Politeach 2023: Empowering Teachers as Agents of Sociopolitical Change

Read through the highlights from the recently concluded Politeach 2023 Conference, where education and politics intersect.

Our social science teachers in junior and senior high school are uniquely positioned to shape the minds of future generations. During this critical period of personal and intellectual growth, these teachers guide their students in developing their identities and beliefs. By teaching government, politics, and civic engagement, they lay the foundation for active participation in the democratic process. They challenge biases, encourage critical thinking, and facilitate open discussions to broaden students' perspectives. The values and principles instilled during high school have a lasting impact on students' attitudes and behaviors, making it crucial to empower and support these teachers in their role as influencers of future citizens.

It is against this backdrop that Politeach has sought to empower high school social sciences teachers as vital agents in nurturing the political development of our future leaders. Politeach cultivates progressive ideas and enhances political education through thought-provoking plenary sessions, interactive breakout sessions, sectoral conversations, and special interest discussions. By uniting junior and senior high school social science teachers from diverse schools across the Greater Manila Area, Politeach creates a collaborative space to explore crucial topics such as the state of education in the Philippines, various political ideologies, and strategies for teaching Araling Panlipunan (Social Science). With a mission of forming a network of change-makers, Politeach empowers teachers, as education frontliners, to create inclusive and progressive classrooms that promote social awareness and activism, while nurturing students' critical consciousness.


The 2023 Politeach Conference kicked off with opening remark from our co-organizers - Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Philippines, Center for Youth and Advocacy Networking, and the Office for Social Concern and Involvement at the Ateneo de Manila University. Our speakers echoed a similar call to action – the necessity to combat disinformation and the vital role educators play in this mission.

Ms. Shenna Kim Carisma of FES Philippines emphasized the urgency of political education in light of the present circumstances in Myanmar and the influences of educational figures on our lives. She conveyed the necessity to uphold progressive values and political education, especially in a context where the impoverished are often blamed for their political choices. She underscored the emergence of a new generation of young people calling for effective governance. She expressed the need to extend these ideas to formal education and teachers, setting the stage for 'Politeach' - a platform to initiate this crucial conversation. Shenna confirmed Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's commitment to support this platform, thereby providing a fresh avenue for young individuals in the education sector to be involved in this program.

Ms. Leizl Adame, representing the youth-led and youth-serving NGO Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN), underlined the role of youth as agents of change and teachers as catalysts for societal transformation. She emphasized the importance of nurturing critical thinking skills amidst an era rife with disinformation, historical denial, and distortion. Leizl sees this period as an opportunity for mutual exchange of good habits and the emergence of citizens ready to be the 'eyes and ears' of the era.

Ms. Ophalle Alzona-Pornella of the Office for Social Concern and Involvement at the Ateneo de Manila University asserted the transformative power of information. She called for a joint effort to shape political education, especially in an era filled with disinformation. She stressed the need for educators to guide students in discerning facts and thus elevate the standards of political education. Ophalle encourages tackling this mission one school and one student at a time, reaffirming the individual impact on broader societal change.


Ms. Justine Raagas, Executive Director of Philippine Business for Education(PBED) delivered a comprehensive assessment of the Philippine education system, focusing on learning poverty, enrolment rates, and educational investment. Raagas underscored that the country's learning poverty had worsened from 69.5% in 2017 to 90.9% in 2019, accompanied by a low international ranking in science, reading, and mathematics. Despite these alarming trends, there's an opportunity to begin rectifying this situation as we know where to start.

She highlighted basic education's waning enrollment rates, the malnourishment and consequent learning hindrances among Filipino children, and the lack of public spending allocated to education. Raagas identified major challenges in civic education, such as content gaps, insufficient emphasis on active participation, lack of community immersion opportunities, and inadequate civic education in senior high school.

Her report called attention to the lack of investment in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), despite its importance and growing demand, with one-third of enrollees being college graduates. Raagas acknowledged the ongoing struggles, such as high unemployment rates, prolonged school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing number of students who did not attend school.

