Category Archives: Education

Cool to be schooled

by Vince Borromeo
(Manila, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
August 31, 2012

Government and well-meaning parents have spent countless resources looking for the most effective way to make knowledge pass on to the next generation. Aside from mandatory educational learning, supplementary learning centers have sprouted near schools to do just that — supplement. Whether or not supplementary education in its traditional form has actually been helpful is subject to debate.

Tutoring, for many, is basically a way to help a student cope with the demands of traditional learning. Many doubt its effectiveness especially those who have experienced the tutor-dependency behavior it tends to foster.

Indeed, an introduction to the Tutoring Club, a children’s learning services methodology that was founded in 1991 by Larry Schwartz, opens the eyes to a new kind of learning.
Yes, “knowledge is power,” as they say. In Tutoring Club, the power in knowledge is not merely affirmed, but cultivated. Tutoring Club employs the science in proven methods of learning.

Tutoring Club is where the “transmission, mastering and proper application” of knowledge is practiced. While traditional tutoring may be seen as a patch-up effort to complete the gaps in a student’s learning process, at Tutoring Club, that’s not the way things work.

Tutoring Club master franchisor Rico Bautista says, “Getting into the habit of helping a child complete homework rather than identifying the weaknesses and strengthening the learning skills will not help a child become a successful learner. Tutoring Club does not subscribe to the band-aid approach of just simply addressing academic tasks such as homework and exam reviews. Instead, Tutoring Club believes in building and strengthening the learning foundation, applied skills and learned competencies moving from basic to advanced levels across all academic arenas.”

The method of grasping the true power of knowledge harbors the real hope for the youth, who, in turn, is the hope of our country. Tutoring Club zeroes in on what students really need to power the application of learning. It has found a way to foster and ease learning into the mindset of its students for application now and in the future. Everyone who wants to uplift their education or their capacity to educate themselves will find a home in Tutoring Club.

The logic behind Tutoring Club’s methodology is its ability to teach students to master foundations. For example, a child who has difficulty in Grade 5 mathematics cannot be tutored simply to help him pass his quizzes and his exams. For that child to make the learning useful in Grade 5 and for him to use that knowledge for higher mathematics, he must have already mastered the rudiments of mathematics from Grades 1 to 4 at the very basic level and learned his way up step by step so that his understanding of his subject will come full circle. If he will be taught this way and he masters the foundations he needed in those subjects he will have the capacity to learn and excel in his current lesson and in the future since that foundation necessary for his growth has been laid on solid ground.

The Tutoring Club process

Tutoring Club first identifies a child’s academic strengths and the areas for improvement through a Skills Assessment Test. This test identifies weak learning areas or skill gaps. The identified skill gaps are then targeted for an individualized mastery-based learning plan.

The thorough assessment procedure applies the science of how to learn and master those lessons. I saw that that was the key to the system of the Tutoring Club. It is not a regression into lessons unlearned, rather it is a mastering process of foundations that will become the building blocks of further knowledge. I know of friends who, upon drinking one bottle of beer, regresses into high school behavior again. This regression is quite regrettable and is not what Tutoring Club is all about.

Tutoring Club is an application of the science of learning. It is all about getting to the root of the problem. A child cannot do well in science if his reading comprehension is not up to par with the expected norms of his age. Likewise, progress to more complicated math skills would not be possible if basic addition and subtraction skills are weak. As in anything, the partnership between time and effort is needed for the learning to progress.

Traditional methods vs Tutoring Club’s long-term solution

When a child has difficulty with his academic tasks, parents usually turn to a tutor for an easy fix. The tutor works with the child to review lessons, answer homework and sharpen up for exams.

In my personal experience, a tutor makes a child dependent and will not likely master his current lesson because he missed the foundations he needed. Left without a traditional tutor, a child usually fumbles around his lessons.


