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IMPULSES | St. Joseph School’s legacy endures

By Herman M. Lagon

St. Joseph School Iloilo has long been recognized as one of the leaders in high-quality basic education, fostering minds and steadfastly developing futures. Not only does the institution’s recent declaration of closure signal the end of an era, but it also serves as a sobering reminder of the difficulties private schools in the Philippines face. Although this story is unique in its specifics, it represents a larger message of perseverance, dedication, and the unwavering pursuit of academic greatness in the face of hardship.

Right at the center of the metropolis, St. Joseph School, was started in 1972 as a modest preschool by Maria Lourdes Josefina-Ilagan Garcia and her husband Roberto de Leon Garcia, Jr., who were motivated by a passion for teaching and learning rather than by profit. Together with a small team, Mrs. Garcia—who held the dual roles of principal and owner—established the groundwork for the future establishment of an esteemed educational institution. Their transition from kinder school to providing elementary and high school education entirely is evidence of their commitment to establishing a holistic learning environment and putting the development of well-rounded people ahead of profit.

The history of St. Joseph School is intricately linked to the legacy of the Garcia family, which is one of selflessness, a passion for learning, and the conviction that aspirations should be nurtured. The Garcias’ dedication to operating the school as a family business has forever changed the neighborhood with the principles of integrity, respect, and constant development at its heart. Numerous students have been motivated to realize their full potential by emphasizing love, commitment, and the quest for greatness in their educational methods.

But St. Joseph School’s shutdown is a symptom of a bigger problem facing private education in the country. Due to the pandemic’s exacerbation of already-existing financial difficulties, some institutions have suffered irreversible losses and a sharp decline in enrollment. This event is not unique; instead, it is part of a concerning trend in which hundreds of private schools have permanently closed.

A quarter of a million kids have switched from private to public schools recently, highlighting the economic strain on families and the attraction of free education. But there is a price for this change. Overcrowded public schools find it challenging to maintain quality, and the situation is made more difficult by the departure of skilled instructors who want to be paid more. The circumstance emphasizes how important private schools like St. Joseph have been in providing high-quality education, as they frequently outperform public schools on standardized examinations.

The closing of St. Joseph School and other similar educational establishments raises significant concerns concerning the future of education in the country. Historically, private schools have complemented the public system; their disappearance would reduce educational diversity and jeopardize the caliber of graduates who enter the workforce. Although the government’s efforts to subsidize private education through vouchers and other means are praiseworthy, there is still an urgent need for more comprehensive support due to the obstacles associated with learning poverty.

Private schools, which provide a different route for kids to break free from the cycle of educational disadvantage, have proven essential in tackling learning poverty. It is evident from the accomplishments of establishments such as the University of the Philippines and the Philippine Science High School System that high-quality education can be achieved with sufficient money and administration. But, given the scope of the education crisis, a multipronged strategy is needed, one that acknowledges private schools as vital players in the country’s educational environment.

Despite being closed, St. Joseph School’s tale is eventually one of success. It shows the positive effects committed educators and organizations may have on their local communities. We must consider the future while pondering St. Joseph School’s legacy. While formidable, the obstacles confronting private education in the country are relatively manageable, albeit hanging on a thread. Nonetheless, future generations can draw inspiration from the heritage of institutions like St. Joseph if, with God’s grace, they work together, find creative solutions, and remain dedicated to providing high-quality education for all.

We want to thank the proprietors, the faculty, and everyone who has contributed to the incredible adventure of St. Joseph School. Thousands of great men and women Josephenians have benefited from your commitment to education and empowerment to contribute significantly to society. Even if St. Joseph School may close its doors, its mission—the drive for quality, the love of learning, and the strength of community—will always be a ray of hope for Philippine education’s future.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.


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