Her comprehensive report further explored the regional challenges and issues identified on the ground, such as declining mental health, lack of teacher support, a culture of mass student promotion, and inadequate student assessments. The data highlights the need to pursue priority areas including education governance, teacher quality, data and assessment, per student spending, early childhood care and development, government-industry-academia collaboration, and public-private complementarity.

Raagas concluded by urging for a collective effort to address these issues. The proposed solutions include harmonizing DepEd, TESDA, and CHED, adopting a national and international qualification framework to align standards, supporting K-12 students to ensure job-readiness, and involving critical industry players and private sector partners in designing training and learning programs. The private sector could help by providing resources and expertise, while the public should demand more transparency and accountability. The key takeaways emphasize elevating the teaching profession, improving pre-service and in-service training, enhancing the transparency of licensure exams and assessments, and lessening the load on teachers.


In his plenary on "Political Ideologies 101," Gino Antonio P. Trinidad, a political science instructor at Ateneo de Manila University, explores the significance and impact of political ideologies. He began by defining ideology as a system of ideas that influences our perception of reality, emphasizing that ideas shape outputs and realities. The study of ideas, he suggests, is just as crucial as sociology.

Mr. Trinidad's plenary focused on the concept, significance, and survey of political ideologies. He initiated the discussion by defining ideology as a system of ideas with roots in the French Revolution, with Marx and Engels noting a sense of delusion and mystification. Trinidad highlighted that power, which influences actions and notions of right and wrong, is inherent in ideologies. He emphasized the necessity of change for development to hold value.

The session then moved on to a comprehensive overview of the political spectrum, spotlighting Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism. Trinidad characterized liberalism as prioritizing individual freedom and equality, interpreting freedom as both negative (freedom from constraints) and positive (self-mastery or self-realization). He presented conservatism as a belief system that underscores tradition, the need to belong, uniformity, conservative education, and a defined understanding of family. Trinidad described socialism as advocating for social democracy, community membership, common ownership, and ethical wealth distribution, exemplified by policies such as the 4Ps and Sin Tax.

Trinidad affirmed the enduring importance of political ideologies in making sense of the world, imbuing politics with moral purpose, and building collective identities. He also touched upon the challenges and benefits of learning about different political ideologies, emphasizing the impact of ideas in shaping realities and outputs. Furthermore, he addressed the task of simplifying these complex concepts for different types of learners.

Trinidad concluded his session by tackling the issue of personal bias, acknowledging its inevitability in an educational setting. However, he urged educators to present a range of political ideologies to ensure a balanced perspective, thereby allowing learners to form their own informed stances.


The panel discussion, moderated by Mark Joseph Euste, one of the Politeach secretariat, explored the best practices in teaching Araling Panlipunan with insights from curriculum expert Asst. Prof. Alvin Mejorada from the UP College of Education, strategies expert Maria Cristina P. Bawagan, a retired Special Science Teacher of the Philippine Science High School Main Campus, and assessment expert Sarah Alviar-Eisma, the unit Head for the Social Science Unit at the Philippine Science High School Main Campus.

Mejorada emphasized the multidisciplinary nature of Araling Panlipunan across different grades and highlighted the shifts in curriculum, including the removal of Philippine History from high school and the introduction of Philippine-focused Southeast Asian content in 2024. He expressed concern over the curriculum's increasing breadth and possible loss of depth and explained the Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCs), designed to alleviate teachers' challenges. Mejorada advocated for interdisciplinary and contemporary relevance in teaching, using Martial Law as a key priority topic and urging a reduction of college-level competencies in the curriculum. His goal is to make history learning an engaging process rather than a chore. He emphasized that despite teachers’ lack of control of the curriculum, the classroom remains their kingdom where they have the power to shape the narrative.

Bawagan recounted her teaching experiences during the Martial Law era, emphasizing the challenge of teaching about current issues due to restrictions. Despite Martial Law not being included in the curriculum, she used alternative sources like podcasts and activities to teach it (sharing student learning experience examples with the group), highlighting the importance of truth-telling, distinguishing facts from distortion, and learning from history. She also advocated for the cultivation of a culture that allows truth-telling.

