Thursday, January 2, 2014

Education in a changing world

ASEAN 2015

by Hermilinda J. Meniolas
Victor Bernal High School
Nabua, Camarines Sur

I was one of the three secondary school heads from Camarines Sur who had the opportunity to attend the 3rd International Academic Colloquium last November 21 to 23. Along with Fe Peralta and Hilda Bustilla, I travelled to the Concourse Convention Center in Legazpi City to participate in the conference, which was done in conjuction with the celebration of the foundation anniversary of Bicol University.

The theme of the conference, “ASEAN 2015: Perspectives on People Mobility and their Implications for Higher Education,” I believe, was timely in this day and age when the erosion of boundaries among nations due to technology has become an undeniable fact. As goods and services flow across the ASEAN economic community, inevitable effects on education are observed.

Beyond recognizing this phenomenon, however, it is crucial for us to probe into these effects to understand how our institutions can cope with them. Through the conference, we were able to gain insights into these effects thanks to studies conducted by nationally and internationally-renowned experts in various fields.

The conference was graced by the presence of Hon. Roman T. Romulo, Chairperson, Committee on Higher and Technical Education, House of Representatives, Manila, as the Keynote Speaker. It started with the opening program on the first day with the Provincial Governor Joey Salceda, the Mayor of Legazpi, Hon. Noel E. Rosal, the Regional Director, CHED V Dr. Freddie T. Bernal, and the SUC President IV of Bicol University, Dr. Fay Lea  Patria M. Lauraya, who gave the Welcome Remarks. This was followed by the MOU signing: Passage to ASEAN 2015, in which representatives from the Bicol University, Catanduanes University, University of Northeastern Philippines (UNEP) and Rangsit University of Thailand participated.  The Colloquium Overview and Mechanics were subsequently given by Dr. Nora L. Licup, the Dean of BU Graduate School and the Colloquium Convener.

Various topics were discussed during the colloquium, among which were: “Trends in Social Marketing in the Context of Higher Education: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective”  by Pacita U. Juan, Founder and Social Entrepreneur, ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle; ““Renewable Energy: Bridging Academic Research and Community Outreach” by Director Douglas W. Jackson, Tenessee Renewable Energy and Economic Development Council  (TREEDC) International Affairs, USA; “Development & Governance Challenges” by Dr. Ronald U. Mendoza, Exec. Dir. AIM Policy Center, Mla.; “Integrative Medicine: Its place in the Public Health System” by Dr. Jaime Z. Galvez Tan, MD MPH, former DOH Secretary; “Rural Development and Inclusive Growth” by Edicio dela Torre, Consultant, DA, Quezon City; “Project NOAH: Adddressing Disaster Prevention through Science” by Oscar Victor V. Lizardo, Chief, Science Research Specialist, Project NOAH, DOST Manila; and “Public-Private Partnership in Local Governance” by Hon. Mayor Noel E. Rosal, City Mayor, Legazpi. Meanwhile, the theme was discussed by the SUC President IV of Bicol University, Dr. Fay Lea Patria M. Lauraya.

Every paper presented added to our understanding of the current situation. As the conference progressed, it became more and more evident to me that the status of higher education exists within a larger context that is affected by issues in energy resource management, health, and governance, among others. The idea that it is unrelated from these is only an illusion; anything that happens in any of these fields will necessarily have a direct influence on education. In the end, I realized that this is why it is important to always keep abreast of the developments that occur in society. As an educator, it is truly a part of my responsibility to strive for an understanding of these changes, and to continuously share what I learn about these issues to the rest of the school community.

The role of the school administration in the total development of schoolchildren

by Florentino A. Bernal
San Rafael Elementary School
Buhi District
Buhi, Camarines Sur

Much of the education today tends towards the total development of schoolchildren. This kind of education taps into every potential of pupils. These include the intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and artistic potentials. Such kind of education recognizes that all of these potentials are important in producing individuals who are ready for the challenges of the contemporary world.
The school administration plays a vital role in such kind of development. Their role cannot be understated because their effect on pupils is largely indelible; it is evident on the decisions that their pupils make long after they have left school.
The members of the school administration, for one, serve as role models for their pupils. At their impressionable age, schoolchildren often follow what other people, particularly adults, around them do. The examples that their teachers set are much more effective in teaching them values than a textbook can ever hope to do. When pupils see that their teachers are industrious and enthusiastic, they pick up on these behaviors and eventually integrate them into their own lives. Similarly, when they notice that their teachers and simply do their job to get paid, they follow the example, even without being conscious of it. It is thus vital for the members of the school administration to show that they are living holistic lives. Otherwise, it will be difficult to ask children to tap into their potentials when even they exhibit their own failure at it.
Beyond serving as role models, the members of the school administration are responsible for ensuring that the school provides a healthy learning environment that encourages the total development of the pupils. Every decision that they make regarding the school activities should take this responsibility into account. Therefore, it is crucial for the administration to be creative in planning activities that stimulate the various aforementioned potentials of schoolchildren. They have to be willing to think past traditional activities that have rendered learning monotonous. Rather, they can explore new activities that will once again make education exciting and challenging, not only for their pupils, but also for themselves.
As the demands of the world become more rigorous with the advancement of knowledge, I believe that school administrations in the country should strive harder than ever before to encourage the total development of pupils. We owe it not only to our pupils, but also to their parents, our community, our nation, our world, and the future that we are building.

