PPAI and DISOP Philippines, other FFS were established such as La Salud Family Rural School (Calabanga, Camarines Sur), Holy Rosary FFS (Pinamungahan, Cebu) and Capoocan Family Rural School (Capoocan, Leyte). (Exhibit 3. Phillippine map illustrating the locations of all the FFS).

In 2007, SIMFR consultants visited Philippines then went around to some of the FFS. They had a dialogue with some of the stakeholders of the family farm schools.

As a result of their evaluation, SIMFR through DISOP Philippines, implemented the second phase of the project from 2008 to 2010. This was dubbed as "Strengthening and Promotion of Family Farm Schools in the Philippines" which was solely managed by DISOP Philippines. The second phase shifted its orientation from providing operational funds to providing support for capacity building. The targets for this capacity building were school directors, tutors, and members of the board of trustees of every school. Another target of this project was to establish a federation of family farm schools in the Philippines distinct to that of the PPAI.

The Establishment of PHILFEFFARS

A number of school directors, school administrators, members of FFS Boards of Trustees, representatives of DISOP Philippines gathered in Quezon City on August 28, 2008 to form the Philippine Federation of Family Farm Schools (PHILFEFFARS). The following schools were the initial members of the federation: Dagatan FFS, Talon FFS, Canili FFS, La Salud FFS, Capoocan FFS, Lanao FFS, Bais FFS, Yason FFS, Holy Rosary FFS. Catarman FFS (Catarman, Northern Samar), established by Eastern Visayas Partnerships for Rural Development, Inc. (EVPRD), was interested so they attended and joined the federation.

Some agreements were reached:

To respect the uniqueness of every school considering the diversity of situations where these FFS are located.

To recognize the title "family farm school" as interchangeable with "family rural school." The latter was an attempt to define the concept in broader terms like considering several rural activities as subjects for learning and not limiting schools to farming activities only.

To formulate the Constitution and By-laws.

To set the schedule for strategic planning and crafting the vision, mission, goals and objectives.

To register the federation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

To prepare an action plan for two years.

A Board of Trustees (BOT) was elected, with Dr. Ciriaco Gillera, School Director of Lanao FFS as the Chairman; Dr. Edwin Celestino, School Administrator of Catarman FFS as the Secretary; Jose San Juan, School Director of Dagatan FFS, Filemon Repollo, School Director of Bais FFS and Rev. Fernando Villanueva, President of School association in Talon FFS as members of the Board (Exhibit 4. Organizational Structure of PHILFEFFARS, Inc,).

In January 23, 2009, PHILFEFFARS was formally recognized as a legitimate federation, duly registered with the SEC. However, problems such as lack of funds, coordination strategies, and operational procedures beset the newly formed organization.

Vision, Mission, Goals, and Objectives

The vision of the Philippine Federation of Family Farm Schools (PHILFEFFARS) is to be a "strong and unified Federation, leading and sustaining the FFS, and crafting them into globally competitive and technically excellent school."

Its mission is to "establish, coordinate, utilize, promote and expand the activities of the family farm schools that adhere to the four pillars of the FFS system."

In support to its mission, the organization set the following goals and objectives:

To assist the FFS in promoting, expanding and optimally utilizing its human, financial and material resources towards accelerated operations adhering to the principles of the family farm school system.

To maintain and develop manpower capabilities of tutors and FFS association members through training, education and extension.

To serve as a venue to propagate, promote and share knowledge about principles and/or best practices of the FFS system in the Philippines.

To coordinate all activities of all member schools as regards community development and integral formation of the youth and their families.

To assist in the establishment of FFS in the Philippines at the community level.

To engage in resource generation (funds and equipment) as may be required for its operation of programs and projects.

To enter into contract with, and execute with any local or foreign person, corporation, partnership or association, public or private, any lawful agreement for the study of FFS operation and management.

To represent the member schools in local and international fora.

To initiate, conduct, monitor and/or assess FFS in the Philippines.

To maintain a capital fund for investment to enable it to have the funds and earnings for its operating management and to finance development programs/projects and activities initiated, sponsored or assisted.

To engage in resource generation (funds and equipment) as may be required for its operation of programs and projects.

Core Values and Principles

The federation has the following core values and principles:

Sustainable.  The FRS has viable plans for sustainability to continue to deliver intended benefits over a long period.

Inclusive. The communities, with its formal and traditional leaders, the different sectors, individuals, groups, and organizations are encouraged to participate in the FRS.

