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What makes young Filipinos resilient

Education is hard-hit by the pandemic. Distressed students, inadequate home environments, overwhelmed parents and teachers result in poor learning and motivation. Videos went viral showing students gaming while ostensibly logged on to class. The Facebook group Online Kopyahan boasted 600,000-plus members before it was deleted, prompting Education Secretary Leonor Briones to enjoin “teachers, parents, administrators to teach academic integrity among learners and discourage them from feeding on instant gratification.”

However, “we cannot pull ourselves up by dwelling on our weaknesses,” says former Ateneo de Manila president Fr. Ben Nebres. “We can only pull ourselves up from our strengths.”

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Despite the pandemic, many Filipinos desperately want to learn. Two months ago, during online training for 275,000 teachers all over the country for Synergeia Foundation, I was deeply moved by participants who climbed trees to reach better Wi-Fi, or saved up for mobile load, to join us in solving math problems for three consecutive Saturdays. As early as March 2020, when Ateneo de Manila stopped classes and mandated passing marks for all, my Science Education students begged me to continue, so we met weekly on Cisco Webex (Zoom was unknown then) and finished the syllabus in May.

At School of Science and Engineering (SOSE), what motivates us teachers to keep going is the tenacity of students, who actively participate in class, who go beyond minimum competencies, who remain strong despite severe challenges. What keeps them going? What can we learn from them? Thus was born our SOSE Student Resilience Study.

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Twenty-five professors chose 92 undergraduate and graduate students and alumni who display resilience in learning, and prodded them to reflect on how they overcome challenges. Many students are scholars; some are economically comfortable. Many are achievers; some experienced academic failures. Many underwent childhood poverty, parental separation, family conflict, loss of loved ones; several have mental health issues.

Whatever their circumstances, our study reveals they rely on three sources of support: a deep faith, solid family bonds, and trusted friends and mentors who hold them accountable.

The book “Bouncing Back: Life and Learning in a Time of Crisis,” published by Ateneo University Press and funded by Ateneo Research Institute for Science and Engineering, will be launched online on Tuesday, May 10, 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

In the book, learn how students create doable routines, manage tasks, hold each other accountable, even as they pursue hobbies, take care of mind and body, bond with loved ones. Resilient students take grades seriously but do not use them as measures of self-worth. They take mistakes in stride, keep things in perspective, practice gratitude, find purpose in serving others.

The students also tell stories of how they love to learn and grow, why failures are learning experiences, why the mind is our most powerful organ.

Inspired by our students, several professors reflect on grit, share growth-mindset exercises, inspire us with stories of how they themselves surmounted adversity.

“Grit and resilience are much studied in the US,” says Nebres. “This study which has Ateneo undergraduates, and graduate students also teaching in public schools, shows impressive maturity, grit and resilience among them. Many face difficulties at home, in school, in the community; they have weaknesses and failures; but they overcome and prevail. This seminal work can hopefully lead to more reflection and study on how to identify and nurture strong and resilient students and future leaders. Recommended for students, teachers, school administrators, parents, counselors—I hope they add their own reflections.” INQGo to Facebook.com/AteneoPress for the livestream on May 10, Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 12 noon. For book orders, call 0926-3127604, email [email protected], or go to Ateneo Press at Lazada or Shopee.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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