Interview: Aniceto Sobrepeña, President, Metrobank Foundation-Philippines
Aniceto Sobrepeña, President of the Metrobank Foundation in the Philippines, is the driving force behind the country’s annual National Teachers’ Month, together with the Department of Education. His foundation has introduced many other innovations to improve access and enhance the quality of education.
Can you explain the work of the Metrobank Foundation to improve the state of education in the Philippines ?
We implement and fund a wide range of programmes in education and support numerous education-related projects and activities of our partners. Apart from National Teachers’ Month, our flagship programme is the annual Search for Outstanding Teachers, which the Foundation established in 1984 to promote a culture of excellence in the teaching profession.
Each year we give ten carefully selected teachers cash incentives of over US$8,000. Our Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators implements teacher-training programmes, researches and develops curricula and instructional materials.
Other education programmes include the nationwide Metrobank Math Challenge, the national College Scholarship Programme and an educational grants programme to fund construction of school buildings, curriculum development, and teacher training, among others. The Foundation also implements the Fellowship for International Understanding programme to facilitate the exchange of information, expertise and experiences between the Philippines and other countries through study visits by the awardees of the Search for Outstanding Teachers.
Why is the teaching profession so important to the Foundation?
Teachers have always been close to our heart. As a Foundation that advocates quality education, we believe that educators play a crucial role in shaping the minds and hearts of students. We need to support and empower them to carry out this role effectively.
Through the Search for Outstanding Teachers we give a signal to the teaching force that the private sector is a committed partner of the State in this endeavour. By rewarding their performances and achievements, the Search aims to motivate teachers to strive for the highest standards of performance and to give students access to the best possible teaching, enabling them to develop as whole persons who will make positive contributions in the society. Metrobank Foundation believes that by recognizing the outstanding qualities of selected teachers, countless other teachers all over the country can be inspired to achieve excellence.
What is the link between teacher recognition and teachers’ status?
Undeniably, raising teachers' status is a huge and ambitious task particularly in the midst of challenges facing not only teachers but also the entire education system. Many teachers still feel under-rewarded and under-appreciated. But our experience in the Philippines has taught us that even simple ideas, implemented in a sustained manner can contribute to a national movement of promoting teacher status in the community.
What is the idea behind the National Teachers’ Month?
It is a nationwide movement initiated by the government and the private sector, formally launched during the awarding of the Metrobank Foundation Search for Outstanding Teachers awardees every 5 September. It advocates a month-long exercise for Filipinos to express their appreciation for teachers for four weeks before the UNESCO-declared World Teachers’ Day on 5 October. While teachers are generally well respected in the Philippines, there is still a need to reinforce and reaffirm regard for our educators. We believe that this “moral boost” is the least that the private sector can do, given the bigger challenges they face (inadequate compensation, poor infrastructure, insufficient resources and the like).
What are the highlights?
For the past four years the campaign has got support from the highest official of the land, the involvement of institutional partners, both in government and the private sector, full coverage by broadcast, print and social media which has helped get national and international recognition and support. There is a more enhanced appreciation of the value of teachers and heightened awareness and concern for their situation
An attractive logo with the slogan “My Teacher, My Hero” has become the face of National Teachers’ Month, and World Teachers’ Day.
What is your message to the public?
Our consistent message is that we appreciate our teachers. Our children’s future depends on educators, who support the efforts of the family, so let’s invest in that future.
The campaign allows us to give back to our teachers whom we owe so much. We recognize their contributions in shaping the minds of young people and, more generally, nation-building.