TULA: Where Every Child Can Succeed
Coaches guide learners at TULA on “missions” — modules that combine academic subjects and character development
By Niña V. Guno
What does it take for a child to succeed in the 21st century?
James Centenera, co-founder of The Ultimate Learning Accelerator, or TULA, will tell you it’s “more than just academics”.
Established just last year, TULA is an after-school learning center founded by education experts Fenton Whelan and Centenera from the UK and Australia, respectively. They identified key skills and characteristics necessary for children “to succeed in the 21st century.”
“This includes character traits such as courage and pro-activeness, attitudes such as resilience and optimism, and social and thinking skills,“ shares Centenera, who was colleagues with Whelan in leading consulting firm McKinsey & Company before working to improve education systems around the world.
Recognizing large gaps in developing countries’ education systems, they partnered to provide high quality, low-cost education, with the ultimate goal of reaching “millions of children” all over the world, starting with the Philippines.
Last year, TULA’s first center was launched in Legaspi Village, Makati. Its classrooms were carefully planned to be conducive to learning: each had a projector and tablets, brightly colored walls, and a space on the floor to relax. Coaches — what they call their teachers — were recruited from top universities in the country and various fields, and underwent regular training to hone their skills in instruction and classroom management. At affordable prices, students from private and public schools alike are able to access it.
TULA instills 21st century skills and characteristics in learners to ensure every child can succeed
But what sets it most apart is its revolutionary approach to learning through its modules, and the culture instilled in both coaches and learners.
TULA classrooms are spacious and designed in bright colors to create a fun learning experience
A central team composed of highly qualified and young educators work hard to create and calibrate modules to maximize learning. Besides basing it on the K to 12 curriculum set by the Department of Education, they “study best practices globally from other leading education institutions in the US, Australia, Singapore, and other countries, and then they craft learning experiences that are designed to be engaging and impactful for Filipino kids,” Centenera explains.
Although the main subjects taught are English and Math, these are incorporated into a theme each month called “missions”, where lessons are taught through projects such as experiments and creative outputs. Each session, a key character trait is given focus and learners are recognized when they improve in these traits.
To ensure the lessons are absorbed and applied, in TULA, learners are told that it is okay to make mistakes and to respect one another. This progressive way of learning is already showing results: Parents share developments such as their kids getting higher grades or initially shy kids gaining confidence. “We’re glad to say that most students and parents really enjoy coming to TULA and experiencing the activities we design for them,” says Centenera.
With four centers in Metro Manila, one hundred learners at present, and several more centers set for expansion in the coming year, the dream to unlock the potential of millions of kids is already turning into a reality.