Ask the ManComm: CISD
The Curriculum Instructions and Services Division (CISD) handles the academic aspect of Pisay; they run the business when it comes to the curriculum and the tests.
As a former student of Philippine Science High School-Main Campus (PSHS-MC), Ms. Melanie Cheng, the head of the CISD, is quite familiar with the dynamics of the school.
“Para siyang mini [University of the Philippines] eh. So, yung mga teachers ay easygoing lang, very casual yung relationship mo with them. Tapos, you had a lot of free time, compared to in grade school, nakaset talaga lahat ng subjects,” Ms. Cheng said.
Elementary and high school life
Before she was part of Pisay, however, she studied in St. Theresa’s College (STC), an exclusive all-girls school run by nuns. Her time in elementary coincided with political turmoil, as Ferdinand Marcos was President back then.
She recalls the school welcoming in farmers who had marched from Central Luzon to Metro Manila. They expressed their complaints towards the agrarian reform to Malacanang; they had nowhere to go to afterwards, hence the school opened its gates to the workers.
She explains, “Hindi kami isolated kasi the nuns were really exposing us to current events.”
Entering Pisay in 1987 was a change of scenery. With Cory Aquino elected as President, the political climate became less hectic as it was before.
Her first year in high school came to her as a culture shock. Compared to STC, Pisay was less structured.
Coming from an all-girls school, she also thought that being with boys everyday was a factor for the culture shock she experienced.
“Siguro kasi yung section pa na napuntahan ko nung first year, sobrang lakas talaga mang-asar. So I felt so stressed,” she said with a laugh.
It was in the following years, though, that she developed a stronger bond with her fellow schoolmates. She says that when you grow up together in Pisay, you go through a lot of hardships, hence a different kind of friendship is formed.
“It’s the kinship we feel with them. Kasi, if you’re away naman from home, sila na yung family mo eh. Yung classmates mo, yung mga roommates mo sa dorm. So ibang klaseng closeness,” she explained.
She also knows quite well the stressful environment of the school. Amidst all the stress, however, she admits she was not much of a crammer as a high school student.
“I don’t think I crammed in high school as much as I do in my adult life, sadly. They say it’s a Pisay thing, but I don’t really know if I crammed that much,” she said.
What was next after Pisay?
Ms. Cheng took up BS Biology as her undergraduate course because of her interest in the science and the influence of her friends. By the end of her college life, however, she admits that she had only realized one thing.
“I went into Bio because I was really interested in Bio out of all the sciences,” she said, “So I went into Bio, I had friends there that sort of pushed me there. I enjoyed Bio very much. What I determined lang during the end was that I wasn’t interested in going to Med.”
Before her graduation, she ran into a Biology teacher from Pisay. In the spur of the moment, she asked if there was an opening for Biology teachers. Luckily, there was. She applied as a way to give back, and taught in Pisay.
After three years of teaching, she went abroad to the United States to study for a PhD in Biochemistry.
“When I was ending din dun — and it was the same teacher na I talked to nung undergrad — she emailed me. Kasi we were friends eh, so we keep in touch. She emailed me and she [was] also doing her PhD at the time, or katatapos lang niya. Sabi niya,“May opening sa Pisay, kung gusto mo, kung interested ka.” Alam niya kasing patapos na yung PhD ko.”
She asked herself, “Bakit hindi?”. After all, she had enjoyed her first three years teaching in Pisay, and this could be something she would do while figuring out where she really wanted to go.
What was originally meant as a transitory phase became a long-term commitment. Ms. Cheng has now served in Pisay for a total of 14 years, and she has no plans of going anywhere else.
Read the rest of the interview transcript below:
How long have you been CISD chief? What is it like to be the head of the CISD?
This is my second year. I’m still relatively new at this job. It’s quite challenging. I’m an introvert. So, for an introvert to be in a type of job that you have to be constantly exposed to people, and not just exposed to people, you have to be the boss. So, I’m not very good when it comes to confrontations and there’s bound to be some of that when you become a boss. Medyo challenging siya.
Apparently I’m the head, pero marami akong boss. Kasi you hear from the teachers, you hear from the students. And you of course have to take that and consider that sa mga decisions mo. It’s more of trying to steer this ship na hindi ka naman talaga [captain]. You’re not bossing people around but you get people where they need to go.
What are the most significant problems you’ve faced as CISD chief?
