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Your Teen Hates School? This Center Offers Alternative Learning
PHOTO BY May Palacpac
  • There are no textbooks and no uniforms that greet you as you enter. The atmosphere is different—you sense it the minute you walk through the doors of Abot Tala, a self-directed learning center in Taguig. 

    Instead, you'll see seven teenagers huddled in one table, painting trees using watercolor under the guidance of their art mentor, Nino Hernandez, while chatting happily with each other. 

    Through glass dividers, you'll see Abot Tala Academic Adviser and Music Mentor, Ericho Fuentes, preparing for the next class in the Music room. Only two of the kids were joining him for music class today, because the rest will use the time to do research for their debate in History class under History mentor Dustin Ancheta later that afternoon. DIY Food class was up next.

     

    PHOTO BY May Palacpac
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    Enzo, an Italian teen, has found a second home in Abot Tala. “He approves of the pasta we made last week,” DIY Food mentor, Diane Gabriel, says. Enzo agrees.

    He accepted a piece of candy from Lucy, a Chinese girl from Art class and thanked her in her language. “Xiexie,” he says to her. She nods.

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    Another girl, Bia, requested to be excused from the DIY Food class so she can spend more time preparing for the debate.  She stayed at a table across the kitchen where everyone learned proper use of the knife in chopping ingredients. “Her dad’s a chef,” Abot Tala Director, Owie Dela Cruz, explains.

    Garbed in Filipino Rayadillo, 18-year old Arthur arrived right before History class. He politely shook my hand then proceeded to explain the Emilio Aguinaldo-inspired outfit.

     

    PHOTO BY May Palacpac
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    It's easy to see that Abot Tala is not your average school. There are no tests and grades, nor penalties for absences. It veers away from the usual textbook-heavy, traditional school setup to provide a conducive learning environment that meets the emergent needs of 21st century learners.

    Many teenagers dislike school because of rampant bullying, unreasonable workload, boredom, or their inability to fit in. Even bright kids fail in school simply because they’re different. “There are kids who do not thrive in a regular school setting,” Owie says. 

    Case in point: Arthur talks about how History is one of the least favorite subjects in school. “It’s the way it’s being taught” he exclaims. “It shouldn’t be boring at all. Philippine History is alive and exciting!” 

    Arthur is a member of The Philippine Living History Society, a group that educates Filipinos on Philippine History through reenactments of significant events in our past. 

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    PHOTO BY May Palacpac

     

    Today’s generation is composed of bright, motivated, passionate young minds who don’t want to be mere spectators, but active participants in their society, making a difference in the world by utilizing all the tools of technology and information made available to them.

    These teens are bursting at the seams with so much confidence that it's hard to imagine some of them were victims of bullying a few years back. Now, they seem to know exactly who they are and what they want to be. But most of all, they’re happy to be there and they’re excited to learn. 

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    How is Abot Tala different from other High Schools?

    Abot Tala provides an alternative learning system for teens who want more out of their education than mere test scores and memorizations.

    Ericho Fuentes says, “The difference is that these (Abot Tala) kids are motivated to learn because of their interests, rather than being coerced by their parents or the system.”

     

    PHOTO BY May Palacpac
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    Each member is matched with an adult mentor assigned to help them work towards their goals. Instead of being required to follow a set curriculum, they are involved in their own learning process. As a result, they learn to take responsibility in shaping their own future, young as they are. 

    Abot Tala members are given the option to choose their classes and a platform to voice their own recommendations on what classes and activities shall be provided in the following months.

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    As an example, some of the classes currently offered are Brand Design & Marketing, Photography, Coding, Digital Filmmaking, Improv and Public Speaking, Science Literacy, Math Gym, among others. All classes are facilitated by industry practitioners. 

     

    PHOTO BY May Palacpac
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    Most of the activities are collaborative in nature, providing learners an avenue to think critically, respect others’ views, communicate their ideas, and work with diverse personalities — skills that are highly relevant in current industries.

    As Abot Tala Brand & Marketing mentor Nate Punzalan says, “the school system may work for some people but there are those that need a mainstream alternative school. Abot Tala is what school is, redefined and redesigned” for the generation of today.

    Enrollment in Abot Tala is all year round. Abot Tala is located at Tres Palmas Commercial Arcade along Pedro Cayetano Boulevard, Taguig City. Visit their official website or call 09152864494 to inquire.

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