The Educational Philosophy and Practice of Ingenium

Ingenium is the latin word for “native talent”. This kernel of truth, that every child is born with “native talents” or latent capacities,  lies at the foundation of the philosophy and the characteristic student formation of Ingenium School.

In the context of the Christian tradition, these “native talents” are a manifestation of the truth that each child is created in the image of God,  and that in each person,  there is the desire for God, expressed in such various ways as a “Desire for Happiness”, or “…for fulfillment”, or “….for meaning.”  As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

In the educational context, these “native talents” are  revealed by the built-in  desire to know the truth and the innate drive towards the `good.  Thus, in a very radical  sense, a child is not “taught” from the outside; the child “learns” from the inside.  To “learn” and to be “formed” are to activate these innate drives and latent capacities in the child and bring them to their fullest fruition.

The fundamental task of Ingenium is to nourish and support,  enhance and develop  this inner drive for the true and the good. It is to provide  the sequence of studies and the program of activities, as well as the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, cultural, and spiritual environment that will foster the full growth of the child. Most importantly, it is to provide these conditions in such a personal manner that, from beginning to end, the focus is on the welfare of the individual student. This care for the person (“cura personalis”)  springs from the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and being rooted in this Ignatian ideal, Ingenium seeks to actualize it in every facet of its operations.

The intended end result  is a graduate that is not only fully prepared for college and a meaningful and productive life,  but also a person formed into  the image of Christ–a responsible, competent, and compassionate Filipino–in terms of his habits and abilities,  his values and life orientation.

BERNARD LONERGAN : HOW DOES ONE KNOW/LEARN?

Philosophies and theories, programs and  practices,  research and experimentation  abound in the field of  education today, particularly in basic education. These ideas and “findings”  are so varied, so continuous and so fast-changing that there is a real danger of losing one’s way in the educational task.  To blindly cling to the practices of the past is not only counter-productive, but can even be destructive. The caricature of such discredited education has been pithily expressed thus: “To talk is to teach, to listen is to learn, and to ask questions is dangerous.”  At the same time, given the varied and fast-changing prescriptions for “good education”, what is one to follow?

For Ingenium, the path to quality basic education is clear.

First, it builds upon the core insights and values of Jesuit basic education. Second, it finds precision and guidance in executing  these core insights and values from two  sources:  on the theoretical  side,  from the work of the Canadian Jesuit philosopher, theologian,  and mathematician, Bernard Lonergan, whose own ideas are built upon the foundations of Thomistic philosophical tradition;  and on the experimental side  by the whole modern fields of brain research, and developmental, social and educational psychology,  verified in research findings and experiences of modern educational institutions and educators.

As carefully analyzed and explained by Lonergan (Insight, A Study of Human Understanding), the process of learning  consists of distinct, dynamic, interrelated stages. Each stage is different, and necessary for the next stage;  and each succeeding stage builds upon the prior stage.

“Be Alert”

A first stage involves the senses: touching, tasting, seeing,  smelling, hearing both in actual sensation and in imagination—a process that starts from the earliest infancy of  the child (and perhaps even, in the womb).  For example, an infant instinctively puts everything in its mouth.  Education-wise, this means experiences involving the senses and the development of imagination are fundamentally important.

In Ingenium, this translates into the vibrant colors of the school and the classrooms, the many and varied manipulative toys, educational tools, digital/computer programs, varying projects carried out by the children themselves including cooking, field trips both “minor”  and “major”,  and  a continuous year-long program of activities that often goes beyond the classrooms.  Among the basic objectives in all this: to widen, deepen, and enrich the sensible experiences and imagination of the children and thus awaken intelligence.

A fundamental educational Ingenium catch-word for this first stage, following Lonergan,  is: “Be alert!”, “Be aware!”, “Be on the ball!”

“Be Intelligent”

The  second stage is understanding. It is asking questions: “What is it?” “Why is that?”  Any parent knows how persistent a child can be in asking such questions: Why?  What?  Where? When? Such questions are a sign of intelligence awakening.  And when the student finds the answer, he gets the point, he has an “Aha!” experience, he grasps an insight, a solution to the puzzlement that arose from what he had sensed or imagined—he understands!

In Ingenium, this translates into the importance of stimulating  the curiosity and provoking questions in the student;  and guiding such curiosity and questioning towards insight and understanding.

The Ingenium catch-word for this stage is: “Think!”, “Be intelligent!”

The Role of Language 

A critically important development  in this regard is the mastery of language. Language  not only radically enlarges the range and depth of imagination, but also,  questions and answers, as well as communications, are formulated in words.

For Ingenium this translates into the importance of books and libraries. It also explains the goal of Ingenium to  develop the child’s reading ability and comprehension at the very earliest years; and  as the child progresses, the goal to develop more and more the critical understanding of what the student reads. Finally, it explains the choice of Ingenium to follow a  “literature-based” program in the pre-school where basic concepts in math and science and other subjects are intertwined with literature (stories).

Moreover,  it is not only the passive absorption of language through reading, but also the active use of language through speech and writing. For Ingenium, this translates into the many varied class and stage presentations and activities that fill up  the academic year of the student.

Finally, it is not only mastery of English, but also of Filipino that is striven for from the earliest pre-school years.