Eisma discussed effective assessment practices, encouraging educators to foster critical thinking and active participation among students. She emphasized teaching students how to distinguish truth from fake news and conducting primary research from Grade 7 onwards. Eisma also advocated for integrated assessments within lessons and problem-based learning for authentic learning experiences. These practices, she suggested, nurture student agency, allowing learners to take charge of their learning process.


Towards the afternoon of the first day of Politeach, breakout sessions were simultaneously conducted which tackled different relevant and emerging social issues that are not taught that much in the classroom which were conducted by the following:

These organizations delved into how these subjects are relevant in developing and shaping students’ attitudes, beliefs, and values towards social democratic principles.


We started the second day with a recap of the previous day's experience.

One participant reflected on their role as a private school teacher, expressing surprise and sadness at the budgetary constraints that prevent public schools from implementing projects to aid their communities. This participant saw an opportunity to create ties with public schools, seeking ways to assist fellow educators in obtaining necessary funding. This experience presented a personal challenge and motivation to make a difference.

The second insight came from the perspective of art and advocacy. Participants recognized art's power as a communication tool that doesn't end with the artist's intended message but extends to the viewer's interpretation. Art, they suggested, can provoke curiosity and encourage innovative ideas among students, making it an effective tool for cultivating curiosity.

The topic of media literacy also sparked a significant conversation. Participants recognized media as a powerful platform for information dissemination, emphasizing the necessity of teaching students how to critically integrate the information they receive. They underscored the importance of caution, particularly in distinguishing between genuine information and fake news, a prevalent problem among Junior High School students.

Lastly, a participant discussed the importance of solidarity when promoting gender and development. The speaker stressed the need for like-minded people to effectively push for change, suggesting that individual efforts may not yield satisfactory results without a supportive community. This "tribe" or group of people sharing the same passion would give initiatives greater impetus.


Politeach organized sectoral conversations which provided participants the opportunity to learn directly from various sectors including agriculture, urban poor, labor, and persons with disabilities (PWDs). This initiative was facilitated by figures from each sector:

These sectoral conversations allowed participants to gain a deeper understanding of each sector's unique challenges and perspectives, expanding their knowledge and comprehension of these critical social issues.

Jose Emmanuel Patrimonio, one of the lead organizers for Politeach and a batch 9 alumnus of the Academy of Political Management, led the commitment setting session with participants.

Despite their differing backgrounds and perspectives of the teachers, it became clear that a common objective was shared amongst the participants - a commitment to nurture students into becoming agents of change and utilize education as a tool to spark positive societal transformation. In the face of their limitations as educators, there was a unanimous commitment amongst the participants to explore new opportunities and strategies to better serve the nation. This included fostering critical thinking in students, enabling them to be part of meaningful societal change, and working for the betterment of the nation and future generations.

Patrimonio emphasized the ongoing nature of the commitment process, encouraging participants to remain open to new experiences and shared reflections. He reinforced the idea of building a community together, where slow and collective discovery of answers is valued, and all feelings and thoughts in this journey are valid.

He stressed the importance of grounding oneself on firm personal beliefs to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Patrimonio guided the participants to introspect on their personal commitment and alignment with their philosophies, emphasizing 'Person', 'Pedagogy', and 'Philosophy'.

The session culminated in teachers filling out a declarative statement: “Ako si Politeacher ______, Ako ay ______, Ang layunin ko ay ______, Para sa _____.” This exercise provided a platform for them to articulate their identity, objectives, and those they aim to serve, further solidifying their commitment to their Politeach journey.


Politeach enhanced the conference experience with a vibrant and interactive mini networking fair. It was held towards the end of the conference, presenting an exceptional opportunity for meaningful connections and exchanges. This interactive session gave our partners the opportunity to set up a booth, demonstrating their initiatives and contributions in various fields.

The event started with each organization delivering a brief yet compelling three-minute pitch, tailored specifically for our teacher participants. This unique format fostered insightful conversations and a deeper appreciation for the vast impacts these organizations are making.

