This is the text portion of my thesis.  I’ve already posted the board layout in a previous post linked here.  I’ll also post the photos individually as I really like how they turned out and being that they were a part of the presentation: they were affixed to wooden blocks as pieces of a puzzle, going with the school/learning theme.


Photo courtesy of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems

Photo courtesy of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems

The Philippines is a beautiful country full of culture, history, and natural beauty. From the brightly colored coral reefs, to the Mayon Volcano, to the quiet white sanded beaches of remote fishing villages, the Philippines abounds with natural and built wonders. With so many appealing draws to the country, why does the Philippines only net about 1.7% of tourists to Asia?(1) It could be that the country as a whole faces many environmental dangers and social disorder. The US Department of state cites it as a “volcano-, typhoon-, and earthquake-prone country.”(2) Along with the uncontrollable natural disaster aspect that poses a threat to both tourists and Filipinos alike, some claim that the reason for lack of involvement in the Filipino nation is “ignorance” and that people don’t know about the Philippines.(3) It’s difficult to believe that people do not know about a country of 88 million people covering over 7,000 different islands totaling nearly 300,000 square kilometers.(4) It can be argued, however, that it is not necessarily that people don’t know about the Philippines, but rather that people are not aware of the socioeconomic crises in Philippines.

Photo courtesy of Nicky Loh Photography

Photo courtesy of Nicky Loh Photography

Awareness is a key aspect in understanding the plight of the Filipino people. While some may know general facts about the country as a whole, many overlook the fact that almost half of the nearly 106 million inhabitants live in rural areas and in these rural areas live almost 80% of the country’s poor population.(5) Nearly 27% of the population is considered to live in poverty.(6) The Philippines has a substantial agricultural based economy, consisting of 32% of the population working in an agricultural based field.(7) However, with such a dominant agriculture, one would not expect for the country to have 17% of their population considered malnourished; that is: their “food intake is chronically insufficient to meet their minimum energy requirements.”(8) The main profession of those in poverty is subsistence farming. Because these farmers operate on smaller farms, they help contribute to unsustainable farming practices. This population contributes heavily towards the deforestation of watersheds, soil erosion, and increased pollution of coastal mangrove swamps used to breed fish.(9) These populations are therefore affected by the decline and the productivity and profitability of their farms. Poor Filipino farmers have unfortunately and inadvertently set themselves up for failure due to their need to earn money and create food. The rural farmers in the Philippines fall behind the rest of the country regarding public growth and contribute higher unemployment rates because they have little access to productive assets and business opportunities.(10) Children factor heavily into the Filipino population. 34% of the country’s population is made up of youth aged 0-14 years.(11) Out of the total population, 20.7% of children under 5 are considered to be underweight and therefore malnourished.(12) Globally, nearly 140 million primary and secondary school aged children are generally not in school.(13) Rural Filipino children are no exception to these statistics. In fact, it is common for rural children to skip school so that they can help their parents farm. The rural family’s need for food and income is so great that it surpasses the need for education.

Photo courtesy of Nicky Loh Photography

Photo courtesy of Nicky Loh Photography

Architecture has sought to address the needs of underprivileged communities globally. Architects everywhere “are elevating the role of architecture in solving social and environmental problems.”(14)  One such case is the Shiroles Rural School in Shiroles, Costa Rica.(15) Support for the construction of the school came mostly from the community. Parents and other community members came together to donate building materials such as timber and corrugated metal. Architect Elisa Marin states that they “tried to use materials that the residents would be able to find in the future.”(16) Another goal of the project was to bring skills to the community. The importance of community involvement in building projects is crucial to their success. As Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré says of his humanitarian work in the African country of Burkina Faso: “When people make things themselves, they protect them.”(17) He also believes in designing beautiful projects in order to give the people not only a structure, but something of cultural value. Kéré is a native of the Gando Village in Burkina Faso and argues for community involvement in the building process because it “teaches people skills that can be used to maintain the structure and be applied to other projects.”(18) David Pound, an architect who works in Ghana, explains that community involvement in the project helps them “develop connections with the project so they could understand that it was not exclusive, but a place where they could all go.”(19)