Technological leapfrogging: Key to solving poverty

by Rodito O. Corporal
Mansalaya NHS
Del Gallego, Camarines Sur

With our country’s innumerable resources, it is hard to understand why we are often mired in crisis. Poverty has been our problem since time immemorial, tormenting our ancestors from centuries past. Yet, in 2014, we still remain hard-pressed to find adequate solutions for our problem. If anything, our poverty rate is even worsening as our population increases.

Possibly, we are stuck in this problem because we fail to understand that poverty is not only driven by moral, political, or economic factors. It involves our inadequacies in science and technology, as well.

At present, our situation in the field of science and technology is very dismal. Filipino scientists receive little to no support from the government, which does not make it its priority to encourage scientific and technological development. We lack research facilities and funds that are required to make proper studies. Even worse, the local market does not have a strong demand for such innovations, which impels our scientists to seek greener pastures abroad.

Because of this situation, our nation has become reliant on technologies developed by foreign nations to harness our own resources. For example, even if we are rich in rice, abaca, bananas, and fish, we do not have many locally-developed technologies to process these into marketable products. Many of such technologies are expensive, causing a strain on the budget of local businessmen.

In one seminar I attended, I learned about a strategy called technological leapfrogging, which was proposed by Roger Posadas of the UP Diliman College of Science. Essentially, the strategy will select particular foreign high technologies and couple them with local research and design efforts. The process will help develop our local efforts by assimilating the knowledge that is in the foreign technologies. However, this technological leapfrogging will only be possible if our scientific, educational, economic, cultural, and political systems are supportive towards our growth in science and technology.

I believe that this strategy can greatly help us in advancing our capacities in science and technology. Eventually, it can aid us in liberating ourselves from our dependence on foreign technologies and start harnessing our own capabilities. If all sectors of society would be committed towards improving our situation, it will be possible for us to take advantage our country’s natural riches and use it to help the millions who are suffering.

In with the new

As many historians would agree, the celebration of the new year today is due to an arbitrary imposition in the past. The date is determined by a particular calendar, the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. The calendar designated January 1 as the first day of the year. In other calendars, however, like the Ifugao calendar, Chinese calendar, Hindu calendar, or Japanese calendar, today is but a regular day. And so it goes for cultures, and other species, for that matter, whose lives do not depend on the Gregorian calendar.
Still, centuries of following the Gregorian calendar have taught us to make a big deal out of the date and turn it into a pompous occasion. We have dreamed up countless traditions whose roots mainly lie in superstition. In the Philippines, we wear polka dots and eat round fruits; in Spain, they eat twelve grapes at midnight; in Germany, they drop molten metal in cold water; in the Netherlands, they burn bonfires of Christmas trees; and in Greece, they eat cakes with gold coins inside. Across the globe, we try to outdo each other’s fireworks displays, a vestige of a more mythical past when we believed that the revelry could scare off evil spirits and bad luck.
All these acts we perform despite the fact that there is no scientific basis for wearing polka dots and financial security, or eating twelve grapes and being lucky all year. Our reason, after all, is not scientific, but cultural. On this day, perhaps more than others, culture asserts its rightful and irreplaceable position in society, trumping what advancement we have made over ideas such as luck. Culture, however, does not pose to be a source of any added knowledge that can improve our space missions or search for the cure for cancer; it insists on itself as a reassurance of permanence. That is, as we have been doing these traditions for a long time, they have become a shared experience with our forebears, the traditions outliving our ancestors and keeping their vitality all the way to these contemporary times. Although we know that such permanence is but an illusion, the rituals are comforting, a guarantee that things remain the same even as we flip the calendar to a new year.
Perhaps this is truly what makes this day so special. New Year’s Day is the past meeting the present, tradition greeting change, the old confronting the new, polar opposites collapsing into one grand occasion for which we bring out the fireworks.

Bus falls off cliff

SIPOCOT, CAMARINES SUR — A JVH bus heading to Albay fell off a ravine in this town last Sunday.
Its passengers revealed that the brakes failed when they were in Tagkawayan, Quezon, before failing for a second time in Andaya Highway in barangay Tara in this town.
It was during the second brake failure that the driver lost control of the vehicle, and the bus fell off the cliff.
No one was hurt in the incident. However,  the passengers said that they would be pressing charges against the owner of the bus company.
Meanwhile, the bus line owner promised to provide financial assistance to the passengers.

5 killed in Camarines Sur hostage incident

PILI, CAMARINES SUR — A 10-hour hostage-taking incident claimed five lives in Barangay New San Roque in this town last December 31.
Hostage-taker Anthony Zepeda, 35, was reported to have shot himself in the head with a .45 caliber pistol after shooting his relatives and a helper.
Among the victims were Expedito, his father; Victor, his brother; Sharmaine, his wife, and the helper whose identity remains unidentified.
Three other persons were reported to have been wounded due to the suspect’s indiscriminate firing.
According to the initial report, the hostage incident began at around 6 a.m. when the family was preparing for breakfast.
Tension ensued that morning at around 9 a.m. with the suspect reportedly hitting his father with a chair.
Gella Gallardo, another helper from the household, informed the police about the situation, having been able to flee from the house.
The authorities are still conducting an investigation as of press time.