“At Tutoring Club, the goal is not only to have each child perform at expected academic norms, but to exceed them and have students strive continuously for excellence in all academic endeavors. And this is made possible through the efficient use of modern educational techniques and scholastic modules. Combined with time-honored systems of instruction to test for a child’s needs, address their goals, and track their progress. After 32 hours of tutoring, a child’s skill in a specific academic field is guaranteed to improve at least one full grade level,” guarantees Bautista.

How this educational science came about

According to Larry Schwartz, founder and CEO of Tutoring Club, “By seventh grade, students need to have mastered their basic math skills. At this point, they will be ready to move into new mathematical territory with pre-algebra. If they haven’t mastered the basics, however, their future success in math becomes highly problematic.” What makes mathematics all the more challenging for kids is that since each skill level builds on the previous one, a lack of mastery in one area makes reaching the next level difficult, if not impossible. Math skills need to be presented logically to kids, but the key steps in mastery are “see it, understand it, and practice it,” Schwartz observes.

He further states, “Students who have not mastered skills during the school year are placed at an added disadvantage over the summer, when there is no opportunity to practice and retain learned skills, let alone those that they failed to grasp in class. For Tutoring Club, math skill development and retention is a key summer pastime, and one that is likened to sports camps that kids may attend to keep their soccer, basketball or baseball skills honed between seasons.”

Summer program

The Tutoring Club summer program on math skills starts with a basic diagnostic test. The results are analyzed by computer so they can target the areas that need to be addressed.

From the results of this diagnostic software, an individualized lesson plan for math skills is created, and then administered by a tutor individually assigned to the particular student.

At the start of each one-hour lesson is a pre-test check of 15 problems. The incorrect answer which a student gives defines the skill sets that will be practiced for that lesson. The next lessons pre-test questions will progress in difficulty from easier to harder. Each lesson is made relevant according to the needs of the student.

“We don’t leave a lesson until a student has mastered the material being practiced,” says Schwartz. ”Two 100 percent lessons in a row for that skill level indicate mastery, and we move on. Building and retaining math skills can seem like climbing Mt. Everest to some kids, but our goal is to make it more like overcoming one mole hill at a time and we literally leave no child behind.”

The guarantee

Tutoring Club not only provides the proper learning environment and know-how to learn math skills during the summer months, it also promises an unprecedented guarantee in the process: students will improve by one grade level within 32 hours, or the tutoring sessions will continue at no additional cost until that goal has been reached.

This sounds like music to a parent’s ears as it sounds like a reasonable guarantee for every peso spent in Tutoring Club. With Tutoring Club, the sharpening of the mind is optimized.

The first Philippine branch opened in 2007 in Makati, for students at all levels of academic ability, from elementary through high school. Tutoring Club franchises currently operate in nearly 200 locations throughout the United States.

For inquiries, call 0918-8188867. For more information, log on to

Books of our time

by Gabrielle Borromeo
(Manila, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
September 1, 2012

We live in a modern world where buildings stand next to each other, malls are a bridge away, factories are near residential areas, and concrete pavements have covered the soil. Sometimes, nature is no longer visible: trees are nowhere in sight, soil is exported far from people, and the kind of air children know is the kind spewed by air conditioners. To a city-born and -bred child, animals are as real as a picture in a frame.

The threatened extinction of nature is nowhere near a joke even if the human occupants of this planet are oblivious to it. There are already so many animals that only ancient history has witnessed; and now what’s left of nature is deteriorating because of the demands of a modern lifestyle.

What else can be handed down to the next generation except the surviving beauty of life, of nature itself? Imagine never seeing an elephant or a giraffe, having to only see them in your imagination. In the balance of life, preservation is the key to existence.

“When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money,” quotes a Native American saying (listed in the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs 2009). One hopes this gets people thinking for when people do, people start doing.

The launch by Bookmark Inc., in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines of a five-book collection, A Sea of Stories, written by Carla Pacis is a step towards this kind of awareness. The collection was written for the WWF’s Sulu-Salawesi Marine Eco-region (SSME) Program and its area, which spans the bountiful seas of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The author, who has won a PBBY-Salanga Writer’s Prize in 1998 and a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 1995, is also a professor who teaches art, literature and creative writing at the De La Salle University.

