06 Aug2010

The Beacon Academy

by Marketman

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The vast majority of people think it is someone else’s responsibility to set up schools for our children and those of generations to come. For most, it is the government run public school system. For others, it is typically a school set up by a religious order of some sort or the other. A few schools are non-denominational, and these days, many of those (not all) are set up for profit. As the Philippine population expands at a rapid pace, new schools and school facilities fall woefully behind not only in capacity but probably in the quality of education delivered. So close your eyes while going along this educational highway, step on the brakes and swing that wheel around sharply. Maybe, just maybe, there is another way. If one were to review some of the “best” or “model” elementary schools in the world, it turns out there are a few basic things one needs to assemble to pull off a quality education. Superb teachers, small (very small) classes, an interesting curriculum, comfortable facilities, a community of faculty, non-faculty, students, parents and others who value how to think critically much more than the simple acquisition of knowledge, able management, and of course, lots of financial resources. Hah, basic things you are thinking, but oh so hard to pull together that it overwhelms most who even toy with the idea of setting up a new school…

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About 12 years ago, Mrs. MM and I were part of an intrepid, slightly deranged group of say 15 parents who decided to set up a new school that we hoped would be a solid approximation of the “best” or “model” schools I alluded to earlier. My role was in Strategy early on, eventually providing oversight for Finance for nearly 8 years. Mrs. MM did quite a few of the operational oversight roles. We were not educators, so that was left to others in the group with stellar degrees in Education. We had an architect, a couple of lawyers, businessmen/women, investment bankers, etc. We opened the Beacon School in Taguig near Fort Bonifacio for Kinder-Grade 8 a couple of years later and we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Beacon School this year. The school is YOUNG by school standards, but it has met many of our original goals for the institution and hopefully over the next 10 years it will get even better. It isn’t cheap, but it is totally NON-PROFIT in the strictest sense of the phrase, and is nearly at full capacity of 320-330 students for the entire elementary school, with waitlists for admission.

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The original plan was to open just an elementary and middle school. But as all plans evolve, we eventually began work on setting up a high school as well. About two years ago, about 5 trustees total including MM and Mrs. MM (this has since grown to 10 trustees) decided to see if we could take on the challenge of establishing a new high school, from grades 9-12. The requirements of a high school are far more complex and costly than a grade school (in the same manner that a University is far, far more complex than a high school). As with the earlier effort, we wanted a high school we could be proud of. We looked at best practices in the West, several of the trustees having been fortunate enough to attend some of the finest boarding schools and colleges and graduate programs locally and abroad, and mapped out our vision for The Beacon Academy. With the help of many parents from the school in the form of financial pledges, as well as donors who were not parents at the school, we again crazily embarked on another new school venture, The Beacon Academy. Tomorrow, August 7, 2010, the new Beacon Academy Building and campus in Binan, Laguna, right beside the La Salle Canlubang campus, will be inaugurated and the ceremonial ribbon cut by the Secretary of Education and the Mayor of Binan.

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So it is NOT impossible. A good vision, a bunch of wacky folks willing to share thousands of hours of professional expertise for free, dozens of people who provide funding and whole lot of chutzpah and it is possible to set up a new school. And hopefully, if we keep at it, a really good school. :) And for the cynics out there, yes, there are always a FEW of you itching to leave a comment, let me be clear… it DOES COST A LOT OF MONEY TO PROVIDE A FINE EDUCATION, so tuitions, despite this being “non-profit” are high in many of the finest schools around the world. But I would say this — ultimately, you do get what you pay for, unless there is some other group WILLING to subsidize your children’s education. While I would argue that government DOES have a responsibility to educate given that they collect taxes, the RELIGIOUS ORDERS and PRIVATE entities educate (without profit in mind) because they want to, not because they have to. At the Beacon Academy, depending on our finances, we have several full and partial scholarships available for the most deserving students, and that is PART of the strategy of the school.

