As the brainchild of the newly installed Schools Division Superintendent, this document will trace the history of the Division of Nueva Ecija.
This contains the pooled accounts by researchers who were inspired by the SDS who posted the challenge to the Education Supervisors in Araling Panlipunan, Mr. Dante Parungao (Elementary) and Eva Fe Taclibon, Ph.D. (Secondary).
The Philippine Educational System has undergone enormous curricular revision and redirection from the days of the Thomasites to the present just to meet the demands of society and provide quality education.
Through the years, The Division of Nueva Ecija withstood the challenges of the times. It has been housed in the Old Capitol Building, Cabanatuan City for several years until it was transferred to its present office just adjacent to its former building.
This edifice had undergone repair, renovation and reconstruction through the able leadership of the former SDS, Mr. Dioscorides D. Lusung who served the division for eight years.
Taking a glimpse of the list of SDS from 1901 to present, seven were Americans and 18 were Filipinos coming from different provinces of the country. SDS Ronaldo Atalla Pozon is the 24th. (he is the 36th anyway, that is from 1901 to 2015).
Very notable with the superintendents is that, they are not from Nueva Ecija except a few among them.
However, each of these educational leaders who were assigned with the division exhibits dedication and commitment to the vision and mission of providing quality education to its clientele.
Perhaps, a look at the history of the Philippine Educational System particularly in Nueva Ecija may help sharpen our focus.
Education During Pre-Colonial Period
There was no formal schooling but schools had managed to exist out of bookless curriculum. Teacher trainings were purely survival and despite of this our ancestors became good farmers, hunters and fisherman.
Education During Spanish Period
An education Decree of 1863 created the Superior Commission with Primary Instruction headed by a chairman. A primary school for each municipality was created.
The cura paroco was the first teacher who began the work of educating the natives and their classes were held under the “silong” (space under a floor) of big houses. Education was for the well to do families that could afford to pay. The subjects taught in the parochial school were Religion, Spanish language, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.
The first classes in the primary level were held in the municipal hall and in the barrios; some classes were also conducted inside the vistas (chapel). Education this time was free and open to the masses, but at first the American Teachers find it difficult to convince parents to send their children to school.
Education during American Period
The first group of American teachers was part of the big group of teachers brought to the Philippines by the U.S. Army Thomas in 1901 and in September 1, 1901 16 “Thomasites” were assigned to Nueva Ecija.
The American teachers undertook the training of a group of native students. From their first classes they were able to accelerate the bright students and gave training in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Emphasis was focused on industrial arts for boys and domestic science for girls. After two years, the students were declared “graduates” and were given teaching assignments. Part of the 63 Novo Ecijano who were assigned to the primary level were Francisca Trinidad, Ursula Sevilla, Cipriana Lopez, Jacinto Ayroso and Gregorio Trinidad.
The Philippine commission appointed Fred W. Atkinson to prepare a draft on education and on January 21, 1901, after several months of gathering information the Philippine Commission approved it as Education Act No. 74 paving the way for the establishment of the Bureau of Public Instruction headed by a General Superintendent whose jurisdiction covered ten schools division and later increased its number, each division under the supervision of a division superintendent.
On September 1, 1901 Mr. T.W. Thompson was assigned as Acting Division Superintendent of Nueva Ecija and later in Ilocos Sur on April 1907. He was also appointed as Acting Superintendent of the Philippine Normal School.
The Elementary School
The first classes conducted in 1901 were in the primary level which consisted of four years. After one year, the exceptional or bright students were accelerated to the intermediate level which consisted of three years.
In 1902, Mr. L.C. Highley, an American Teacher assigned in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija conducted a number of classes in the intermediate grades. Pupil attendance began to increase in 1903, and in 1904, Superintendent T.W. Thomson of the Division of Nueva Ecija began to plan the construction of a building. The Insular Government provided a loan of P15,000 to the province of Nueva Ecija through the help of Gov. Epifanio delos Santos. The school site was donated by Crispulo Sideco. Through the efforts of Sideco, Supt. Thomas got not only a building for the intermediate grades but a high school to boot, the Wright Institute.
In October 7, 1905, one of the first public high schools in the Philippines outside of Manila was opened in San Isidro. It was first called Wright Institute in honor of Governor-General Luke E. Wright and later was named Nueva Ecija High School. In 1972, Nueva Ecija High School was transferred to Cabanatuan City.
The intermediate curriculum consisted of Grammar and Reading, Arithmetic, History, Drawing, Domestic Science for the girls and Wood Working for the boys.
The high school curriculum was purely academic subjects such as English, History, Economics, Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Latin.
The faculty line up for the intermediate department consisted of Filipino teachers, namely Filomeno Jacinto, Eusebio Maniaul, Sixto P. Lustre, Eugenio Ramos and Francisca Bunuan who was the first Filipino to be appointed principal of the Wright Institute.
In 1906, Clinton D. Whipple, the second Division Superintendent of schools of Nueva Ecija reported that 99 schools already opened. He also included that the number of Novo Ecijano teachers increased to 136 and enrollment in the province increased to 10, 748.
In 1907, Isauro Gabaldon introduced his first educational bill before the Phil. Assembly in 1907, known as the Gabaldon Act of 1907; it appropriated one million pesos for the construction of public schools throughout the country. And because of this Education Act from 99 schools in 1906 it increased to 155 in 1918.
The continued effort of the provincial government to resolve the problems in education in Nueva Ecija finally got its headway when the Insular government released additional funds for the acquisition of schools sites and the construction of school buildings in 1928. The first two school sites acquired in 1928 were allocated for the construction of the Insular provincial high schools, namely; the Nueva Ecija Trade School and the Nueva Ecija High School. These schools were located in the capital city of Cabanatuan. Twenty-two more schools sites were acquired in the same year with a minimum land area of one hectare for the central schools, and one hundred-seventeen site for the Pangilinan.
The total number of school sites acquired by the provincial government towards the end of the American rule was 182 with estimated value of P80, 152. 02 broken down as follows:
Provincial and Insular School Sites P12,600.00
Municipal Central School Sites P31,311.04
Municipal Barrio School Sites P36,240.49
Seventy four of the schools were acquired through donation; ninety were purchased and eighteen by reservation. Resumption of the construction of school buildings base on standard and special plan (either concrete or semi-concrete) began in 1928. a total of 27 school buildings were constructed at the total cost of P344, 026.19. The following year, 22 additional buildings were built based on the special plan. These new school buildings with a total number of 76 classrooms cost P327, 802.10 by 1931 a total of 182 concrete and semi-concrete school buildings were constructed throughout the province. Of these numbers, 52 were central elementary school; 128 barrio elementary schools; and 32 secondary schools.
This widespread acceptance and eagerness of the Novo Ecijanos to obtain formal education can be interpreted as a positive reaction toward a particular American colonial policy.
Through Executive Order No. 10 dated April 12, 1907, Governor General James F. Smith ordered that the 658 hectares of forested public domain was truly reserved for Central Luzon Agricultural School. One June 10, 1909 the school finally opened with thirty students and three faculty members (2 Americans and 1 Filipino). However, five months after the opening, a strong typhoon destroyed the buildings which were made out of light materials. It was Kilmer Moe who introduced a lot of changes such as expansion and using strong materials for the schools house. Student dormitories, a superintendent office, a house for American Teachers, a machine shop and a sawmill were constructed.
In 1925, the Philippine Legislature passed Act 3162 and 3196 which created the Board of Educational Survey. This was headed by Dr. Paul A. Monroe and according to his report Central Luzon Agricultural School was the best agricultural institute in the country in terms of training and instructional facilities.