Demand-Driven.  Support is given to enable the communities prioritize their own needs, design the curriculum based on their needs and make decisions on how their resources will be used.

Localized Decision-Making. The people discuss and decide on important issues that affect them so they will be able to address problems they themselves identified. The communities prepare and prioritize their choice of enterprise projects for funding.

Empowering. The FRS invests heavily on capacity-building activities to progressively develop the students, parents, and the communities from analysis of local conditions to design of appropriate interventions, to actual implementation of enterprise projects

Transparent. People's participation is the FRS's core requirement, and the active engagement of community members in the various development processes and interventions is a necessary prerequisite tot he success of all project activities and interventions.

Simple. Processes, procedures and other requirements that pertain to the FRS system are kept simple.

PHILFEFFARS Programs and Activities

Enhancing the Pedagogy

PHILFEFFARS, together with DISOP Philippines, was able to conduct a total of 17 formations. Of this, 10 were intended for Tutors, 6 for School Directors, and one for the NPT members. Overall, the Project capacitated 36 tutors, 10 School Directors, and 20 members of the NPT. The series of activities focused on realigning all existing member-schools to the real vision and objectives of the FRS system.

The result of the formation afforded the target clients (tutors, School Directors, NPT) a better appreciation and awareness of their crucial role particularly in the delivery of holistic formation for student-learners of the FRS. Among the formations conducted, those that pertain to contextual teaching and learning (CTL) and the "FRS management" were the most appreciated. The CTL made the tutors better teachers they can now facilitate formation as it relates to the Four Pillars. On the other hand, the School Directors now appreciated the need for them to work harmoniously with the teaching staff in order to carry out the objectives of the family rural schools. Also, they were convinced to "get out of the box" by becoming real managers and not just school heads and principals.

The creation and formation of the NPT gave the PHILFEFFARS the needed extension arm that will uphold the FRS pedagogy through curriculum development and setting the standards. The draft technical workbooks developed by the NPT are expected to become one of the key activities for the immediate months.

In 2009, it can be said that all of the activities during the year were geared towards strengthening the "four pillars" and the capacitating the direct players in the FRS system. Having a harmony of understanding and orchestrated efforts, PHILFEFFARS believes that these activities have contributed to the achievement of the Project's specific and general objectives.

With the current situation, there is a growing demand to review past achievements and failures and to develop more capability-building formations that will eventually "empower" the teaching staff so they will be able to effectively transfer relevant skills to the student-learners including their families and the communities where they belong.

Building the Key Players' Capacities

Efforts aimed at organizing "responsible associations" and strengthening its management capacities to effectively mobilize technical and financial assistance is one difficult undertaking that the federation pursued in 2009. Having very limited experience and without any exposure to community-driven development (CDD) initiatives, the school heads did not show interest to the idea of giving responsibility to local parents' association in the operation and management of the schools.

On the whole, the federation was able to achieve a considerable success particularly in terms of increasing awareness among key "players" on the need for family rural schools to involve the parents and communities to help address poverty and facilitate rural development. Also, the latest formation that focused on "school management" became a totally new experience for BOT members coming from the ranks of the parents. They disclosed that indeed they can be a "force to reckon with" if given the responsibility to help sustain the family rural schools.

On the downside, the federation that is supposed to be the main institution that will set off the proposed change in the FRS system is still in its infant stage. Certainly, the adage "what you do not have you cannot give" very well applies to the PHILFEFFARS. Some of the hindering factors that slowed down achievement of targets for this component include the difficulty in accessing local OD practitioners/experts who could have provided services to the individual member-schools. There was also a low level of appreciation on the value of having strategic plans because of the fact that School Directors are trained teachers and not managers. Also a given problem is the complexity in convening the Boards of PHILFEFFARS for productive meetings, as they are School Directors who are loaded with responsibilities in their own schools. Finally, calling together and convening the parents and other stakeholders is a relatively expensive undertaking that most schools would rather avoid because of scarcity of funds.

Because of the growing concern for sustaining the family rural schools, more management and decision-making responsibility needs to be effectively given to the FRS associations. The teaching staff is not supposed to be responsible for handling management of the schools. Rather, they are responsible for ensuring the delivery of holistic formation through close mentoring, facilitating the learning processes, providing "hands-on" guidance, monitoring progress, and evaluating results of students and their families. The PHILFEFFARS's primary role is to link, network, and provide support to all member-schools to carry out their planned activities and projects.

