MACROHON, Southern Leyte — It is no accident that the Sindangan Elementary School in this town topped the National Achievement Test in 2006. It again took the first place in this year’s examination for Grade Six that was conducted nationwide last March.
The school examinees received a 94.86 mean percentage points (mps) of the five NAT subjects, or about a point more than the 93.82 it got in 2006.
A backwater village of Macrohon town, Sindangan is 13 kilometers from the town proper, 7 kms of which is a gravel road that runs deep into the mountains from the national highway.
Going to and from the barangay (village), one has to travel a rough road. Only one passenger jeep is plying the remote mountain village. Its population is about 300. The average family income per year is P20,000, derived from copra and other agricultural products.
Although there are a few families who own television sets and Dream cable, children have little distraction and are focused on their studies, according to teachers.
It has about 195 pupils from grades one to six, 35 of whom composed the graduating class. There are 10 teachers headed by OIC head teacher Virginia Cortina.
The school has five two-classroom buildings. But one of the buildings was already dilapidated. Some wooden parts of the building have been eaten by termites and one of the classrooms was abandoned as teachers feared it would fall on pupils any time.
The physical state of the school did not, however, deter the students from doing their best, the school’s teachers said.
Long preparation made their feat possible, according to Grade Six adviser Margarita Gabriel.
Gabriel said their preparation included mastering the five subjects of NAT — Math, English, Science, Filipino and Hekasi (Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika) – for three months, starting January.
Diligent teaching, using review materials and a lot of prayers were her “secret” in achieving their top ranking in the NAT for two years in row. Each class in the school would start its day with a passage from the Bible, Gabriel said.
Violeta Alocilja, Department of Education’s Southern Leyte Division superintendent, said Gabriel was known within the DepEd-Southern Leyte to be a good teacher.
“She goes out of her way to follow up slow students. (She) went to their houses and explained to parents what their child needed,” Alocilja said of Gabriel.
Cooperation from the Parents, Teachers, and Community Association helped because it was the PTCA that provided the snacks needed by the Grade Six students during their Saturday reviews for the NAT, said Gabriel.
Virginia Cortina, head teacher of Sindangan Elementary School, said they employed different strategies in getting the results. But she stressed that the rigid review of NAT subjects were done without thinking of topping the examination as the sole objective.
Cortina said they received P60,000 for the feat of topping the NAT last year also in March. She said Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz personally handed the amount to her during the Teacher’s Congress in Baguio on Dec. 6, 2006.
But the money was still at DepEd provincial office although the check was drawn in favor of Sindangan Elementary School.
She said they were supposed to use the amount for improvement of their school and for snacks as celebration together with the children’s parents. But she said Division Superintendent Violeta Alocilja instructed her to deposit the amount instead to the DepEd account in exchange for more improvement. But the promised improvement did not come.
“I was told to wait by Ma’am Alocilja. So as a good teacher, I waited this long even if the PTCA and other teachers were already looking for the amount,” she said.
Alocilja, when reached for comment, told the Inquirer that the amount was used to buy a magic sing, sound system and computer. “It’s now ready for delivery,” she said.
Three other elementary schools in Southern Leyte made it to the top ten.
They were second placer Tomas Oppus Central School in Tomas Oppus town, with 94.53 mps (6th last year with mps 91.16); fourth placer Laray Elementary School, which is just 2 km from Sindangan, with 92.87 mps (9th last year with 90.13 mps) and newcomer Tuno Elementary School in Liloan town on Panaon Island at number 10 with 92.14 mps.