Small World Christian School Foundation (SWCSF), a Filipino school located in Baguio, have just completed a Cultural Study Programme in NZ’s South Island. Eleven SWCSF students, along with two teachers and the school head, were hosted by Blue Mountain College (BMC) in a programme designed to showcase rural NZ schools and culture. The group experienced NZ’s culture, food and elements firsthand during their twelve day stay. Two weeks after the completion of the programme, Tana Conde from Sister Schools New Zealand was able to speak with the two teachers, T. Donald and T. Ferdz, as well as their school head, T. Imel. Here’s what they had to say:
SSNZ: What is your impression of New Zealand in general?
SWCSF: They had many things to say but the descriptions that were unanimous were: beautiful, welcoming people, clean.
SSNZ: Personally, what was your favorite part of the trip?
T. Ferdz: “For me, it would have to be the welcoming community. The families were so accommodating in a very genuine way.”
T. Donald: “We were able to experience all aspects of New Zealand, but Matthew was right in suggesting to stay in Tapanui. It truly was a beautiful place with wonderful people.”
T. Imel: “For me, it would be the dairy farm- how they produce the milk.. From the cow, then it passes through a sterilizing process and is ready to drink from the tap, still warm and pure. It’s amazing, and I don’t even like milk! Only New Zealand Milk.”
SSNZ: What did you think of your NZ school counterpart, BMC?
T. Imel: “They are so organized with how they do things, multitasking. The Home Economics teacher was teaching the SWCSF kids and then entertaining the BMC class and in the end, we all had a lamb dinner. Their administrators, Ms. Lindy and Ms Sherry, they were amazing. They provided us with loads of jackets and boots. They all went out of their way to do things for us, not in a way that seemed like it was a hassle. It felt very genuine.”
T. Donald: “They don’t have books, which surprised us, but they have tablets in which the students have to write all their notes, and it has to be detailed. They are advanced in terms of facilities”
SSNZ: How would you describe the interaction between the SWCSF students and BMC students?
T. Donald: “There was little interaction in the classroom, because we only had the one day, but the BMC students helped our students, they were very nice and accommodating.”
SSNZ: In what ways has this interaction affected the SWCSF students?
T. Donald: “Our students, when they came in, they were very shy. We realized, observing their interactions that something we need to work on would be to be more spontaneous.”
T. Imel: “Yes. Because we had a day where we spent it with primary school kids, and they were just so spontaneous, telling us stories asking questions. Just so free in interacting.”
SSNZ: Did the students eventually overcome their shyness?
T. Donald: “Yes. Towards the end, they did.”
T. Imel: “We had one in particular, the youngest in Grade 8, she was shy, even within our group, but we all noticed, even Matthew, that she really opened up. When their homestay family invited us over, she was the one entertaining us, like she really was the host- touring us around the house, introducing us to the pet goats, asking if we needed anything. It was very nice to see her change like that towards the end.”
SSNZ: As teachers and you, T. Imel as a school administrator, how beneficial would you say this particular trip has been to you, the teachers and the students?
T. Donald: “It really was beneficial. I learned that people in NZ are warm. Also, their culture, the Maori.. It is so preserved. I wish that our own culture we be the same. For the students, this was beneficial for them to experience traveling on their own, and to learn how to conduct themselves when placed in a different environment, how to respect different cultures, gain independence, especially when they were at homestay.”
SSNZ: From what you observed in terms of the New Zealand Education System, are there any philosophies or practices from there that you would like to apply here at SWCSF?
T. Donald: “We would like to apply here in SWCSF their documentation. How they take note of things in a very detailed way. Hand-written documentation. It really helps students internalize things, whether it be academic writing or documenting experiences. It helps with retaining the information.”
T. Imel: “I also appreciated them teaching their students life skills such as cooking, carpentry... Things like that.”
SSNZ: SWCSF participates in other out of the country trips, why is it important to your school that students experience other countries?
T. Imel: “Knowing that learning is continuous, exposure to different countries, cultures is very important because it becomes a very personal learning experience. All that they realize or learn along the way is their own. We cannot teach that in the classroom. Also, we want to instill within them that progress of a country depends on the people. We want them to come back to love our country. We want them to see the differences in other countries for themselves and weigh this difference on their own.”
SSNZ: Oftentimes, when people see the differences between the PH and other developed countries, they often say that it is better to live elsewhere. You also mentioned that you want your students to come back to love their country more. Do you think this was achieved or was it more of the former (wanting to live elsewhere)?
T. Imel: “I believed we achieved them wanting to take their experiences and applying it in their lives. For example in the homestay, we have one student say that “Teacher, the families are so nice, the parents are always there. When I have a family of my own, I want it to be just like that.”
T. Ferdz: “For me, yes. I saw the difference. The people there, they don’t even lock their houses. It makes we want the same for my own country. I can say that the students also saw that and want that, or at least hope that for the Philippines.”
SSNZ: Would you like to see this program continued in the future?
T. Donald: “Yes. We would.”
T. Imel: “But we realize that it will not be the same. The weather, the location, it would all be different. We would like to continue the homestay and more classroom immersion though.”
SSNZ: Lastly, we know that this was SWCSF's first time to send students that far, and that there have been some reservations regarding this trip, from both the parents and the school. Now that the trip is over, what can you say about the program overall?
T. Donald: “Overall, the program was so packed. We came home tired, but fulfilled. We got to experience the whole of NZ. From the city life in Auckland to the rural Tapanui. There has also been no negative feedback or incidents. Everything went smoothly. It was a very good program, thank you.”
T. Imel: “Yes. It was amazing. We were so blessed to have experienced it and we felt God upon us, you know. When we needed the sun, it shone. There was heavy snow but we prayed “God, thank you, we were able to experience snow. You can turn of the snow machine now” and then the snow stopped just enough for us to go on with the plans.”
The success of the programme has seen SWCSF eager to collaborate with BMC again in March 2018!