Promotion and Advocacy of FFS

Generally, the promotion and advocacy activities for the year 2009 showed a significant improvement compared to last year's efforts. The year also demonstrated the capacity of member-school to make use of what they perceived as effective promotional materials like newsletter, flyers, radio interviews, raffle draws and correspondence in promoting the interest of the schools and to get the support of communities.

The federation and the 10 member-schools were able to conduct various promotional activities through the tri-media and orientation sessions to popularize the FRS concept. The year saw a total of 28 promotional and advocacy activities conducted both by the PHILFEFFARS and the member-schools. This resulted in increase in enrolment of students and increased awareness among communities, the local officials, including other stakeholders on the concept and philosophy of the FRS. Some of the schools now benefit from the support of their local government units and individuals who have become "champions" and advocates of the family rural schools.

The absence of plans for advocacy and promotion has been a major issue that is currently confronting the different family rural schools in the country. In most instances, these activities were limited to the production of brochures as promotional materials that the management use particularly during enrolment period. Newsletters, if there are any, were mostly campus-based and have very limited circulation. Information dissemination is also limited to posters that announce school-related activities. Even the use of letters was mainly for the purpose of asking support or to solicit donations.

Advocacy and promotion is done to promote a worthy cause. It should also be resorted to help open up and expand ownership for a particular undertaking. By doing information education and communications (IEC), family rural schools should be able to convey to communities and other individuals any information highlighting positive effects that which will encourage them to provide support to the cause of the FRS.


Differing Availability and Priorities of the Target Participants

PHILFEFFARS is challenged by the varying availability and priority of the target participants. Planned formations were not conducted according to its target date.

Another issue that surfaced was the attendance of inappropriate participants for a planned formation. The formations provided to inappropriate participants were worthless. Aside from waste of investment, the effect was non-application of knowledge gained.

It was also observed that because of this issue, some participants did not give value to the training they were in. They would come to the training late or left the training unfinished.

Contrasting Interpretations of the Four Pillars

There was no common interpretation on the FRS "Four Pillars". These four pillars refer to the responsible association, holistic/integral formation, alternancia, and rural development. It is startling that even if FRS has existed over the decades in the country, existing FRSs still have varying understanding on these pillars. These interpretations were not definitely caused by the unique situation of each FRS but could be attributed to the varying development frameworks. Several gaps of interpretations between old and new FRS can be observed. This leads to different practices in terms of operations.

The Need for a Shared Vision, Mission and Goals

Only few of the member-schools have strategic plans. Even those which have strategic plans needed to review it to re-align it to their present needs and directions. It was found out that there was a need to revise the organizations' vision, mission, and goals to make them more relevant, and updated. Because of this, PHILFEFFARS was late in crafting its own strategic plan. It was tied-up in waiting for member-schools to submit strategic plans.

Low Enthusiasm within the PHILFEFFARS

It is apparent within the federation that enthusiasm among the Board of Trustees and member-schools is low. It was observed in the BOT that it lacked initiatives in planning, implementation of planned activities, and even in decision-making. Lack of communication between members of the federation was also noticed.

Weak Monitoring and Evaluation

One of the weak points and characteristics of the PHILFEFFARS and its member-schools is along areas monitoring and evaluation. There are no clear-cut monitoring and evaluation systems. Therefore, effective M & E systems should be installed within the federation which shall be the basis of planning and benchmarking organizational effectiveness. Along this line, reporting responsibilities should also be clearly delineated.


Low Appreciation of the Concept of "Responsible Association"

In all of the member-schools the "parents association" was considered the responsible association. It was even found out in some of the FRS that there were no existing "responsible association". In some FRS, like the Catarman FFS, FRS to them is a pet project of an NGO and establishment of the responsible association is not one of the key results of the project. In Dingle and Bais FFS, parents' associations were mere nominal associations, and not for the management of the FRS.

Low Level of Appreciation on Advocacy and Promotion

It is a fact that promotions and advocacy is not that appreciated by member-schools. This is because promotion and advocacy undertakings were not embedded in every member-school's strategic plan. One can immediately say that key players of these FRS were complacent to what they have used to. In effect, they have failed to catch the wave of opportunities that passed.

It is also interesting to note that almost all of the FRS lack capability in launching promotional and advocacy activities. The very reason why the FRS did not invest in increasing the capability of the key players is their low level of appreciation on the importance of the same.