Significant problems… Well it’s mainly yung big changes because of K-12. With very little preparation, curriculum was not ready for the entire 6 years so they do it like ah, from here to here. So, next year mag-Grade 12 tayo, finafinalize pa lang nila curriculum ng grade 12.
For me, that’s difficult kasi I want to be able to see what the six years is going to look like and it’s hard to plan when yung ibibigay lang sayo is — ito nga, patingi-tingi ba. So, ang hirap mag-prepare and syempre a lot of the managerial staff is logistics, yung pagload sa teachers, yung pag-schedule ng klase — so yung rooms, yung times, putting in the teachers. And of course, it’s not just the management thing, meron din minsan mga problems na nag-aarise.
The most challenging thing for me is talking to the students [who] did not make it to the next year. So kunwari they got a cinco, or they did not make the requirements para mapromote. That for me is the most difficult thing: talking to the students and their parents that they can’t stay in Pisay. But it’s part of the job.
How has the school adjusted to the curriculum so far?
Most of my students, if I asked them what they would probably remember about me, is that I’m a little bit OC — obsessive compulsive. So, for me, ang hirap nga nun — kasi a lot of the time you’re just sort of winging it kasi nga we weren’t given enough time to prepare and the plans are just given to you right before you have to do them. Maganda sana kung may long term plan ka tapos nakalayout lahat ng plans na kailangan mo gawin, pero hindi ganoon nga yung nangyari.
But I heard from one of the teachers when I had a couple of meetings yesterday — considering everything, it’s not as bad as they were probably expecting given very little [preparation] nga on our part. I mean, it could be much worse than where we are right now.
So yun, yung next step nga is we’re having Grade 12 na next year; six batches of students, yun yung challenge. We don’t have enough space. Kasi yung naconstruct na [are] classrooms pa lang yung nandito eh. So, this year we had to make do with the same amount of space, but one additional batch. Medyo nakakatakot ring isipin yung logistics nung pagload at pagschedule. Of course, the buildings take time to build. So, baka two years pa yun bago ma-erect yung six-floor building above the canteen — or where the canteen is. Even the rooms here in the back are ready to be used. There are certain things that we cannot control — kasi may mga building permit at occupancy pa yan. So, kahit ready na yung buildings hindi pa natin pwedeng gamitin because of government compliance sa mga documents na yun. But, hopefully magamit natin siya within this school year. Sana next month.
What are the most notable changes?
The curriculum certainly is different. They attempted to decongest — what we took up in four years before has been spread out, in a way. May mga nabawasan, pero meron ring mga nadagdag kasi nga when we were told na we were going to implement K-12, initially, of course, there was resistance. We’re Pisay, we’re not even [under] the [Department of Education], why do we have to comply?
But I guess in the end, people were starting to change their mind, because they saw it as an opportunity for enrichment. Kasi initially what we wanted was [to] retain the first four years, and then make the last two years an add-on. Parang, sige, you get to have more time to do research, or you can work on things you’re really interested in or thinking of taking up in college. So yun yung initial idea namin, pero syempre nung natapos na yung curriculum, it did not quite turn out like that.
So yung four years, naspread out siya. Marami pa siyang kinks na kailangan i-iron out. It’s hard to say for sure kasi hindi pa natin nakikita yung full na impact na natapos na yung six years. So some minor changes have already been made, pero yung talagang curriculum review, and yung kung ieedit siya — well, hopefully i-eedit siya later, will come siguro after nakapagpagraduate na ng isang batch.
Earth Science is now part of grade 8. What happened?
They found that medyo hectic yung [Grade] 9. Kasi from your Grade 8 na [Integrated Science] — isang science, isang math, humanities. Tapos pagdating mo ng Grade 9 — na tatlong science subjects, dalawang math [subjects], tapos dadagdagan mo pa ng EarthSci, so magiging apat na science subjects siya. Yung idea was to decongest nga yung schedule ng 9 and then to transfer it to Grade 8. Kasi before, saan ba yung EarthSci dati? Part siya ng IS — tama ba? Doon sa lumang curriculum. And then the three science subjects were introduced nung second year pa lang.
