American & International School History

CHAPTER VIII: 1960 – 1979

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Changing Times

  The character of the American School underwent a profound change during the period from 1960 to 1980. In almost every respect, except for the legal incorporation, the school was a very different place in 1980. One major change was in the student population which attended the school.  Philippines
From a predominantly American enrollment in 1960, the percentage of American students gradually dropped to below 40%, while Filipino students comprised a fairly constant 17% of the school. The remaining enrollment became increasingly international, reflecting a variety of developments on the Manila scene: the founding in 1966, of the Asian Development Bank and its subsequent growth; an increase in UN agencies and personnel located in Manila; and an increase in foreign (non-American) businesses in Manila. The American School continued to be the only real choice of school for the expatriate community, and as this community changed so did the school. Many families were posted to Manila for two or three years; they had no previous knowledge of the community or the school, and all too often felt no obligation to participate in school-related activities such as the PTA or the Board of Trustees, either as candidates or even as voting members.

The Board itself continued to represent the established American business community until 1970, and then it slowly broadened to include members from the embassies, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Filipino business and Third Country Nationals. The Board's guidance of school policies also reflected this trend from an all-American emphasis to a more international outlook.

One change deplored by the old-timers was the lack of community spirit which had been so strong when the number of expatriates living in Manila was smaller, and when they stayed for longer periods of time. Where once the American community guarded its reputation closely and was supportive of efforts to impose an ethical and moral code on its members, now there were many who did not feel obliged to conform to the ideals and behavior of others. The age of permissiveness was not unique in Manila, of course, but the Board, many teachers, and long-time parents at the school regretted the passing of days when parents automatically supported the school on matters of discipline. Administrators made rules and then spent endless hours trying to enforce them: were shirt-tails outside the boys' pants cut straight? How long was the hair? And most important, how short was the skirt? (If you were in Senorita's Spanish class, she had her own dress code!) There was a Student Court handbook which could have challenged the sharpest lawyer. 

In the School Bulletin issued at the beginning of the school year, there were suggestions to parent about the conduct of home parties for students and their behavior when out in the city, but there was no way to enforce these ideas. Many were actually quite sensible, especially in the pre-martial law days when random violence was not unknown and the school itself had experienced problems with gangs trying to gain entrance to the school. Even after martial law was imposed in 1972, there were still problems, especially with curfew. New North American or European students, accustomed to a fairly lenient public attitude at home towards adolescent behavior, were now surprised to find themselves locked up for the night; their parents were less than pleased about having to go and collect them; and the American School was embarrassed that their students were getting a reputation for being wild.

The school had always used an entrance exam to ensure that a prospective student was proficient in English and that a high academic standard would be maintained. As long as they were in the crowded Pasay School, a restricted enrollment was understandable; but after the school moved to Makati, it was under constant pressure from the American Embassy to accept more students, even if it meant lowering the admission standards. The American military was reducing its presence in Manila and eventually it was no longer cost-effective to keep a school at JUSMAG base in Quezon City. After many heated meetings of parents, PTA and the Board, the American School agreed to accept students from JUSMAG (and by inference, other students as well) by lowering the entrance requirements, although they maintained the original aim of the school which was to prepare students for higher education abroad. 

With this increased enrollment, the school would be overcrowded, and the first of a long series of additions to the school was begun: the U.S. Department of State and Public Law 480 provided the funds for the Middle School Building. At the same time in 1970, the American Embassy in Manila suggested that the school might think of changing its name to reflect the changing enrollment patterns; the American School became the International School of Manila.

In the 60s, the concept of the school serving the community remained strong and traditional; many Board members were alumni themselves, and their children were now at the school. Tuition fees and similar costs should be kept as low as possible, out of consideration for the parents. Even though the majority of students now had their fees paid not by their parents but their parents', employers, the ideal of low tuition persisted; a study of similar schools in 1980 showed that every other international school in South East Asia had higher fees than in Manila. Hand-in-hand with low costs went low salaries, based originally on the local salary scale. In the 50s, a single teacher could rent quite a nice apartment close to the school in Pasay, and live comfortably on his salary; but after the school moved to Makati and costs of living in that area rose out of sight, no teacher could live near the school on her salary alone, even though salaries were by then higher than the Philippine norm. 

From 1958 to 1970, the starting salary for a new teacher was 450 pesos a month; there was no maternity leave, no sick leave, no emergency leave, nor were there any retirement benefits. The value of the peso had changed in 12 years as well; in 1958, there were two pesos to the dollar; in 1968, it was four to the dollar; in February of 1970, the peso was devalued again. Although the school had never hired teachers per se from abroad, a lack of non-Filipino teachers had led to a policy of bringing in a few "coordinators," mostly from the United States, who would have minimal teaching assignments along with other duties. It was assumed by the Board that the few expatriate teachers already at the school (all women) were supported by their husbands and working only as an alternative to bridge or tennis; therefore, it was not necessary to offer them a salary equal to the coordinators.