Among our participating partners was Sibika.ph, a platform dedicated to providing engaging, contextually relevant resources for social studies education. Another was the EdukNaman campaign of the Philippine Business for Education (PBED), an advocacy group committed to catalyzing systemic educational reforms to ensure an enabling education system for all Filipinos.

We were also joined by the Youthled Network for the Right to Information (YNFORM), a project empowering youth to fight disinformation and promote access to reliable information. The Multiply-Ed project, a youth-led initiative focusing on assessing the readiness of public schools for face-to-face classes during COVID-19, presented their latest efforts. Lastly, the Youth for Just Transition Network outlined their work towards an equitable transition to sustainable energy sources.

This networking fair provided Politeachers a unique chance to explore a handpicked menu of partnerships, forge new contacts, and consider possible collaborations. The session underscored the array of ways in which educators can make a significant impact, not just within their classrooms but also in the wider societal context.


Tuesday Lagman, one of the lead organizers for Politeach and a batch 9 alumna of the Academy of Political Management, delivered a synthesis of Politeach. Highlighting the harsh realities of the Philippine education sector, she underscored severe budget shortages and the meager attention given to teaching culture, history, society, and politics, leading to a visible disinterest in civic education among students. Despite these pressing issues, the conference aimed to empower educators with effective teaching methods for social studies and equip them with the tools to address critical social issues, showcased through dedicated breakout sessions on a variety of pertinent topics.

Furthermore, Lagman amplified the pivotal role that teachers, as primary implementers in classrooms, play in overcoming these challenges. More than this, she illuminated the interconnected struggles of different societal sectors - a complex narrative teachers must convey. She stressed the critical part the Politeach program plays in empowering teachers, shaping not only their students but also the next generation of public servants. Her message was a potent reminder that teachers' influence reaches beyond the classroom, serving as the bedrock of a more liberated society. She urged educators to stay resilient and committed, accepting the continual evolution of their methods as part of their invaluable contribution to society.


Mr. Lawrence Malasa, one of the lead organizers for Politeach and a batch 9 alumnus of the Academy of Political Management, concluded the Politeach Conference by thanking all the participants and shared the backstory of Politeach’s inception. The project, created in response to widespread misinformation, aims to enable teachers to address these issues effectively in their classrooms. Despite the demanding schedule, teachers' active engagement and commitment to the program were particularly commended.

The organizing team, who volunteered their time and effort, received special recognition. Mr. Malasa emphasized the immense value of the conference, underlining its potential return on investment for the teaching profession and the youth. He ended his remarks by stating the program's goal to expand Social Studies teaching and expressed hope that participants will develop new learning resources based on the conference's input. He looked forward to hearing stories in the coming months of how teachers have integrated these experiences, creating modules and implementing structured learning experiences in their classrooms.


The  discussions and sessions during the Politeach Conference provided a rich tapestry of insights, ideas, and best practices in education. From exploring political ideologies and sectoral conversations to commitment setting and panel discussions, the conference served as a platform for educators to expand their knowledge, engage in critical conversations, and strengthen their commitment to their profession. The diverse range of topics and perspectives highlighted the importance of continuous learning, adaptability, and the power of collaboration. As educators strive to shape the minds and futures of the next generation, the conference reaffirmed the profound impact they have and the collective responsibility they share in building a better society through education.

Politeachers, as we reflect on the insights gained and the commitments made during this conference, let us ask ourselves: Are we prepared to challenge the status quo and break free from the constraints that limit our educational system? Are we willing to go beyond the classroom walls and be agents of change in our communities and society at large? The future of education lies in our hands, and it is through our collective actions that we can create a transformative and equitable learning environment for all. Will we rise to the occasion and seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of our students and the future of our nation? The choice is ours.

For more information about the Politeach program, its mission, and how you can contribute, please do not hesitate to reach out. Whether you are interested in participation, sponsorship, partnership, volunteering, or simply seeking more knowledge about the program, the Politeach team welcomes your inquiries. You may contact Politeach directly through email at politeach.ph(at)gmail.com or their Facebook page. Together, let's forge a path towards a more informed and engaged society.


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