Hello, I am a Filipina who’s been residing in Chicago for 20 years. I moved here when I was 16. I went to a private all girls’ Catholic school in Quezon City. I was about to be a senior in high school when our green card got approved, so I moved to the US with my family. I had to be held back two years to being a sophomore in high school due to my age. At first, I was upset because I thought it was a waste of time. I “should be” a senior! But in the end, I realized that it was the best thing that happened to me.
First of all, I wasn’t a stellar student in the Philippines. I am first to admit that. I was terrible in Math, and looking back now I wonder if I had some sort of learning disability that only applied to Math, because the concepts just didn’t click right away for me unlike for my classmates. Hence, I was getting C’s and of course, none of my teachers EVER (I still get angry now thinking about it) reached out to me, or to any of the lower performing students and offered any sort of tutoring, after school help, office hours, NOTHING. We were just on our own. If we didn’t get the material, too bad. The rest of the class moved along to the next topic so I got further and further behind. My father who is a math whiz (chemical engineer degree holder, but ended up being a banker…RIP Dad), did all he could to help me with my homework and i would understand it then, but the next day with me being in class I got lost again. i actually felt guilty cuz my dad had a long day at work, and a long commute home (we didn’t own a car–he’s a thrifty guy) from Makati, and he still had to deal with trying to tutor me himself cuz my fuckin’ teachers couldn’t be bothered or probably didn’t think that outside classroom help was not part of their job description.
I barely scraped by (I wasn’t sure if I really deserved to pass) until my junior year in the Philippines, where my parents received the “terrible news” (cuz you know, it IS the most terrible thing there ever–in hindsight it’s funny now) that I had to enroll in summer school to pass Geometry. I ended up enrolling in a summer remedial course at a public college in QC where I actually UNDERSTOOD the material. I definitely believed it’s in the quality of instructor (even though this public college had a “jologgs reputation” and I was even unjustly embarrassed to admit that that’s where I ended up for summer school) and not necessarily “where” you went to school. Cuz supposedly where i went to school is a pretty good quality one. ANYWAY…so basically my Math “stupidity” probably affected my attitude towards schoolwork in general. I was mediocre in Filipino class, and hardly tried in Christian education, Social Studies, Science (especially in Chemistry. That damn Math again). The only class I got A’s in with barely effort was English. I attributed it to watching 90210 and reading Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley books. I even wrote some articles for the school paper cuz I was one of the better English speakers in our class. I couldn’t be editor though cuz the rest of my grades were mediocre.
Fast forward to public high school in suburban Chicagoland. I tested out of taking ESL and was put in the regular track with the rest of the Americans. My math scores however, put me back a year so instead of college algebra I was in beginning algebra again. I was a sophomore then so there was a mix of sophomores and freshmen in my class. I also had regular classes in Social Studies (Geography), Science (I think I got Biology…i thought it was cool that we got to pick what areas we were interested in). And I jumped at the chance to take foreign language. Wow! In the Philippines, only the very, very exclusive schools or international schools offered any sort of foreign language outside of the college level. Here, we got a choice of German, French or Spanish. I was always interested in the French culture although I never thought that going to France was more than a dream, being a Philippine citizen. I knew that with knowing Tagalog, Spanish would be the easy choice but I thought I’d put myself up for a challenge and took French.
Ok so you guys know how a lot of Filipinos in Manila say school in the USA is “easier” than in the Philippines? I offer the following reasons:
– Students are encouraged to pick a “track” that they are interested in. The gifted ones go on the Honors/Advanced Placement track for their classes for the challenge. Material between the AP and regular tracks are vastly different in content and depth. I got transferred out of regular US History to AP US History and the challenge was definitely there. Taking AP US History tests was the same as taking a college level test. So I bet Filipinos were talking about the regular track but didn’t challenge themselves or didn’t get transferred to the AP track.
– There is a core curriculum but you are not “forced” to take more credits of a certain subject if you know you are not interested in that subject. In the Philippines, we took Music, Religion, Art classes every year but in the US you are not required beyond the state requirement. So knowing myself, tone deaf and not musically inclined AT ALL, I won’t force myself to take more advanced music or art classes and have those classes bring down my GPA. In the meantime, if your talents lie in these fields rather than the more academic ones, you can pursue them further by going for advanced painting, marching band, orchestra, etc type of classes
– Teachers in my suburban Illinois public high school have actual OFFICE HOURS which they shared with students on the first day of class. The purpose of this is to welcome any extra help requests or if a student just wants someone to talk to (aside from a guidance counselor). In my school in the Philippines, I really felt alone and I was scared about not passing my grade because of Math. But i had no help and we couldn’t afford private tutors.
– I remember we had to share a single microscope for a group of 4-6 students of science classes in the Philippines. In the US, each student had a microscope even though we had lab partners. Our lab was very equipped with all the test tubes, beakers, etc. Complete setup for the experiment for two lab partners to share. Back home I think the teacher had to DEMONSTRATE the experiment in front of class because of the lack of equipment to go around.
– Our library hardly had any new books available for checkout, and I remember they kept all the Nancy Drew books behind the librarian’s desk. You had to ask for them specifically. Were they scared the students would steal them? WTF. I guess thinking about it now, we paid all this Philippine tuition money and facilities/equipment in the school was sorely lacking. Where did the money go?
– Why don’t teachers in the Philippines try to encourage their students more to do better? Why were we just branded as “slow” “not interested in trying hard enough” or anything like that? Did they not care? My US teachers really reached out to us and made it clear that if we didn’t get the material, to not hesitate to ask questions.
It is getting late and I can write a “sequel” to this. But basically I am a business analyst now for one of the bigger insurance companies in the US. I owe my success to my US education and I don’t think I owe jack shit to my school in the Philippines. I graduated with high honors from my US high school (I never got into honors Math but I was AP in French, Social Studies, Biology and English/Humanities) which transferred as college credit. Money saved from my freshman college bill. I also got a 4 year academic tuition scholarship from one of Illinois’ public universities. I would say I turned out fairly well and if only basing on FB status updates from my former classmates still in the Philippines, I would say I am one of the most successful ones in the class. I am making close to $80K annual salary which translates to a very good standard of living in Chicago.
Not bad for a chick that can’t even grasp the concept of “factoring” in algebra and branded mediocre and “not trying hard enough” by her Philippine teachers.Published in