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Beyond Grades: This international school in Pasig City champions essential social and emotional skills to thrive in life

By Jerald Uy Published Jan 30, 2024 2:00 pm Updated Jan 30, 2024 5:41 pm

“I wish they taught this in school.”

If you are thirty-something and still struggling with adulting, you’ve probably quipped this out of desperation; more so if you are a new parent. Kids these days are facing tough battles, online and offline, where you can’t always be there to save the day. As parents of this post-pandemic generation, you would want a school where your child will experience meaningful learning, gain good friends, and acquire the skills that will help them navigate the tough and uncharted seas of growing up in today’s unforgiving and gritty world.

Asked which is the pressing issue students are facing today, Reedley International School Head of School René MacQuillin has a quick answer: social media.

“[They deal with] the pressures of social media—making them distinguish between ‘what I hear’ and ‘is it true or not?; and ‘how do I control my reaction to it?'” she said. “Cyberbullying is different from physical bullying. Cyberbullying can just be a tone; it doesn’t have to be something negative. It can hurt just by the tone of how the message was said.”

Reedley International School Head of School René MacQuillin stresses the importance of Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) among students.

MacQuillin recalled a conversation with her son telling her, “Mom, you don’t understand how difficult it is for us” because, she said, “the cellphone and social media are in their faces the whole time and they can’t withdraw from it.”

For the educator, this is where Socio-Emotional Learning, or SEL comes in. Integrated into the curriculum and culture of Reedley International School, SEL underscores the value of character formation in a positively life-changing environment.

“We wanted to make sure the kids are equipped for the real world. As an academic, it may sound weird, but book and academic knowledge alone won’t prepare you for the real world,” MacQuillin added.

Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL)

SEL has long been the ethos of Reedley International School since its foundation in 1999. Their hallways, gym, elevators, and cafeteria are plastered with its “Ideal Reesian” credo that reminds students to be a positive influence on others, and its Child Protection Policy that informs people that Reedley is a safe place and has zero tolerance for any act of bullying, child abuse, discrimination, and violence.

Reedley International School takes pride in its strong Life Coaching program. The Life Coaches guide the students holistically, not just in achieving their academic goals but also in strengthening their socio-emotional well-being. They diligently help each student by holding individual and group sessions, interviews, and surveys before and throughout the academic year. They also hold additional sessions for students who would need further academic, guidance, and emotional support.

"You can have A's on your report card now, but later on, you can't cope in the workplace. EQ (Emotional Quotient or Intelligence) is very important and that is where Reedley is very strong,” MacQuillin said. “If you listen to some of our students, they're very wise with their words when they talk about their feelings. They can express it clearly and respectfully because it's part of their socio-emotional learning; they are aware of their feelings.”

The school likewise hosts fun programs and endearing activities for students such as welcome parties for newly enrolled students to get them acquainted with current students, and sets up paired lunches for students in different grade levels called the ‘Be a Fabulous Friend (BFF) Lunch’ for them to get to know each other better.

Curriculum Director Mark Leander shares how they incorporate socio-emotional learning in Reedley’s classes and programs.

As the pandemic magnified the importance of SEL when the students were cooped inside their homes, Reedley International School adapted the CASEL framework for SEL for its Life Skills subject and other classes.

“We look into how Socio-Emotional Learning can be integrated into other subjects, as well, to foster self-awareness, social skills, and emotional intelligence. For example, we integrate SEL in Information Technology classes to enhance digital literacy and citizenship. We teach students to be responsible and embody respectful online behavior,” shared Mark Leander, the Curriculum Director of Reedley International School Manila.

Life Skills classes

The Life Skills subject at Reedley predates its implementation of the SEL approach. “If you’re curious about how Reedley’s Life Skills program started, let us travel back in time to 24 years ago, when Reedley first opened its doors. It was already offering the Life Skills subject back then,” said Allysa Aragon, the school’s Life Skills Coordinator. Reedley is the first school in the country to teach Life Skills in its curriculum.

A homegrown program, the Life Skills subject originally used Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens as a required reading. As the student levels up, the classes get to discuss more advanced books such as Atomic Habits, Grit, The 8th Habit, and John Maxwell’s Laws of Leadership.

“Now, as we continually improve our Life Skills program, we’ve adapted the CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) framework—basically, we’re just putting standards into what is already existing in our Life Skills program,” Aragon explained.

The CASEL framework revolves around five core values, which include self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. She said that each core value has age-appropriate standards that teachers help the students to meet.

“The foundational life skills that we teach younger students will still be useful even if the issues and challenges that they will face as they grow older will be different. To illustrate, we are now teaching emotional regulation and frustration tolerance to our first-graders. When they get to high school facing more complex problems, these skills will still come in handy,” she added.

As the life skills coordinator, Allysa Aragon finds fulfillment in providing support for life skills teachers and teaching the subject herself at Reedley International School.

Apart from her role as a Life Skills Coordinator, Aragon also teaches Life Skills to Middle School students, from fourth to sixth grade. She shared that the confidentiality of the journals that her students submit is a matter of trust. However, in extreme situations where the student poses a grave risk to oneself and others, she would immediately inform the parent or guardian to talk to and check up on his or her child without giving specific details of what the student has shared with her.

Personalized Guided Learning Program (PGLP)

Reedley International School also offers the Personalized Guided Learning Program (PGLP) to Grade 7-12 students with mild cognitive disabilities or mild to moderate learning difficulties that affect learning processes and behaviors.

“The program provides focused support to students, to guide and help them to become confident, independent and growth-minded individuals who can advocate for themselves,” said Jo Anne Bilo, the PGLP Principal at Reedley International School. “The program offers self-contained instructions, accommodations, and modification, with inclusion as our ultimate goal for the children,” she added.

Bilo said they make use of the SEL framework so PGLP students also learn about self-awareness and self-regulation. “With a higher self-esteem and better self-management skills, success in relationships would follow,” she said.

“These programs greatly help our students to prepare not just for higher education institutions and universities, but also enable them to understand themselves better, [so] they can make effective decisions moving forward,” adds Leander.

Jo Anne Bilo is the Personalized Guided Learning Program (PGLP) Principal at Reedley International School, a program that nurtures children with learning differences and difficulties to become confident, independent, and growth-oriented individuals.

With SEL, Life Skills subjects, student support activities, the Life Coaching Program, and the PGLP, Reedley International School is committed to forming conscientious and kind global citizens, going beyond academic grades and accolades. Reedley molds them into individuals who will thrive and bloom in today’s and tomorrow’s challenging and ever-changing world.

Reedley International School is an internationally-accredited K-12 school, offering the best practices of both progressive and traditional learning. Experience a Singapore-US-Filipino curriculum that balances academics and character formation in a positively life-changing environment.

Take a virtual tour of Reedley International School Manila here:


For more information on Reedley International School Manila, visit or contact RIS at (+63)917 507 9306 and [email protected].

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