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If you have read this far, you must be interested in education. Or have young kids. :) From the vision of a high school, we next took a tour of a property (first photo up top, with elementary kids trekking through mud) that was offered for the Academy to use in Binan, Laguna, just 45 minutes from Makati. A beautiful 9 hectare parcel of rolling terrain, it is beside a river and faces verdant hills across the waterway. These 9 hectares will eventually be home to several academic buildings, a gym, sports fields, etc. and a maximum student population of say 500-600 in grades 9-12. Modeled after smaller preparatory schools in New England but embracing a strong Filipino ethos, we aim (hope) to be one of the leading secondary institutions in the country in our (founding trustees) lifetimes. :) It is a lofty goal, but if you are going to start anywhere, you might as well start with lofty goals…

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In May of 2009, we had simple ground-breaking ceremonies, and construction was soon on full throttle.

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Yes, we know how to get our boots muddy. :) So many superstitions about adding coins to the foundation, construction crew sacrificing chickens…

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Cement truck processions kept dumping more and more concrete into a wonderfully designed building by a well-known architect who is our Chief Lunatic on the small Board of Trustees…

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A few months later, the building taking shape.

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Marketman during one of the visits, standing on the second floor of the academic building, facing the bones of the new covered gymnasium across the way.

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More snapshots of concrete and steel…

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The view to the hills across the river, what our students will see from the second floor classrooms…

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And as of 3 months ago, the nearly finished academic building! The Beacon School and the Beacon Academy will together be the first schools in the Philippines to offer the International Baccalaureate Program from Kinder through Grade 12 (accreditation for upper grades still on-going). Our class sizes in the high school will range from 10-20 students, with average student teacher ratios of just 1:6! in the early years, rising to 1:8/9 in later years. Tomorrow is a BIG DAY for all of us (administration, staff, students, parents, friends and trustees) at the Beacon Academy, and we hope this is, in some small way, our contribution to improving the educational options in the Philippines. And who knows what some of these kids will do for our country in 10, 20 or 30 years time…

For more on The Beacon Academy, please visit our website. Thanks.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. tintin says:

    Best of Luck and MORE POWER to Beacon Academy!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:13 am

     
  2. atbnorge says:

    I read the post in its entirety—God bless your new school.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:22 am

     
  3. Vettievette says:

    Hi MM, I’ve been reading for a while and I believe this is my first comment…I actually sent an inquiry to the Beacon school about applying for work there next school year. I’m a Fil-Am social worker/therapist in Brooklyn, NY. Your headmaster graciously replied that he’d keep me posted and I know my inquiry was quite early so I will be keeping tabs on the Beacon site for openings! I also did some research via family members in Makati…my cousin went to ISM and my Tita (who is quite picky and is pretty involved in various affairs there) told me that she feels Beacon is now the best int’l school in the country, naks! :)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:24 am

     
  4. Guits says:

    I salute you and company, Mr. MM.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:24 am

     
  5. mbw says:

    Impressive trailblazers that you all are, MM! All my prayers go with such magnificent goals!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:37 am

     
  6. angela says:

    I am so touched and deeply inspired by this entry. Thank you to you and your group for this very inspiring project. Last week,I was reminiscing with a friend about our days in UP Diliman in the 90s. We had classmates who had beautiful albeit, challenging stories. Product of public schools in far provinces, first time to go to Manila and armed only with brains, guts and hope. They had to depend for full scholarship & meager allowance that UP provided for 4 years. 10 years after, they are successful professionals in their own fields, creating their own names and niches. This is what UP and education has given them.

    To people, groups and institutions that continue to give chance to willing and deserving students – kudos to you! I have been one of the recepients before and I will be forever grateful for it. I have made a promise too, that soon and when I’m able to, I will do the same for others.

