Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP150525 - Strengthening Leadership and Teaching Excellence Skills (SLATES) 2015 Closing Ceremony and Graduation

Speech by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Strengthening Leadership and Teaching Excellence Skills (SLATES) 2015 Closing Ceremony and Graduation
Metrobank Plaza Penthouse, Makati City
25 May 2015 

• Hon Lino Rivera, Undersecretary, Department of Education;
• Mr Aniceto Sobrepeña, Chairman, Metrobank Foundation;
• Dr Deborah Henderson, Queensland University of Technology (QUT);
• Mr Greg Ryan-Gadsden, Team Leader, Basic Education Sector Transformation (BEST);
• Metrobank Awardees and SLATES Graduates;
• Representatives from Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators;
• Other DepED and Metrobank officials;
• Education partners;
• My fellow Australians – I think we were out-sung in the national anthems!
• Ladies and Gentlemen

Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

I am pleased to be with you on this important occasion, and to have this chance to honour teachers, and the valuable contribution they make to our lives.

I am delighted to be given a chance to do that today, on behalf of the Australian Government. But it is also a personal passion of mine to recognise the role of teachers in making a difference in people’s lives. I have a sister in Australia who, like you, is a dedicated teacher. My other sister is a former teacher, as was my late mother. I was fortunate also to have had very good teachers whose imprint on my life, on what I have become, has been remarkable.

And this afternoon, we are gathered here not only to honour teachers, but the most excellent among them. I congratulate Metrobank Foundation for continuing to recognise the best among teachers who can be upheld as models, not only by their colleagues but by community members as a whole. Metrobank has been doing this for 30 years and, through these years, its impact on inspiring teachers to strive for excellence has been profound.

That is why when Metrobank Foundation approached the Australian Embassy four years ago to support the awards with a study visit exchange to Australia, we were very keen to come on board. Last year, in July, I was elated to sit in the panel of judges that selected the ten winners, chosen among more than 300 teachers nominated for the annual search. It was then that I learned about the exemplary things that the winners have been doing in teaching practice. Choosing among that group was one of the toughest tasks I’ve ever undertaken. Hearing their – your - stories then, and knowing how you have spent the past year to even further improve your craft, I have no doubt in my mind that the awards were very much well-deserved.

Australia’s support to Metrobank’s Most Outstanding Teachers is a part of a broader partnership in Education that Australia and the Philippines have shared for over 60 years now. We believe that quality education is the engine to economic growth and the most effective tool against poverty. That partnership has become even stronger amidst the K to 12 reform. We believe that the K to 12 program has far reaching consequences for the Philippines. As I said at a Brigada Eskwela event on 14 May, with increasing globalisation, and the emergence of global benchmarks and economic integration, K to 12 will allow young Filipinos to have increased opportunities to obtain a level of education that will prepare them for work and for higher education.

As educators, you are well aware that K to 12 involves a formidable task for your government. Hence, the Australian Government is committed to working closely with your Department of Education in many ways to help the transition to K to 12. We work with DepEd in areas such as building additional classrooms, creating more productive learning environments, developing learning materials, supporting education leaders and managers, and enhancing the curriculum. But let me tell you that a big part of our support to DepEd is in helping enhance the capacity of teachers to teach better in the classroom. Helping teachers develop into better teachers is a priority that I feel is strongly warranted, and one that I will defend to no end, owing to at least two reasons:

First, the evidence is clear that teachers significantly affect students’ learning. Next to the socio-economic background of the child, the most important variable that can affect his or her achievement is the quality of the teacher. John Hattie, a former professor of the University of Melbourne who has done considerable work on teachers once said, and I quote: “the achievement of the child lies in the person who gently closes the classroom door and performs the teaching act…the person who puts in place the effects of school policies, and he who is alone with students during their 15,000 hours of schooling.

Second, it is not easy to be a good teacher. You are expected to “know what you teach”, and you are expected to “teach what you know” very well. It entails hard work throughout your career. This is why we believe that support for teachers’ professional development is highly important. In the Philippines, we know that teaching is made more difficult by constraints such as congested classrooms, large class sizes, shortage of learning materials, or even armed conflict surrounding schools, such as in parts of Mindanao. These are the challenges that confront you every day in your life as a teacher.

It is also for these reasons that your achievement today is most admirable. Based on the awardees’ stories, I have no doubt in my mind why you deserve to be here and be honoured today. Innovations in teaching Physics and Chemistry have made your students understand these naturally difficult subjects with some ease. Teaching parents and teachers sign language has reduced the barriers surrounding hearing-impaired students. These are just some of your commendable actions. Certainly, in your teaching, you have gone the extra mile.

And so, as I close, let me congratulate each and every one of the awardees today on their well-deserved awards. I am certain your recent visit to Australia and your interaction with our educators have enriched your experiences to be better teachers to your students, and mentors to your colleagues. And I am confident in saying that while your contributions are heralded by all of us today in this room, what warms your hearts the most is the thought that you have made children’s lives better by your excellent teaching.

Thank you very much and good afternoon to all.