© CEP Philippines

A Filipino speaker urged teachers the need for character education due to increased exposure to the internet since the transition to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Mann Rentoy gave a series of webinars on Thursday and Friday entitled “WE MOLD AS ONE: Character More Than Ever” and “Tulong Tulong, Sama-Sama: KAKAYANIN NATIN ITO” to students, parents and teachers from the Holy Angel University (HAU) and teachers from the Department of Education (DepEd) in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Rentoy, Executive Director of the Center for the 4th & 5th Rs Asia (Respect and Responsibility), emphasized the “need to form the character of young people” since they cannot learn “virtues, values and character” online.

“More than ever, they need resilience, fortitude, hard work, self-control, empathy, among others. [The] students can learn everything through the internet: all subjects that is, [but] they cannot learn virtues, values and character online,” Rentoy explained in a separate interview with PressOne.PH.

“They need the adults to teach them those, firstly, through the example of their lives, by modeling them. And this is one main principle of CEP (Character Education Partnership) and C for the 4th&5th Rs: there’s no other better way to teach character than through the example of our life.”

Rentoy also mentioned the need to encourage teachers in educating students in answering the “more fundamental questions.” 

“This is why the teachers need to be encouraged: the students do not need them to be expert[s] in Zoom and Google Meet or Canvas. They need them to help the young find answers to the more fundamental questions: why are these things happening, what is the purpose of my life, where will all these lead to, what can I do to succeed in spite of this situation?” he said.

“These questions have nothing to do with math, science, language, social studies. They all have to do with values, virtues, character,” which concerns the parents, the teachers, the adults “who are responsible for raising the young to be smart and good,” he continued.

Rentoy believes that “teachers do not teach subjects; they teach students.”

“Their main objective is not just to teach knowledge; they mold minds and form character. Our job is to raise smart and good kids,” he explained.

The ‘crisis in character’

Rentoy has taught for the past 33 years, committing himself to give talks and lectures about character education to more than 40,000 teachers, parents and students all over the country and in Sri Lanka.

He started as an educator in the Center for Research and Communication (CRC) College, now known as the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), and founded PAREF Westbridge School in Iloilo, serving as Executive Director for three years before moving to Southridge as Principal of Intermediate School, Vice Principal of High School and Religion Department Head.

In 2009, Rentoy started Catalyst, a student organization in UA&P which would organize big international conferences.

“I got into character education early on, seeing the importance of making sure [that] young people [would] grow up not just smart, but good. And with the worsening crisis in character, [which] made even more pronounced by the digital lifestyle of the new generation, I started attending conferences in the US in 2010 to learn more about character formation.”

He then got acquainted with Character Education Partnership, an organization based in Washington DC, USA, which led him to start its branch in the country.

“By dint of luck and miracle, the group gave me recognition and allowed me to set up CEP Philippines, whose only objective is to champion character through training, conferences, school accreditation and resources.”

When asked about the “crisis in character,” Rentoy designed modules that would touch on character education, reaching more than 50,000 teachers, parents and community leaders in the last 10 years.

“The crisis in character is characterized by teen pregnancy, pornography, addiction to gadgets and technology, rise in cases of depression and teen suicide, bullying, lower empathy, etc.” he said.

“This also prompted me to organize various international conferences, bringing in top experts to the country to talk about chastity (Jason Evert, Chris Stefanick, Leah Darrow, Christopher West, Matt Fradd, Damon Owens, etc.), classroom management (Harry Wong and Fred Jones), character formation (Hal Urban, Michele Borba, Thomas Lickona, etc.)” he continued.

Rentoy said he has worked with other experts in the country to accredit “schools of character,” reaching five schools so far. Francis David T. Perez