York professors, TCDSB teachers launch Filipino curriculum

A collaborative project between York University and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) to create curriculum content that reflects the cultural identity of Filipino students officially launched in March.

York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) faculty associates and TCDSB teachers and staff introduced the final products of the Philippine Arts and Social Sciences in the Ontario Curriculum (PASSOC) project.

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The PASSOC launch event held at the Catholic Education Centre on March 8

Collaboratively developed over the past eight months, the three curriculum packs produced by the project team introduce elementary school students to the Philippines and Filipino migrations through the social sciences, geography and dance.

PASSOC is a pun – in Filipino, the verb “pasok” means to enter. Philip F. Kelly, professor of geography at York, explained that he began this project to provide an entry point where Filipino students would see themselves in the curriculum, but also as a gateway for all students to understand the Philippines and Filipino experiences in Canada.

“The PASSOC project is a groundbreaking achievement because it allows Filipino students, who in some districts can constitute up to 90 per cent of incoming classes, to see their lived experiences and their histories reflected in the curriculum,” said Ethel Tungohan, assistant professor of politics at York. Tungohan worked on the PASSOC Social Sciences curriculum pack.

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The Jeepney Project – an example of one of the culminating assignments of the PASSOC curriculum pack

The curriculum packs include detailed lesson plans that make clear links to Ontario curriculum objectives for Grade 6 social studies, Grade 8 geography and Grades 6 to 8 dance. The lessons are pedagogically rich and innovative. They include slide decks, questions for guided discussions and a range of activities that capture an array of learning styles. They also include instructions for intermittent and culminating assessments.

“Our goal was to develop curriculum material that would fit right in with the work that teachers in Grades 6 to 8 are already doing to address issues of cultural diversity, immigration and global inequality,” said Kelly. “These curriculum packs will now provide teachers with examples and exercises that draw on Philippine culture and society, and Filipino experiences in Canada.”

Merle Gonsalvez, a teacher at St. Ursula (TCDSB), said she is encouraged by the interest in the curriculum packs since they were launched.

“As a board, we are starting to realize that our audience is changing, and I think the ministry should work on keeping up with the diversity we see in our classrooms,” she said. “Seeing the PASSOC example makes me wonder what more we can do for other communities represented in our student body. I think the more we target our curriculum to our audience, the more learning will occur.”

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The blackboard from a PASSOC activity in Merle Gonsalvez’s Grade 8 Geography class in St. Ursula’s Catholic School in Scarborough, Ont.

One of the unique aspects of the project is its collaborative approach to curriculum development. YCAR faculty associates Kelly, Tungohan and Patrick Alcedo worked closely with TCDSB teachers Michelle Aglipay, Fredeliza de Jesus, Christella Duplessis-Sutherland, Gonsalvez, Patt Olivieri and Jennilee Santican. They collaborated on all aspects of the project, from thinking through big-picture pedagogical questions to creating exercises for each subject area. The project was coordinated by TCDSB teacher and researcher Marissa Largo.

“Collaborating with TCDSB teachers was one of the best experiences I have had,” said Tungohan. “The TCDSB teachers on the PASSOC team were brilliant and energetic. They helped ensure that teachers will find it easy to adapt the curriculum materials and, most importantly, that the lesson plans we created clearly map onto learning targets for each grade.”

Alcedo, associate professor of dance at York, said this collaboration was a “dream come true” for him as a researcher and performer of Philippine dance.

“Working with TCDSB teachers on Philippine dance is a highlight of my research and teaching career at York. I hope that this historic effort to include folk dances of the Philippines and their fascinating cultural, historical, geographical and material contexts will grow to include secondary students within the TCDSB and beyond,” he said.

The PASSOC curriculum packs were launched at an event at the Catholic Education Centre in Toronto on March 8.

“We were delighted to have more than 30 teachers from across the city learning about the curriculum materials we have developed at the launch event. Our hope is that they will spread the word to teachers across the school board and beyond,” said Kelly.

Gonsalvez has already started implementing the PASSOC curriculum pack in her Grade 8 geography class at St. Ursula Catholic School in Scarborough.

“It is a refreshing change from the typical Eurocentric curriculum,” she said.

“Ultimately, we hope that Filipino kids will see themselves in the mainstream curriculum in a way that affirms and acknowledges their background and experiences,” said Kelly. “We think that this kind of responsive pedagogy will serve to heighten their self-esteem and aspirations as they continue on their educational journey.”

The curriculum packs can be downloaded at the PASSOC project website.

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