When I was in the seventh grade, I distinctly remember one of my teachers encouraging us to apply for a slot in one of the science high schools in the country. She was so excited at the prospect of us being accepted that she even got some application forms for us!
It was only later that I understood why: the science high schools form part of a high school educational system that she wanted us very much to experience. I ended up studying at a “non-science” high school, but now that I look back, I think she may have been on the right track after all.
While there are many science high schools in the Philippines, I shall focus on three of them in this article: Philippine Science (PSHS), Manila Science (MaSci) and Quezon City Science (QueSci).
The Roots of the Philippine Science High School System
The PSHS system is the brainchild of one man: Dr. Leopoldo V. Torralballa. The esteemed mathematician was a New York University mathematics professor in the 1960s. He was quite familiar with the Bronx High School of Science, so he figured it would be a great idea to establish a similar system back home for deserving Filipino students.
It took many decades’ worth of hard work, perseverance, and petitioning the Philippine government, but Torralballa and his colleagues eventually succeeded. It was only in 1998, however, that all the science high school campuses were integrated into the system that we know today.
Many years later, the good doctor’s dream is alive and well—the PSHS system serves as an attached agency of the Philippine government’s Department of Science and Technology.
The History of Manila Science Revisited
While organized under an effective system, the PSHS is by no means the country’s first science high school. That distinction goes to Manila Science High School.
In MaSci’s case, credit goes to former president Ramon Magsaysay for the idea. The Philippine Congress acted on his idea and passed several Republic Acts that established the said school.
As is the case with PSHS, MaSci’s curriculum is also patterned after—wonder of wonders—Bronx High School of Science in New York.
Quezon City Science High School
Of the three schools, QueSci is the youngest—it was established in 1967. Hermingilda Garcia Margate came up with the idea for a science high school in the Quezon City area, and passed the idea on to her colleagues. The school went on to become the regional high school for the country’s National Capital Region.
In spite of being the “junior” of the lot, QueSci is by no means the runt in terms of academic performance. Case in point: in 2004, a group of students brought honor to QueSci and to the Philippines by winning an international competition. Specifically, the researchers snagged the fourth Grand Award in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in Oregon.
All in the Name of Science and Service
These institutions are called science high schools for a good reason: their basic aim is to prepare their students for a career in science and technology. Their ultimate aim, however, is to inspire these future scientists to use their talents in the service of the country.
If this resonates with you, then why not try your hand at applying? The schools are always looking for good students. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be the next one on their list of accepted candidates.