    Thank you, MM! God bless!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:40 am

     
  7. gli says:

    this is very inspiring MM. i hope to have my future kids go to schools like that in the future. the fact that it’s non-profit, really sold me into it. God bless on your work. :)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:40 am

     
  8. ntgerald says:

    Everything starts from dreamers and lunatics.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:49 am

     
  9. becky says:

    Wow! i hope my future kids get to attend that school!

    i myself am a product of scholarship grants from high school to college and i am deeply thankful to people like you who are concerned about educating not only their own children but others as well.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:00 am

     
  10. Betchay says:

    Congratulations!Good luck and may God bless your school!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:00 am

     
  11. JE says:

    You so crazy! Seriously, nice work

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:04 am

     
  12. Melanie says:

    Congratulations, MM and Mrs. MM! You’re really living the ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ dictum. Already we can see what the Teen is becoming, with all the values and the opportunities she is exposed to. More power to you and the family!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:18 am

     
  13. kikas_head says:

    I love it!! I myself am a product of a private elementary school (K-8) and I honestly think that is the best form of education. I do not have children yet so I do not know the normal prices of tuition here, but at least compared to the US, the price seemed VERY reasonable.

    I am also a big fan of the K-8 model versus the common K-6 here, especially for girls. Pre-adolescence can be a weird time for a lot of young girls and I always thought switching schools at that time can make a somewhat confusing time in life that much harder.

    Congratulations to all! I love, love, love it.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:29 am

     
  14. kikas_head says:

    Ah, wait! I had a question. I have heard from people that a lot of schools here require the parents to be married (no single parents or same sex couples allowed). Is that the case here?

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:36 am

     
  15. wysgal says:

    Congratulations MM! My younger brother is actually starting there this year, he got tired of his boring old private school and asked if he could transfer to Beacon. =)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:55 am

     
  16. joyce says:

    i just read an article on the phils. brain drain in inquirer that made me somber and now i read this! thank goodness i always check your web site everyday hehe. reading this lifted my mood, there is hope! :) the beacon academy rates seem like a steal compared to what for-profit I.S. schools are charging here in shanghai. the best highschools here charge as much as US$33,000++ a year just for tuition. (some of the highschools i hear just hire new graduates as long as they are from a western country tsktsk) that costs as much as an education in philips exeter academy in the US.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:56 am

     
  17. millet says:

    congratulations and more power, MM, Mrs. MM and everyone with you in this noble endeavor. once again, you’ve proven that it starts with a dream, and that definitely it can be done!

    (waiting for the flower arrangement pics, which, i’m sure, will be OTT and spectacular, as always!)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:57 am

     
  18. Jaja says:

    wow! Galing! Congratulations MM!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 10:05 am

     
  19. present tense says:

    Let me guess ? Do you also oversee the canteen ? BTW, may I inquire how does the non-profit aspect work ? Is this a foundation ? And my congratulations to the Trustees

    Aug 6, 2010 | 10:46 am

     
  20. chunky says:

    more power to you and good luck!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 10:50 am

     
  21. eight says:

    congratulations, mm!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 11:43 am

     
  22. terrey says:

    Congratulations MM and to the entire board of trustees! If we are in Pinas, i would have sent my child to your school. International schools in Thailand are so ridiculously expensive and the quality of education is not at par with a regular private school back home. *Sigh* But the family has to stick together, eh! More power to you all!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 11:49 am

     
  23. jigs says:

    Thank God for lunatics!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 1:48 pm

     
  24. chrisb says:

    Congratulations MM!