“Be Reasonable”

A third stage is reflective understanding. It is different from mere understanding because it asks such further questions as:  “Is it really so?”, “Is that a fact?” “Is it true?” The development of this stage is all-important for critical understanding.  As experience shows in the present age of mass media and the internet, not all ideas are true and not all “information” is correct. And so, it is important for the student to develop his reasoning capacity:  to verify information and “vet” their sources, to compare and weigh ideas, to develop his critical abilities, to reflect and verify his understanding. This is the third stage: to judge whether one’s “thinking” is correct or mistaken, whether one’s insight or understanding is true or false.

For Ingenium, this reveals the increasingly changing role of the teacher in the modern classroom: it is to guide the development of the critical faculties of the student. The teacher is not just the giver of information, but more importantly the teacher is the guide or coach in validating and weighing the information. Beyond memorized correct answers, students must be capable of explaining their answers. Indeed, because so many questions are not answerable by a simple yes or no, students must learn to evaluate the evidence for this or that answer,  to weigh the varying validities of various answers, to identify the variables and conditions by which one answer is superior to another, and so on.

Such “reasonableness,” as a personal habit of mind, carries over into the moral sphere. Thus it is unreasonable (and irresponsible), for example,  to believe or spread “tsismis”,  to engage in “idle speech”, particularly destructive speech against others’ reputation, and so on.

Be Responsible”

Finally, the fullness of learning and knowing is not merely in “knowing” facts and analyzing them; it is in the choosing and the doing, in the decision and action,  on the basis of what one knows to be true. Commitment to the truth leads to action, and it is action that changes situations and the person himself. One is responsible for one’s personal development; one is responsible for one’s community and country. Therefore, beyond being “intelligent, it is important for the student to learn to act, to choose  what is good or better, in short, to choose and act responsibly.

The Ingenium catch-word for this stage is: “Be responsible!”

The capacity to consistently and habitually act responsibly is truly a high personal human achievement.  Self-knowledge and knowledge of the world, skills and competence, courage and self-confidence, positive connectedness with others and society—all these qualities and more are summed up in this high personal achievement that is self-leadership.

“Be Loving!”

But high as the achievement of self-leadership may be, there is one final dimension of personal human development that Ingenium aims for. Rather than being another stage, it is more a kind of a context, a framework, a quality that infuses all the stages of knowing and learning. And rather than being an outcome of personal effort, it is more a gift of faith.

It is the fundamental personal conviction of being loved, of possessing a unique and inherent value, of being blessed and gifted beyond one’s due. From such conviction flows the sense of humility and gratitude, and from such conviction flows the spontaneous response to love in return.

To develop in the student such personal conviction of being the recipient of God’s unconditional love lies at the core of Ingenium’s Christian formation, of Ingenium being a Catholic school. With such a conviction of being loved, failings in one’s self and others can be overcome, betrayal and malice do not incapacitate, and one is able to live out Jesus’ solution to the problem of evil: “Return good for evil”.

The Ingenium catch-word for this dimension, which is more a basic life-orientation is: “Be loving!”

“The Creation of a Better Philippines!”

Ingenium’s vision/mission “For a better Philippines” rests on its success to form its students in the holistic manner described above and, as well, to effectively communicate to its parents and guardians (=the Ingenium Community) the ideas and values behind such a formation. For indeed, action that brings about what is good is nothing else but an act of creation. By one’s intelligent and reasonable choice and responsble action,  there is created a good that would not have been there had one not chosen and acted. If God has created man to his own image, and God is Creator, Ingenium’s mission/vision is to form agents of change—creators of “a better Philippines.”

 Summation

Summing  it all up: the mantra of Ingenium’s educational philosophy is captured by its five prescritions: Be Alert, Be Intelligent, Be Reasonable, Be Responsible, Be Loving.; and these prescriptions, made operational in the person’s life,  result in the core values of Ingenium:  Civitas, Sapientia, Caritas—values that bring about the creation of “a better Philippines.”

 After-word:

A thoughtful person may ask: What about the other theories/practices, some solidly established others modern and still on-going,  that abound in the field of the educational effort?

For Ingenium, it is within the more fundamental and inclusive philosophical work of Lonergan that Ingenium situates the wealth of  solid advances that have been made in the educational field by such authorities as Jean Piaget (who had influenced Lonergan himself) on the development of cognition in children;  Lawrence Kohlberg on moral development; Erik Erikson on psychosocial development;  the Russian Lev Vygotsky on the socio-cultural development of intelligence;  Martin Seligman on positive psychology (vs. “learned helplessness”).

The multi-intelligence theories of Harold Gardner find fuller context in Lonergan’s analysis of the patterns of consciousness while Daniel Goldman’s focus on emotional intelligence complements Lonergan’s analysis of the intimate relationship between affectivity and intelligence.  And the whole “new” constructivist theories of learning find more solid and careful explanation in Lonergan’s analysis of the dynamism of consciousness.

Finally, there is the whole modern thrust of brain research that complements, from the “hard-science”-laboratory side, so to speak, the theories, hypotheses, conclusions of the learning phenomenon.

One important strength of Ingenium, therefore, is its very radical (in the sense of “root”) philosophical framework in cognitional analysis by which it can distinguish between faddishness and solid advances in educational theory and practices, adapt the latest advances without losing the true and tested.