Advancing the K-12 Reform from the Ground: A Case Study in the Philippines


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The HEAD Foundation is pleased to jointly publish the ADB Sustainable Development Working Paper Series No. 66 with the Asian Development Bank.

The experiences of the Philippines in the implementation of educational reforms have continuously pointed to the pivotal role of school leaders closest to the ground, and indicated the need to provide them with relevant training.

In systems like the Philippines, an individual’s appointment to a position of leadership is a function of their qualifications, performance as a classroom teacher, and years of service. The Philippines requires all potential principals to take a written examination. Little to no structured professional development is provided for entry-level school leaders.

This working paper suggests taking advantage of existing mechanisms and structures and upscaling relevant and beneficial professional development programmes to aid school leaders in the challenging task of supporting and advancing the K–12 Reform.

The Certificate in Educational Studies in Leadership (CESL), designed and delivered by the University of Queensland in partnership with The HEAD Foundation and the Ateneo Center for Educational Development, is a suitable pilot programme to provide a case study of cost-effective and scalable leadership development for the Philippines. The CESL programme was intentionally designed as a blended programme, allowing the organisers to leverage technology to keep costs manageable, while giving the participants access to high-quality international educators. Participants were also required to design and implement a transformational action project (TAP) that addresses the unique and specific challenges they face in their schools. This helps ensure that the participants are able to apply the theoretical concepts and principles of educational leadership to the real-life problems they face.

The design principles of this pilot leverage on the use of technology, activation of communities of practice, and planning and implementation of context-specific TAPs targeted at education leaders. Due to its small and compact nature, CESL provides a promising mode of contextualised professional development designed for high-performing leaders. The authors conclude that CESL fits within the leadership development ecology of the Philippine Department of Education and the National Educators Academy of the Philippines for the 21st century. As a transformative development programme, CESL can be one of the many ways to jumpstart and sustain authentic education reforms. Through such strategy, the country may be able to achieve significant results in scale, in contrast with scattered and short-lived successes.

Access the full working paper here.

Read more about CESL 2019 here.

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Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.