Inspiring Teachers to Lead and Learn

Gerson Abesamis, Habi Education Lab

This profile is part of a series on the social entrepreneurship movement in Manila. Read the main article here.

“The power of design thinking is how it allows you to think more critically about problems, to really focus on the human aspect of a problem, and to focus on being more participatory in your process of making a solution.”

With a background as both a graphic designer and a teacher, Gerson Abesamis propels the education space in the Philippines towards an era of design thinking. He flew to New York after graduating college to study design. There, he was exposed to tools, perspectives, and models that he felt would have benefited him when he was still a teacher in the Philippines.

In the Philippine education space, he noted that there is a stagnant structure in place which only allows for a top-down approach to education — teachers only teach the curriculum that was traditionally approved by their institution or the government. Introducing design thinking to this space allows teachers to be more independent and analytical in the way they tailor education for their individual classrooms.

Gerson’s Habi Education Lab grew out of this intersection of design thinking and education at a time when the Philippines was making a shift towards the K-12 education system. It started as a series of workshops that brought together educators of all levels (from public and private schools) and allowed them to explore the idea of being a researcher in the classroom. Through these workshops, they would be encouraged to identify problems and questions and find data to support a solution.

Today, Habi is moving beyond workshops into more long-term consultative roles within schools and the education space. In line with the flexible concepts in design thinking, Habi constantly redefines its role and offerings depending on the needs of the schools.

As a link between two worlds, Gerson constantly puts himself in a position of switching hats and looking at things from different perspectives. He is currently a leader in the education space both from a National level with his role in the Philippine government’s Commission on Higher Education, and from a grassroots level as the founder of Habi. With any position he takes on, Gerson blends together his background, his varied skills, and global experiences in catapulting change in the country.