    @present tense, wow if MM were in charge of the canteen, Beacon would be the best school in the world, if only for that haha. Talo pa si Jamie Oliver.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 2:20 pm

     
  25. Marketman says:

    Hi everyone, hahaha, no I am NOT in charge of the canteen. A trustee involved in something like that would be a conflict of interest :) Besides, can you imagine what all of the parents are going to say? Bottarga, again? Why isn’t there soy sauce in the adobo? Why do we have to harvest our own talbos ng ampalaya for the munggo? What the heck is kabog? It sounds drug oriented. He wants us to learn basic butchering skills? Hahaha. I AM CRAZED. :) will address your other questions over the weekend.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 2:42 pm

     
  26. Angela says:

    Congratulations to all the “lunatics” (I say that with all respect and fondness) involved in this project! I am so happy that there are folks out there willing to put their money (and time, dedication, expertise) to something so worthy.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 3:35 pm

     
  27. chrisb says:

    That was really funny! But on a serious note, I have 2 nieces studying at Beacon and a friend’s son has a scholarship there. And I have to say, from what I see, Beacon is doing a marvelous job. Those three are some of the smartest, most well-adjusted children I know.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 4:06 pm

     
  28. faye samson says:

    wow, this article is very inspiring… we’re filipino migrants in melbourne and we’re seriously considering taking our daughter back to the philippines for her high school education because we’d like her to have a solid filipino identity and pride… ’til i’ve read about Beacon, we couldn’t come up with a school that we’re comfortable in taking her to, now i think we have one… keep up the good work!!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 5:22 pm

     
  29. Candygirl says:

    I browsed through the faculty and was pleasantly surprised to see the names of a couple of people I know :-)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 5:57 pm

     
  30. Footloose says:

    Makes my heart leap to know that the poor country that seems to be capable of generating only adverse and embarrassing news still harbors a class of people that do not despair nor give up but are actually investing to ensure a better future in waging the good fight of rearing and educating the young. This is old man Recto planting trees knowing that it will be others who will shelter in its shade and enjoy its fruits. Closest too to the spirit of Pilosopong Tacio’s hieroglyphs that he hoped when discovered would make generations way into the future say “no todos dormían en la noche de nuestros abuelos,” that there were those who kept vigil in the dark hours of our forefathers.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 6:05 pm

     
  31. zena says:

    I was a college teacher for 8 years and always appreciate people with goals of providing quality education. Mucho exito on your venture!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 7:50 pm

     
  32. Jack Hammer says:

    Yeah…MM…Kudos to you and all involved. Necessity is the mother of all Inventions and Creativity, if not for the teen, who knows whether Beacon would ever exist, so credit should go to her as well, as being a part of modern history.

    Yes..yes..yes…take the reins of your destiny in your own hand…Like a broken vuvuzela (Footloose !!!) your leaders will not do anything for you…make your own future.

    All the very Best always.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 8:03 pm

     
  33. Pett says:

    My heart still swelling with hope in the promising future of Pinoy kids through this kind of schools, I went directly to Beacon’s website — and, oh boy, did my eyes nearly pop out of their sockets at the tuition and other fees!

    Hahaha. Beacon is only for the very, very, very, very lucky few.

    As for my kids, well … their dad still got to know his Shakespeare and his algebra from Mababang Paaralan ng Santo kristo and Bagong Silang High School. Thank heavens. :)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:03 pm

     
  34. Vanessa says:

    Congratulations! And I am laughing my head off at the suggestions of Marketman running the school cafeteria!

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:08 pm

     
  35. JunB says:

    If you can’t be the canteen head can you at least open a zubuchon stall outside beacon :)….Congrats to everyone involve !!!! It’s great to hear that there are still a lot of people in the Philippines that believes in a good quality education.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 9:32 pm

     
  36. izang says:

    congratulations…why can you not run DepEd?…hehehe…

    MM, I noticed you were wearing shorts on a construction site, hope you were wearing safety shoes….Otherwise, in a perfect setting, you would not have been allowed inside the site because of “improper” attire. Buti na lang you have your hard hat on.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 10:19 pm

     
  37. denise says:

    congrats MM! and yes i can imagine what the parents would say if you were in charge of the cafeteria…i think you should give it a thought…have you seen Jamie Oliver’s tour of an Italian school’s kitchen? they served only real food (i think mostly organic pa), and the kitchen staff were horrified of the stuff Brits fed theirs (Jamie had brought some samples).

