Photo courtesy of the UP Diliman Child Development Center

By Krysten Mariann Boado and Sandra Sendingan

The word today flashed before him in black ink, between minor distractions and talks about his ‘sweetheart.’

The boy, no older than four, smiled bashfully at a student-teacher who continued to watch him closely, her patience constant and firm amidst the little kid’s blabbering about puppy love. She smiled back at him, coaxing and telling the little boy that she will call his sweetheart for him.

Such classroom setup can be found within the heart of UP Diliman’s academic jungle.

The Child Development Center (CDC) is a laboratory school and research center catering to the needs of Family Life and Child Development (FLCD) majors.

The CDC, housed by the College of Home Economics (CHE), admits babies from three months to five years of age as students and allows them to take part in classes and activities conducted by undergraduate FLCD students.

The CDC setup, which they refer to as the “decentralized classroom,” is divided into different stations pertaining to a child’s interest. The yearly curriculum, on the other hand, is drawn from the collective interests of students.

Unlike traditional schools, CDC does not apply a grading system. Rather, it makes use of a developmental checklist, which consists a set of milestones for each age group. These checklists are taken from the Early Childhood Care and Development checklist recommended by the Department of Education, along with checklists from foreign countries.

Photo courtesy of the UP Diliman Child Development Center
Photo courtesy of the UP Diliman Child Development Center

The checklist closely monitors a child’s attendance and looks after the development of his or her physical, cognitive, emotional and self-help skills, according to Professor Lulu Quijano, faculty-in-charge of the Center.

We look at the child holistically. Hindi kami naniniwala sa numerical [grading] because as children, hindi mo naman sila mabibigyan ng grade at hindi rin naman nila maiintindihan pa iyan (We look at the child holistically. We don’t believe in numerical [grading] because as children, we can’t really give them a grade and they won’t understand its value either),” said Quijano.

Originally housed by the College of Education, the CDC, established in 1957, is considered the second home of 140 students, majority of which are children of UP employees.

The admission process, which prioritizes UP-dependent enrolees, is conducted by random sampling during the last week of January. For the CDC’s Infant Development Program, parent interviews are mandatory for admission.

As a parent enrols his or her child, he or she is made fully aware that the child will be subject to research, and photos taken and observations made inside the CDC are strictly for academic purposes only.

Teaching at the Center follows a rotation system for third and fourth year FLCD students. Freshmen and sophomores, especially those taking FLCD 101 (Child Development), are required to observe for 20 hours inside the CDC.

“We’re very hands-on with the kids,” said Janine May Sta. Maria, an FLCD student currently treaching at the CDC’s Infant Development Program.

Sta. Maria explained that student-teachers are divided into groups of two to three members, and are made to facilitate various activities for the kids.

When asked about her experience inside the CDC, she gleefully recounted a touching moment with one of her baby students.

Noon, sinabihan ako ng isang bata na ‘I love you, teacher.’ Tapos makikita mo at magiging sobrang masaya ka kapag kasama mo sila (Once, a child told me: ‘I love you teacher.’ Your moments with them will be a source of happiness),” Sta. Maria said.

CDC’s welcoming environment, as attested by CHE Dean Aurorita Roldan, focuses on providing love and care to children. Inside the Center, student-teachers become family figures, honing their students through a child-centered curriculum and an atmosphere close to home.

In one of the CDC’s classrooms, a little boy’s face is stretched holding a toothy grin. He puts on a mask of concentration and beams again, his student-teacher looking very pleased. The word etched in black ink finally made sense after many tries.

Despite the boy’s young age, his learning starts today.

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