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pio rafael t. nepomuceno
pio rafael t. nepomuceno PAX ET LUMEN or "Peace and Light" is the name of an elementary school near Clark, Angeles City, that focuses on science and math education. With these emphases, it also hopes to upgrade the language skills of its young students.

The school was conceived in 2000, when two brothers, Giordan and Giorel, two young science and engineering Filipino students in the United States, remarked to their mother that the levels of science and math training in U.S. universities were so rigorous that they would have had a hard time coping were it not for their own preparatory training in these fields in their earlier years in their science- and technology-oriented high schools and research-oriented elementary schools abroad.

Science and mathematics are subjects considered by most as only for "the nerds," or for those who want to become doctors or engineers. But extensive training in these fields—without the medicine and engineering degrees—is supposed to land one a job "only in the academe" (translation: low pay).

One of the two brothers, after telling one rich businessman in Makati that his major fields were in chemistry and marine biology, was asked bluntly, "So, is there money there?" He could only laugh in reply. Who would be interested in science and mathematics if indeed "there is no money there"?

Both brothers have their answer to that question, but they never bother to explain it to others, knowing that they would receive a retort: "Ah, but what you say is only applicable in developed countries where people get paid to do research and development of technology!"

The answer that they do not bother to give is this: science and mathematics are the fields that are used by technologically- advanced societies to create wealth. Without them there won't be new technologies and new discoveries that improve one's quality of life. And with each new technology and new science application, new products are created—thus creating new production and new means of employment. One only has to think of pharmaceuticals, biodegradable plastic, personal computers, iPods, YouTube, electric cars, lighter and bigger planes, renewable energy, etc., to understand how wealth is created through products and processes.

They might point out that one has to differentiate a thinking about the preferred careers in law and medicine. These courses prepare one "to achieve wealth" for oneself, while science and mathematics prepare one "to create wealth for a bigger circle" by creating products and employment for others.

The idea would resonate in their mother, Laura, and her close friend, Myrna Gopez-San Agustin, a financial consultant in New York. Both their mother and her friend were academically-oriented themselves. They became good friends as freshmen in high school, went their own separate ways in college, and led their own lives in various countries while pursuing their own careers.

Their paths crossed again in the United States, and in 2003, they started discussing the concept of an elementary school that would prepare young Kapampangan minds to be at the same level as their average peers from other countries with good math and science curricula. They thought that even if these local students would not become creators of new technology or discoverers of some scientific process, they hoped that their students would at least develop a strong intellectual curiosity. Intellectual curiosity, after all, is what differentiates a good leader from a mediocre one. Wasn't President Bush often described by the U.S. media as intellectually uncurious, while Presidents Clinton (a good policy wonk and discussant) and Obama (a good listener to any good discussion) are known for their intellectual curiosity?

Pax et Lumen Academy will introduce simple science concepts as early as in the pre-elementary or kindergarten years. Equipped with advanced teaching reference materials and teaching aids in science and math from abroad, the school will create an excitement about a "whole new world" of wonders about what composes the earth and the universe and what makes them work.

So, why is a science and math academy called "peace and light"? It goes with the belief that peace can only be achieved through enlightenment, intellectually and spiritually. Peace cannot be achieved without personal and social progression; violence thrives in moments of darkness of the mind and of the spirit.

Pax et Lumen Academy will open its doors this June 2009 to pupils from Nursery age to Grade 4. It is located along Sto. Entierro Street, Angeles City, in Pampanga. Its principal is Irene Barcelon, who just returned from the United States teaching mathematics in Georgia.

For more information, please visit http://www.paxetlumen.org.

[About the author. Pio Rafael T. Nepomuceno has a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communications, Major in Broadcast Journalism, from Angeles University Foundation. In March 2009, he successfully defended his thesis entitled, "The Relationship Between Mass Media Usage and the Degree of Aculturization of Angeles University Foundation Filipino-American Students." Born in Washington, DC, this certified gamer spends his free time watching The History Channel and listening to The Beatles and Queen.]

-Posted: 11:11 AM 4/2/09 | More of this author on eK!