    i went to private schools all my life but the smallest class i was in was 25…the most was 40 when i was in 3rd grade (one of our teachers cried daily as we were a bunch of monsters)

    Aug 6, 2010 | 10:26 pm

     
  38. Lou says:

    Congratulations MM & Mrs. MM. I myself work now in a Greek-American school set up by some dedicated Greek immigrants who wish to pass on their heritage and culture to their next generations. My role now is as a development manager and I must admit it is very challenging and rewarding. It is very difficult and like you many of the trustees and founders do it out of love and willingness to share their wealth to others. More luck to you and may there be more who’d follow your path.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 10:44 pm

     
  39. moni says:

    MM and Mrs. MM, congratulations on such a noble work you’re doing. I am in the field of education so I have much appreciation for people like you. Do you have a “Friends of Beacon” where people can sign up to give a donation or volunteer? When I was at the University of Hawaii, we had a “Friends of the East-West Center” where volunteers pitched in and sorted the books in the library, reading room, etc. I will be glad to do that 5 years from now when I will have time on my hands. God bless you MM and Mrs. MM.

    Aug 6, 2010 | 11:23 pm

     
  40. Lava Bien says:

    Good job you guys! We need more of these schools on every province in the Philippines.
    Let’s start by confiscating the Ampatuan’s very questionable wealth and put it into building one of these schools in their province. Send our jobless college grads overthere and start teaching them kids overthere hehehehe. I’d volunteer to teach hehehehe and ask MM to do some pro bono consulting for that school.

    Aug 7, 2010 | 2:15 am

     
  41. Mike says:

    Make sure your get professional advice from psychologists/sociologists who know Filipino child psychology/mentality and not just import Western ideas and curricula lock, stock, and barrel, so you can cater to your intended clients as Western ways may not be too appropriate for Filipinos. I had a Canadian physics teacher in high school in Manila who was highly critical of Eastern ways and extolled on the superiority of Western thinking. Back then I didn’t make much of it, but may have contributed to colonial mentality, and to think he was a Jesuit priest, so go figure. I was in for a big surprise too when I did grad school here in the States as things are done differently here. Looove the forest in the hills in the background, please keep it green. Good luck and congratulations.

    Aug 7, 2010 | 5:35 am

     
  42. Mike says:

    One more thing, just as an FYI, a small study in Canada show that bilingual people have a smaller risk for Alzheimer’s. The UK is conducting a larger study currently, results pending. And I’m still in love with the forest in the background.

    Aug 7, 2010 | 5:45 am

     
  43. chloe says:

    Wow, that is so impressive, MM! I went to The Beacon School website and the campus is very conducive to learning plus the fact that it gives the best education in the country makes me wish my nieces could also attend that school!

    Aug 7, 2010 | 7:01 am

     
  44. present tense says:

    The Beacon Cooking Academy for Gradechoolers has a somewhat environmental ring to it. A green curiculum

    Aug 7, 2010 | 10:09 am

     
  45. Ley says:

    Very noble MM. May there be more Filipinos like you!

    Aug 7, 2010 | 10:25 am

     
  46. CRIS says:

    Wow!

    I am so proud to be a Filipino. Keep it up Mr. MM! :)

    Aug 7, 2010 | 4:01 pm

     
  47. andrea says:

    i salute you, sir! i agree with ley, very noble.

    Aug 7, 2010 | 4:23 pm

     
  48. corianderie says:

    Very heartwarming to read this. MM, will kids who finish primary school in BSM or ISM be able to adjust well to Beacon Academy’s curriculum and teaching methodology?