Filipino teachers became increasingly dissatisfied with their salaries and the Board's seeming lack of concern for their welfare. At that time, the Board was very active in day-to-day matters at the school, and although the teachers made their feelings known to the Superintendent, very little dialogue was accomplished. The teachers formed a liaison committee, which did not accomplish anything except a small raise in salary, from 450 pesos to 560 pesos for a starting teacher. Teachers then formed the International School Alliance of Educators, a teachers' union, which the refused to recognize. The result was a teachers' strike. Eventually, the first of many Collective Bargaining Agreements was signed and classes resumed. The ISAE grew in strength to control nearly all aspects of teaching at the International School: salary scale and credit for previous experience benefits, teaching assignments and tenure. The benefits and salary increases gained in 1970 were long overdue, but the strike and the union created a confrontational atmosphere of teachers vs. administrators (occasionally viewed as Filipinos vs. Americans) which became a part of the school's future.

The traditions of active student interest in the school remained strong at the new Makati location; the traffic patrol (manned largely by "old-timers") valiantly tried to organize the stream of cars outside the school; the number of other activities increased, to include drama and dance groups. Students were very aware of volatile political situation in Manila in the early 70s, and editorials in the student newspaper (the BT) discussed various local political groups and their leaders, as well as the role of the United States in the world, in Asia and in the Philippines. 

Nowhere was there more enthusiasm than in elections for the Student Government, when all available school surfaces were covered with posters. No one ever equaled the all-time campaign coup from the Donada campus, when students arrived at school one morning to find the entire roof of Heilbronn covered with a candidate's name on a banner, but nearly everyone was involved, students all over Manila were caught up in demonstrations, making their voices heard. With the declaration of Martial Law in September, 1972, all student governments were disbanded, and the International School was no exception. Although a student council was formed later, subsequent student elections never quite regained their earlier intensity.

Martial Law affected the school in many other ways. Initially, all Filipino students were required to attend Filipino schools, and the International School had to request a special exemption which would allow local students to continue at school. The Board's argument was that it was foolish to call itself an international school if children from the host country were not allowed entrance. Finally, it was agreed that Filipinos could enroll at the International School, provided that their numbers would never rise beyond 20% of the total enrollment, and provided that the school begin to have classes in Filipino language and history. The new regulations about foreign ownership of property affected the International School most of all. 

For nearly 20 years, the Laurel-Langley Act had given American businesses preferential status in the Philippines, including the right to own property; but now this privilege was to be discontinued. Over a period of two years, an agreement was worked out by which the school's property and the buildings on it were to be ceded to the government of the Philippines; in return for this, the school was granted a President Charter, PD, which allowed the school use of the property and buildings for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The International School was also granted the right to hire foreigners and to set its own curriculum and school calendar.

From a financial point of view, the school was suddenly reset to a pre-1936 situation, not owning their property and buildings. The school's enrollment was steadily increasing, and soon more space would be needed. The 10-acre Makati site, which had seemed spacious compared to the Pasay campus, would be cramped with many more buildings, and there was little likelihood of purchasing adjoining land. Even though property values in Makati had multiplied many times over, the school would realize no money from a sale of the land to finance a move to a larger site. After the options were weighed, the Trustees decided to embark on a building program at the present location, even though it meant reducing the playing field area considerably. The school's last separate fund-raising drive built the swimming pool complex, with bleachers and change rooms, and the school swiftly developed a powerful competition swim team which now has a most impressive list of wins and records. 

To finance future buildings, maintain a fund for renovations and repairs to existing buildings, and create a capital sum which could be invested and used for a future move, the Board of Trustees voted to create the Development Fund in 1975. Patrons were given the option of paying the development fund fee each year, or purchasing 12-year Capital Notes (for families who expected to be in Manila on a long term basis). Thus the building assessment was equally distributed among all the patrons. The school's operating costs continued to be covered by the tuition and matriculation fees.

The students at the International School today enjoy facilities beyond the imagination of former students and staff; to name a few, there is a Fine Arts Center, with a theater seating 420, and art and music rooms; a second pool, with diving boards; a third gymnasium, for high school students, which also houses offices, home management classrooms and tennis courts on the roof; and a 4-story elementary school, with its own Little Theater, and Media Center, canteen and bookstore. The remaining playing field is very busy, and various sports teams make use of off-campus facilities such as Rizal Stadium, the Polo Club and San Lorenzo Park.
Polo Club

The multi-national character of the International School has become one of the school's strongest points, and perhaps is best seen in the yearly United Nations Day celebrations, and the International Dinner, which is the biggest fund-raising activity of the PTA The Philippine Cultural Club has fostered interest in things Filipino, and has been joined by a Chinese Cultural Club and an International Club. A further dimension to this multi-national side of the school is the interaction not only among the International School and other schools in the Philippines, but also with schools in the South East Asian area. 

The introduction of the International Baccalaureate program in 1976 gave the International School students the chance to study in a worldwide diploma granting situation, wherein their performance would be judged outside of the school. New courses were introduced in the High School, and there was an increased awareness of educational trends in other parts of the world. The International Baccalaureate (IB) program also encouraged non-American parents to enroll their older children at the International School, since the IB diploma is recognized in their own countries.

As the International School entered the 1980s, the most important words in the school's vocabulary were international, multi-national, multi-cultural, diverse, and above all else, flexible.

The 80s and beyond...

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