Various studies have found out that Filipino students are falling behind their Asian and western counterparts in science and mathematics. Now, students are falling behind even in their old turf, English.

There are many “excuses” for this academic meltdown. But then, after the gnashing of teeth, the question remains: what can parents do to make their children “ready for the world”?

Of the many possible answers, Ms. Rossana L. Llenado, the maverick entrepreneur who founded Ahead Learning Systems who confounded the oldies in the business by rewriting the industry rules, offers a simple and doable solution: to help students not only get ready but get ahead, they should all get into regular tutorials and then gain admission to the best schools.

Of over 100,000 who take the collegiate entrance exams for the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University every year, only 10% or some 10,000 will make the cut-off score. The same fallout happens in the other quality schools all over the country. Those who don’t make it to the best schools will later enter the professions with a major handicap. Like it or not, how many firms wouldn’t even look at the applications of graduates from the lesser schools?

Since the students’ grades in high school are also considered in his college entrance applications, then it follows that he should get tutorial lessons to improve his grades and mastery of the subjects.

Ahead’s bread-and-butter businesses are its pacesetting review and tutorial programs. In less than 10 years, from very austere beginnings, Ahead has become the reviewer and tutor of choice for most students.

We changed the make-up of the market. You might even say we created a market of our own from the traditional one of the older players,” says Ms Llenado.

The conventional knowledge at that time looked upon tutorials as a remedial measure. We looked upon tutorials not as a means of coping, or for bouncing back from poor grades, but as a way to greater academic achievement. Tutorials were helpful to everybody; they were no longer for the losers, but for the winners.”

Ahead was also the first to focus primarily on test preparation, particularly for the highly competitive entrance exams of the top universities. Even the best lose out to those who, though not as academically proficient, had the right preparation for entrance exams.”

We were the first in the industry to publish a passers’ list. We were ready to risk our reputation and substantiate our claims to quality. So, year after year since 1999, Ahead has registered the highest passing rate in the college admission tests of UP, Ateneo and La Salle, the bellwether schools for academic excellence,” she says.

We overturned the marketing strategies, too, by creating a very strong brand awareness. We were the first to put a face to our services, not just a face but beautiful places. Great talents, achievers, winners. The people you’d prefer to be with. Be in, be hip, be cool. Be with the winners. Be a winner.”

We took pride in the achievement of our students, and let the world know about it. But image is nothing if you can’t deliver. So, we get only the best tutors and reviewers, virtually all of them are honor grads or dean’s listers of the top schools. Some were in the elite intermed qualifiers of UP who are expected to finish medicine some two years ahead of the regular students. Then we published our passers’ list for everyone to see.”

Llenado herself is probably a walking billboard for Ahead, having had a rich harvest of educators, parenting and entrepreneurship awards, including the elusive Gold Quill Awards of the International Association of Business Communicators, and the PCCI’s Aurelio Periquet, Jr. business leadership award, and Entrepreneur Magazine’s first Top 10 Entrepreneur winners.

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