The five books, The Jin and the Turtle, Dragon Boat, Mapun, Grandmother’s Gift and the Manta Ray Journey are all different in context, but the same in the aim to educate children on the beauty, fragility and importance of SSME seas. It also seeks to inspire people of all ages — even adults — to conserve, preserve and protect the rich coastal resources and the culture of the Philippines.

Hard truths

The book entitled The Jin and the Turtle tells about a story of a young girl named Tima, who is forced by her father to go out at night to the beach with many others to find food, specifically turtle eggs. They would wait quietly for a turtle to come to shore and lay its eggs. When done, the turtle would head back to sea and these children would get the eggs to bring home for their families, resulting in the extinction of this specie of turtles.

It appalled me to read a story of children preying on turtle eggs and worse eating them. These are not usually the kind of books I would usually read, but this is what people actually need to hear to be aware and help make a difference.

For this book, the illustrations were made by Jeanne Tan, a fine arts graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. Her illustrations on the book are very nostalgic and somewhat dark. The book is painted with the feel of gloom; it is scary how the sadness can pull you in as well. The darkness stems from the threat to which the natural elements of this world are subjected.

Pacis’s next book, Dragon Boat, tells a story of a lad named Mubin, who is tested with his patience to win the race. The illustrations are done by Edrick Raymond Daniel, also a fine arts graduate of UP Diliman. His drawings look like they were drawn from a pencil and painted very colorfully, capturing the liveliness of the story and of Mubin’s determination to win the race.

Grandmother’s Gift, on the other hand, is a book about a little girl Harija, who dreams of going to school but cannot do so because of lack of money. Her family’s source of income only comes from selling colorful, artistic mattresses people would buy. She aches to study, but she knows it is impossible for now; she can only sneak a glimpse of the children studying in classrooms.

One day, the mayor visits their house with a foreigner, who is very interested in the mattress made by her grandmother. Even if it has a sentimental value to the grandmother, she parts with it for the education of Harija.

The story illustrates the treasure that is education, taken for granted by the privileged. Reading a story like this awakens one to one’s own chance at education. Children who read this can appreciate what they have so they will not waste it.

The illustrations of the book are done by Seth Clarece Estacio, an art teacher and coordinator at the Little Farm House Holistic Education and Development Center in Antipolo City. Though his drawings are not very detailed, he draws them in a cartoon-like style, which is very appealing to children. The colors he used are vivid and filled with patterns.

Manta Ray Journey, a folktale about the Badjao people, is a story of how they came to live in the different islands of the Sulu Sea. The illustrator, Lloyd Niguidula, a special education teacher and art lover, is perhaps one of the best illustrators for the books of Pacis. His art is balanced in color and the sketches are detailed; the ripples of the water on page 15, for example, are quite realistic and the man on the same page is accurately drawn.

Mapun is a book about a couple, Jamil and Amirah, who go out to catch fish while other people go to sleep. Often they have to venture further out to the sea than the other fishermen to ensure a catch. No fish would mean no money to buy food. While in the sea, the two are caught in a storm and separated.

A jin (supernatural beings that can assume any form) saves the wife from drowning and brings her back to her husband. The couple resides in a new shore and has two children. The couple is given a second chance to live as long as they promise that their family would never eat turtles and its eggs.

Illustrations are made by Jose Gambia and Herbert Miguel Consunji. Gamboa is the founder of Comic Biographies Inc. and his works can be found in and , while Consunji is a painter, illustrator and designer. He studied industrial design at the De La Salle University College of Saint Benilde, visual arts at the Australian National University and Ecole National Superieure Des Beaux-Arts Paris. Their drawings are realistic and detailed. The colors are mostly dark, but it is only because the art is trying to show a story at night. Though waves are crashing from one page to another, the pictures are still appealing to children.

During the launch, the original illustrations were exhibited and went up for sale, while the author and artists took their time to sign books and to entertain guests who came to support them.

For more information, contact Bookmark at 895-8061 to 65, e-mail or visit the Web site