    Aug 7, 2010 | 6:36 pm

     
  49. robin sabalones says:

    i so loved this post !! i am so thankful that there are a few enlightened folk that see the value in the investment into education. Personally I attended the International School of Manila for 12 years and went on to a seven sister college in New England. fast forward 15 years and finding NO adequate public nor private school for my kids in Bologna, Italy , spearheaded a group of informed educators and parents in setting up an Intnl Baccalaureate (Primary Years Programme) school there. years of struggle financially and ideologically.not everyone sees that there is a VAST abyss between rote / information oriented teaching and an inquiry-based education where the children are shown how to think critically in TODAY’s world (how many of us 20 years ago could have envisioned the job descriptions prevalent today ? and these will continue to evolve as society and technology change). we need to prepare the children to LEARN to learn,to be flexible, to be risk-takers, thoughtful and caring , able to learn from an inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural curriculum. Good luck on your school and I hope private and government agencies can get behind you to do the same. This does not have to be an ELITIST concept. A well-trained mind should be available to all.

    Aug 7, 2010 | 6:37 pm

     
  50. eustressor says:

    congratulations! a huge and noble endeavor indeed. here’s hoping i can send my “future” kids to a similar school when the time comes. sana more filipinos will have access to this kind of education.

    Aug 7, 2010 | 6:42 pm

     
  51. anna banana says:

    Congratulations! Kudos for such a noble undertaking! Is it just me, but the past couple of months, it seems that HOPE’s been flying high in our good old Pinas! I pray that this is just the beginning and we grab this inspiring momentum by its head~

    Aug 8, 2010 | 2:10 pm

     
  52. bagito says:

    AWESOME!!!

    Aug 9, 2010 | 1:20 am

     
  53. giancarlo says:

    Sir you and your group are an inspiration. I’ve dreamed of building a non-profit school for the longest time. It has been galvanized in some ways by sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk seen here : http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html.

    I hope this little dream of mine comes true. Hope we can be competitors-colleagues in the education industry someday.

    Cheers!

    Aug 9, 2010 | 1:34 am

     
  54. HD says:

    Congratulations MM! And best of luck. Ako din ay nakaraos ng pag aaral through scholarships. Salamat na lang sa mga taong kagaya ninyo.

    Aug 9, 2010 | 5:43 am

     
  55. MTriumph/DC says:

    Because of people like you, my hopes remain alive that someday, the Philippines will be respected again. Salamat! Your represent the best in Pinoy!

    Aug 9, 2010 | 8:22 am

     
  56. Enteng says:

    All the best MM!!! Congratulations!

    Aug 9, 2010 | 2:26 pm

     
  57. Maddie says:

    Wow! Grades 9-12! Congratulations and kudos to you and your fellow trustees for having the vision and the will to forge ahead. My husband and I were one of the fortunate ones to have gotten our admission request go through a few years ago. However, our daughter was already enrolled and we couldn’t get a refund for our tuition. So we did not push through with it. I do recall that one of our concerns then was high school as we didn’t want to be ‘forced’ to transfer our daughter to a trad school after years of being in a ‘progressive’ school. Now she is still enrolled in a trad school. Though she is happy and doing quite well, I am not fully ‘enrolled’ into the trad school system. Maybe it’s time to make a visit to Beacon again despite the long waitlist. Thank you for sharing this.

    Aug 9, 2010 | 4:38 pm

     
  58. Mike says:

    Congratulations and more power to you. In the future, I hope to send my son (only 18 months) to Beacon.

    Aug 9, 2010 | 6:23 pm

     
  59. Mila says:

    Congratulations! Knowing the “lunatics” behind it, it’s wonderful to see the photos of the new campus.

    Aug 9, 2010 | 8:39 pm

     
  60. Lannie says:

    MM, you are a great inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others out there. So much so that I’m actually preparing to sponsor a school feeding program (that or go on a ‘goods distribution’ effort) this coming Christmas when I visit the Philippines.

    All the best!

    Aug 10, 2010 | 11:21 pm

     
  61. Ria says:

    There is a school here in Canada called The Country Day School. Four parents started a one room schoolhouse in the 70’s and has expanded to a 100 acre property. It continues to be a non-profit organization. They are not an IB school however and their tuition is quite hefty.

    Jul 26, 2012 | 5:00 am

     
 

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