Syempre marami nang changes ah, since the 90s. First year [we had] IS. Second year, medyo shock na nga yung [Biology], [Chemistry], [and] Physics eh. Tapos yung second year, dalawang math, [Algebra] tsaka [Geometry]. And it was like that, right before iimplement yung K-12. So the overloaded year was second year before, but I think that the depth and yung level of difficulty was not that bad. Kasi kahit marami kang subjects, medyo introductory pa lang lahat, mas manageable siya sa second year. Medyo shock, pero mas manageable siya — kaya. Ngayon kasi yung third year, mahirap yung subjects. Kasi mas matatanda na rin yung kids, mas kaya na nila yung ganun. Pero feeling ko, yun nga, it’s easier na sa second year mo medyo i-overload kaysa doon sa Grade 9, because of the level of difficulty of the subjects. But that’s just me — that’s my personal thing.
What makes working in Pisay enjoyable?
Well, enjoyable in terms of yung interactions with people — with students, also with teachers. And also ako talaga, I do enjoy the subject I teach right now. Kasi it’s an elective. So it’s not as structured as yung mga core subjects na may syllabus, kailangan masundan mo yun, may topics na dapat matapos mo. So, I get some leeway in terms of being creative dun sa subject, well at least for LifeSci. Well, I also try to do that naman with [Biology] eh, basta nacocomply mo yung mga required na — tinatawag naming desired learning competencies, so once you’re able to do that you can do other extra stuff, which I also enjoy. So, I enjoy being creative, I enjoy the interactions with the people even though I said earlier na I’m an introvert. Siguro I enjoy kahit lang yung just sitting back and watching people. And I guess this feels like home to me eh, so I’ve been incredibly blessed in that way.
What are your experiences being the Life Science elective adviser?
It’s — ayun nga, like I said, I enjoy it very much. It’s a very — It’s a small class. Kasi, it varies from year to year. Ano kasi right now, ang dami nating choices sa grade 10 electives. So the students are spread out. We tried to populate kasi all the electives, so ni-limit namin yung pwedeng i-take. So ang limit ay nasa 15. But in the end I had to take in a couple more people, so I have 17 students now. I enjoy na maliit lang yung class size, because you get more of a chance to talk to them.
Tapos yun nga, I guess it’s fun for me rin because when the students come in, they have a certain expectation of what the subject’s going to be [like] — and it’s completely not that. So I like surprising people in that way. And I like that it allows them to think deeper kasi you’re not just thinking about yung content, the things that you learn, but you also think about how you learn things. Kasi if anything else, I guess I want them to leave LifeSci na yung takeaway nila is, it’s not just about memorizing things and understanding things, but it’s also how you pursue things. Kasi ang ginagawa namin sa LifeSci, meron silang portfolio. Apart from the output they have from day to day, at the end they have to submit an entry that’s just completely theirs. So they think of kung anong topic gusto nila, what they want to do about it. So yun, getting to see yung output nila, it’s very refreshing for me.
How do you have fun?
I don’t have much time for fun. I don’t get to do this much — I craft. I scrapbook. I tinker with my hands. I have, ano eh, eight nephews and nieces. Tapos, dati, nag-eschedule kami ng time na gumagawa kami. Pero hindi, simula nung naging CISD chief ako, wala na. My work day used to be six hours here. But now that I have to be here from early morning to late afternoon — it takes a toll, kasi I have to leave [the house] nang mga 5:30 [am], tapos dadating ka ng bahay nang mga 7 [pm]. So pagdating mo nun, wala ka nang ibang gagawin kundi magpahinga. So I don’t get a lot of time. Of course when you craft, there’s a lot of time that you need. Kunyari if I’m doing something with my nephews and nieces, I have to prepare. Although, I don’t know if you know this, kapag nag-aACLE, and even with the teachers, I teach a scrapbooking class.
It’s alternative classroom learning experience, something like that. Mga workshops that aren’t really related to schoolwork. It’s just fun stuff that you do — may photography, may creative writing. So I get to teach yung scrapbooking class. Pero yun nga, that takes up a lot of time to get ready for.
What is your message to the student body?
Message, nako. I know that I’m the academic chief, and I know that it should matter that the students are conscious of their grades. But for me, in the end, when you’re older, you don’t really remember kung DL ka nung second year or first year. Nung time kasi namin may first honor, second honor, valedictorian, ganyan ganyan — hindi siya mag-mamatter in the grand scheme of things. I think what matters is you do your best in any situation.
Maybe some students have an unrealistic expectation of what Pisay is supposed to be, and how they fit into yung Pisay experience. So I think a little bit more time to pause and reflect, and then more realistic goal setting for yourselves, so you’ll get to enjoy your stay in Pisay even more.