Culture and Context Specific Teaching in the NCDC

When you go to a Local Government Unit (LGU) that has a National Child Development Center (NCDC), you will be able to identify it right away because of the building’s green and blue walls. When you look inside, almost all NCDCs look the same too because the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Council provides its contents, furniture and learning materials that are child-friendly.

If a person looks at it this way, one might think that NCDCs across the country are all the same, but unknown to most is that even if they all have the same structure, content, and use the same learning resources, each of them employ different teaching strategies that are unique to their localities.

The Banana Trees of Tuy, Batangas

Teacher Hilary Umali of Tuy, Batangas has been a teacher for 11 years. Starting off as a Day Care Worker for six years, she was eventually chosen to be the Child Development Teacher in their municipality back in 2016. After being trained by the ECCD Council, she eventually started teaching in their municipality’s NCDC that is surrounded by banana trees.

In one of their child-led sessions, Teacher Hilary asked the children about their interests and she fondly remembers one student saying, “Teacher saging na lang pag-usapan natin!” Eventually, all the students followed the lead and it became the start of their ‘banana learning’ journey.

For weeks they were able to talk about different concepts that are related to banana trees such as benefits of eating bananas, different kinds of bananas, living and nonliving things, things needed by plants in order to live, parts of a plant, stages of plant growth, and using their senses while observing and describing the tree.

For the concepts to be more relevant to the children, she also let them plant a banana tree and let them water it everyday, with this activity she shared that, “Kahit hindi gumamit ng lapis at papel ang dami naming nagawang activities at nag explore yung mga bata at natuto based sa mga experiences nila.”

Teacher Hilary also shared that the experience helped her students be aware, and eventually appreciate, one of the sources of livelihood of their municipality, “Bukod sa tubo ay pinagkukunan din ng kabuhayan dito sa amin ang pagtatanim at pagbebenta ng saging.” She also shared that because of their lessons, the children now appreciate the fruit more and they do not take the banana trees in their surroundings for granted anymore. By exposing them to the different concepts that can be discussed about bananas, the children were given a new appreciation of something that they usually ignored even though they were surrounded by it all the time.

The Coconut Trees of Gubat, Sorsogon

Teacher Marivic Enguerra is from the municipality of Gubat, Sorsogon. A teacher for almost a decade, she has now been assigned as the ECCD Focal Person of their LGU. But when asked about her experiences as a teacher, she clearly remembers her challenging but joyful years as an educator of children aged 0-4 years old.

Since coconut farming is one of the major sources of livelihood in their area, it is not a surprise that the NCDC in Gubat is surrounded by coconut trees. Because of this, Teacher Marivic was able to start the “Coconut Tree Project” with her class.

At the beginning of the project, she focused on the topics of living and nonliving things, trees and plants. She used stories, songs, poems to introduce the concepts and then let the children explore different things outside the classroom until they found the coconut tree. She shared that, “Napapansin ko din po kasi na lagi silang naglalaro sa may puno ng buko, minsan yung mga nahuhulog na dahon nilalaro din nila. Kaya nung nag-usap kami ng mga gusto nilang pag-aralan, di na ako nagulat na napili nila yung puno ng buko.”

Using the children’s prior knowledge about coconut trees, Teacher Marivic set up different visits in their community and brought the children to a coconut farm, a walis tingting store, and a coco lumber maker. She also invited a buko pie maker as a resource person for her class so that they can learn how to make food out of coconuts.

They also had an activity where she taught the children how to make a walis tingting. When asked why, “Lagi po kasi nila nilalaro yung walis tingting. Pinuputol, tapos tinatanggal sa pagkatali kaya naisip ko paano kaya kung ipakita ko sa kanila kung paano ‘yun gawin. Ipaparealize ko sa kanila na mahirap yung pinagdadaanan nung gumagawa noon.” After the activity, she shared that she was able to achieve her goal even though she did not point out how hard it was to make it. She simply showed the process and the children stated, “Teacher ang hirap naman nito.” That’s why after the activity, they stopped playing with it and she even heard some of them say, “Wag na natin laruin yan mahirap yan gawin.”

For their culminating activity, her students showcased different uses of coconuts by making their own products such as a walis tingting, explaining outdoor planting, and making their own buko juice, buko pie, and buko salad. It was a very successful activity and she shared that the children were proud of what they accomplished, “Sa kanila po iyong pinakita nila eh. Guide lang po ako pero lahat ng nagawa nila, kanila po ‘yun kaya siguro sobrang proud sila sa sarili nila.”

Using their Culture, Local Context, and ECCDC Training as a Guide to Teaching

According to Teacher Hilary, the environment is a huge factor as to how a child learns, she stated that, “Yung attitude (personality) po kasi ng mga bata nakukuha nila sa environment nila. Kaya kung gagamitin natin yung mga nakikita sa environment sa pagtuturo, mas madali po itong matututunan ng mga bata. Mas mai-aapply nila sa pang araw-araw nilang buhay ‘yung mga lessons namin.”

When asked if culture should always be considered whenever a teacher creates her lessons, she shared that, “Yung kultura kasama sa tinitignan mo bilang guro kasi doon galing yung attitude (personality) nila. Sa bahay iba-iba sila ng background pero habaan lang ang pasensya. Tapos makikita mo sa lessons may mga pagkakapareho din sila kasi madami sa kanila anak ng magsasaka. Kaya nakakahanap ako ng maituturo na lahat sila ay magkakaroon ng interes.”

On the other hand, Teacher Marivic highlighted the importance of using indigent resources in their community wherein the children couldo learn different concepts and apply them in real life situations, “Narealize ko po na hindi naman kailangan laging bumibili ng materials. Yung mga walis tingting nagamit namin yung for counting activity, yung parts of the plant ayun po nagtanim kami di na kailangan ng poster. Tapos mas madali pa nilang natututunan kasi ‘yun yung nasa environment, ‘yun yung lagi nilang nakikita.”

She also shared that being able to know the children’s individual stories gives her context on how to teach the children as a group. “Para po silang labada na iba-iba pero pag naayos mo na, madali na lang gawin po kasi naiintindihan mo paano sila linisin, o ‘yun po para sa mga bata – turuan.”

To end the interview, she shared that she will keep three things in mind as an ECCD Focal person who will now guide her fellow teachers in their community, “Ang pinanghahawakan ko na lang po talaga ay number one po, I let the children enjoy their stay in my classroom. Play while learning po talaga. Tapos I see to it na bawat bata naririnig ko ang kanilang boses. Hindi ako nagpapauwi ng bata na hindi ko nadidinig ang kanyang boses. And pangatlo po pinaparamdam ko sa kanila na bawat isa sa kanila ay may papel sa aking classroom at belong po siya, at walang maiiwan sa aking classroom kasi loved at welcome sila palagi.”

The stories of Teacher Hilary and Teacher Marivic are just two out of 813 stories that can be shared by Child Development Teachers across the country. They may all teach in a blue and green building, be offered the same contents inside it, but their method of teaching will always be unique. This is because they base it on three important things – the children, their environment, and the culture that they all share.