Photo courtesy of Architectural Record

Photo courtesy of Architectural Record

Specifically in the Philippines, the Advancement for Rural Kids Organization, seeks to improve the health and education of rural children in the Philippines. Kindergarten-aged students in rural communities throughout the Philippines occasionally attend class in poorly equipped, makeshift, temporary classrooms. Many of these children miss school due to hunger, heat, and lack of water. These factors discourage and inhibit their ability to learn in a comfortable and supportive learning environment.(20) This organization brings the children to school through a feeding program, in which their parents can pay 5 cents a day for their children to get meals and an education. ARK defines their mission as such:

By focusing on education and collaborating with an empowered community, we hope to provide the critical tools that will enable every child to dream, carve new paths, seize new opportunities and create a promising future devoid of poverty.  We strive for 100% literacy; drive rural investment and economic vitality; cherish traditions; keep community and family members together; and give farmers, fisher-folks, store owners and other rural residents a chance to lift themselves out of subsistence with dignity and pride.(21)

ARK has built classrooms in Adgahon and Bitoon Ilaya. Both have been incredibly successful in the communities. School attendance increased by 24%, parent cooperation increased 50%, and the families have received 20% of their food sources from the school garden.(22) These projects have also strengthened the community by providing new projects, skills, and income to volunteers.

Photo courtesy of Advancement for Rural Kids Facebook page

One of the many children supported by ARK through their feeding program

By partnering with ARK on the Island of Panay in the Visayas island group, this thesis project will empower the community in which it is built. It will provide kindergarten aged children not only a comfortable place to learn, but will inspire the children to live to their full potential. The classroom will be a place that every member of the community can use: students can use it to comfortably learn and be fed, and parents and other community members can use it as a meeting place. The school will incorporate a community garden that will foster sustainable farming practices. The fabrication process of this school will also require community involvement. This will allow community members to develop building skills that they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn or use. This will encourage alternative sources of income for the people since they will be able to market themselves in an industry other than agriculture. The transformative aspect of this project is also crucial to its success. The longevity of the building is ensured through its ability to transform and adapt to the community’s needs as well as its use of locally sourced and durable materials. This project will teach not only students but also their families how to live a more productive and efficient life. It will encourage them to use skills that they learned through the building of the classroom towards other projects, thus expanding their potential sources of income. The incorporation of sustainable design will allow the children to learn comfortably as well as educate the parents on how to improve their own dwellings.

Photo courtesy of Guillaume Gauthereau

Children supported by ARK


1 Ehrlich, Richard S. “Philippines Tourism, a Tough Sell?” CNN Travel. CNN, 11 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/escape/philippines/whats-problem-philippine-tourism-918924&gt;.

2 “Philippines.” Philippines. United States Department of State, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_999.html&gt;.

3 “Philippines Tourism, a Tough Sell?”

4 Ibid.

5 “Rural Poverty in the Philippines.” Rural Poverty Portal. IFAD, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/country/home/tags/philippines&gt;.

6 “Philippines.” The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rp.html&gt;.

7 Ibid.

8 “Population Undernourished (Percent of Total Population) « » The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.” Global Health Facts. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://kff.org/global-indicator/population-undernourished/&gt;.

9 “Philippines.” The World Factbook. 

10 “Rural Poverty in the Philippines.”

11 “Philippines.” The World Factbook.

12 “Prevalence of Child Malnutrition (Percent Underweight Under Age Five) « » The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.” Prevalence of Child Malnutrition (Percent Underweight Under Age Five). The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://kff.org/global-indicator/child-malnutrition/&gt;.

13 “Basic Education and Gender Equality.” UNICEF ROSA. United Nations Children’s Fund, 12 July 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.unicef.org/rosa/education.html&gt;.

14 McKnight, Jenna M. “Building for Social Change.” Architectural Record Mar. 2012: 57. Print.

15 Syrkett, Asad. “Shiroles Rural School.” Architectural Record Mar. 2012: 71. Print.

16 Ibid.

17 Hanley, William. “Public Projects: Gando Village, Burkina Faso.” Architectural Record Mar. 2012: 77-79. Print.

18 Ibid.

19 Raskin, Laura. “Oguaa Football for Hope Center: Cape Coast, Ghana.” Architectural Record Mar. 2012: 80. Print.

20 “The Sustainable Classroom Project.” Design Ignites Change. N.p., 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.designigniteschange.org/projects/782-the-sustainable-classroom-project&gt;.

21 “About Us.” Advancement for Rural Kids. ARK.org, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ruralkids.org/content/about-us&gt;.

22 2012 Bitoon Ilaya Story.” Advancement for Rural Kids. ARK.org, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ruralkids.org/content/2012-bitoon-ilaya-story&gt;.