There were 5 original incorporators who started the Beacon School in 2000, and it expanded to a board of 14 trustees who were all involved in the conceptualization of the school prior to incorporation. We all shared an appreciation of certain aspects of an international education based on our own experience from studying overseas at various levels from the elementary years to graduate schools. We thought that there were shared qualities of these educational threads that were important and applicable for young learners here.
But while there were already well-established international schools in the Philippines, most seemed untethered from the local culture — somewhat removed from the place and context in which the education was taking place — with students and families forging seemingly transient friendships as they went their separate ways in the world. There was a feeling of being unrooted.
The 14 trustees focused on thinking about what the ideal school should be: an education that was relevant globally but deeply rooted in the best of Filipino values and culture. The initial pegs were some of the prep schools we went to in the US and Europe where the education is more synthesized — flatter — where disciplines of study like math, the sciences, and the humanities are recognizably interconnected and the material not treated like discrete islands of information. We also wanted to create a learning environment where the teachers did not talk down to the students, where there is a healthy level of interaction, where the organization is fairly flat — the opposite of the typical pyramid or rote learning that is common in Asia — and one in which there are opportunities for students to mentor and learn from each other rather than the usual formalities within the classroom. We wanted to establish an ethos where nimbleness of thought and critical thinking are valued rather than suppressed, one that acknowledges that students do not necessarily learn in a singularly uniform mode in internalizing any subject area.
We recognized from the very beginning that we weren’t going to get there immediately — that it would take decades for this pedagogical shift to develop, be adopted, and gain wide acceptance. What we did have was a strong academic program, the foundations of which we described to the parents who first joined the school. Our goal was to turn their kids into agents of change, to give them the tools to navigate a changing world, and to move toward a more meritocratic society where one can be straight, do it right, and still experience success even in a country in which so many aspects seem to be ethically problematic and structurally skewed in favor of built-in entitlement.
The first 10 years of Beacon School was an unexpected success — really quite a surprise given the absence of a track record and our fledgling attempts at turning the usual educational model on its head. To this we give credit not only to the commitment of the open-minded educators and administrative staff, but very much so to the early families and students who understood the school’s founding mission, shared the vision, and had the courage to join the school for all the right reasons. Many of our graduates who went overseas did very well, smoothly slotting into their new secondary schools, anecdotally with no identifiable educational or social deficits. Some of those who chose the option to flip back into the Philippine system were promoted a grade up, particularly on the basis of their strengths in the humanities. Suddenly, in those early years, we had waiting lists. We didn’t expect it.
– Leandro Y. Locsin, Jr.
Administrator & Architectural Design Consultant, Leandro V. Locsin Partners, Architects
Founding Chairman, The Beacon School & The Beacon Academy