Formation without goals is formation that cannot be measured. In the Ateneo, we are clear about the kind of students we want to raise together with their families – Christ-centered young men who are competent, conscientious and armed with compassionate commitment to be a positive transforming difference in the world (the Five Cs). While we concede that these goals may not always be reached within the 12-year period of their basic education (but may likely manifest in their future decisions), we find it important to set indicators that measure their progress in their pursuit of becoming men-for-others.
The Family Conference
Upon admission to the Ateneo, an intimate yet standardized conference is held among the student, his parents and a member of the Ateneo faculty. This is the school’s opportunity to share with the family our formation thrust and to gauge where the new student stands in the context of the 5Cs. The conference is also a venue to clarify shared responsibilities of the school and the home in the formation of the student. The new student also sets his personal goals for the year and commits himself to the necessary steps to achieving his goals. Like a diamond in the rough, each new student is valued and given special attention in this activity, true to the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis alumnorum. The parents are also encouraged to involve themselves in the ministry of the school by being welcome as an integral part of the community.
The Exit Interview
Before graduation, each student is called for an exit interview with a member of the Ateneo faculty. Looking back at his experience of the initial family conference years ago, the student sets out to assess his own formation growth through a guided, standardized dialogue with a faculty member who may also have been his teacher at one point or another. This interview becomes the basis for own introspection as a school of how successful we have been (or, alternatively, how we may have failed) at forming this diamond in the rough into the kind of young man the Ateneo envisions him to be. Information from the collective data on exit interviews in turn helps the entire school community to seek ways of improving on our programs to address gaps in formation and to enhance successful interventions.
The Developmental Assets Profile
The Developmental Assets framework is the pioneering work of Peter L. Benson, Ph.D. who, through exhaustive social science research, sought to understand the lives, beliefs and values of young people. He was the President of Search Institute in the early 1990s when the organization developed a survey that hoped to identify the kinds of social support and psychological strengths young people need to succeed in life and avoid risky, unhealthy behaviour. Since then, the Developmental Assets Profile survey has been administered to over 4 million young people in the United States alone.
With written request for permission to modify the survey for local culture and context, a version validated by experts in Ateneo de Manila University’s Graduate School was used for a masteral thesis in 2004. This same version was replicated in one of my classes leading to a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies. Through longitudinal research conducted on two batches from 2004 to the present, the same 40 developmental assets remain crucial in ensuring the success and healthy choices of adolescents and provide us adults with the knowledge of how we can best support our children.
The Testing & Research Office
The Testing and Research Office (TRO) of the Ateneo de Manila High School shares and supports the school’s vision and mission of forming young men for others. Through provision of testing services in guidance and counselling, the TRO provides rich data on students’ lives, beliefs and values that complement academic profiles provided by their achievement in school. Moreover, the office conducts valuable research and assists other offices and programs in studying student’s academic progress and assessing their formation growth. Their involvement in faculty recruitment and employment testing also aids the school in selecting teachers with the best academic training and of suitable character to be effective formators of young men.