6 die in SUV, bus collision

JUBAN, SORSOGON — A Six persons died when a Suzuki service utility vehicle (SUV) collided head-on with a passenger bus early Sunday morning along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay (village) Bacolod, this town.
The Suzuki SUV with plate number TGO 350 was negotiating the Maharlika Highway in Sitio Hoyon-Hoyon, Barangay Bacolod, Juban town, when it lost control and collided with a Fortune Bus (UVB-943).
The victims were identified as Rosalito Malig, SUV driver, and SUV passengers Alfredo Manansala, Jaime Malabanan, Levy Erasga, and Vicente Clarito -- all of Calamba City in Laguna.
Bus driver Danilo Montefalcon of Sampaloc, Manila, also died during the vehicular accident.
Injured were Ronalyn Dosa, Alvin Ruiz, Angelika Pagasertonga, Boy Navarosa and Analiza Macapanas.

26 Camarines Sur towns tagged disaster risk hotspots

Twenty-six towns in Camarines Sur, all located within the Bicol River Basin, were identified as geohazard areas in maps that were recently distributed by various government agencies to local authorities.
Meanwhile, other municipalities in the province, including Lupi, Ragay and Del Gallego are threatened by disasters because their forest covers are now gone because of logging activities. The towns of Buhi, Garchitorena, Goa, Lagonoy, Presentacion, San Jose and Tigaon were likewise named as areas that are susceptible to landslides and floods. The cities of Naga and Iriga are also listed as flood-prone regions.
The maps were prepared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and have been distributed to the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (MDRRMCs) across the province.
Towns in the provinces of Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, and Camarines Norte have also received disaster risk maps showing the hazardous areas. All of the towns of Albay as well as Camarines Norte are flagged in the maps as highly-vulnerable areas, along with Masbate City, Sorsogon City, and other towns in the provinces of Masbate, Sorsogon, and Catanduanes.

The role of the school administration in preventing acts of bullying inside the school premises

by Florentino A. Bernal
San Rafael Elementary School
Buhi District
Buhi, Camarines Sur

Last year, the Anti-Bullying Act was signed into law. It was an answered prayer for many groups of people, including victims, aggressors, parents, and school administrators, because it finally recognized the gravity of the gargantuan problem. The problem involves all of the types of bullying that are defined in the law, such as physical, verbal, and cyber-bullying. All of these types of bullying are serious issues that have effects on the pupils’ intellectual, moral, and social development.

The Anti-Bullying Act required elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies to prevent and address the acts of bullying in their institutions. Apart from prohibiting all forms of bullying, the law emphasized that the school administration must take the lead in solving the problem of bullying. As the authorities in the school campus, the school administration has a unique role in addressing the issue because it is the body which implements the mechanisms to address bullying.

According to the law, the school administration establishes the procedures and strategies for reporting acts of bullying, responding to the acts, restoring a sense of safety for the victim, and providing counselling. It is likewise responsible for educating the students, parents and guardians about bullying, and what they can do in case such acts happen. It even has a provision on imposing a disciplinary sanction on a student who makes a false accusation of bullying.

All these provisions stated in the law serve to address bullying. However, all these are merely words unless the members of the school administration carry out the plan and truly work for a safe learning environment.

Teachers must truly be diligent in safeguarding against this horrible situation where schoolchildren are afraid to go to school for fear that they will be subject to physical or verbal abuse from other pupils.

At the same time, they must show to their pupils that they treat their colleagues with respect, and never engage in bullying other teachers or members of the school community, so as not to encourage this kind of abhorrent behavior inside the school premises.

Lastly, they must develop a good relationship with the parents who can be their teammates in preventing all forms of bullying from occurring. By keeping communication lines open, they can even reinforce the campaign against bullying inside the homes of their pupils.

It is only through these measures that we can finally rid our school systems of all acts of bullying which can damage the well-being of our students. We must remember that no pupil deserves to have a bitter memory of their schooling experience, and instead feel safe, secure, and happy in a comfortable learning environment.

Challenges to public education

by Hermilinda J. Meniolas
Victor Bernal High School
Nabua, Camarines Sur

Public education in the Philippines is perennially riddled with problems. Some of these problems are caused by factors beyond our control, while others we can address with some political will and adequate planning. Most of these have been afflicting our education system for longer than we can even remember, that it is hard to imagine whether we will ever reach a solution to them. What is certain, however, is that we need to recognize that these problems exist, and relentlessly continue to seek for solutions.

One problem has to do with funds. In 2014, there is a national budget of P2.265-trillion for education. This is a huge sum, which, in theory, would be an immense amount of help for public schools across the country in need of textbooks, chairs, and buildings. Yet with allegations left and right of mismanaged funds in different government agencies, one may only hope and pray that the entirety of the budget is put to good use.

On a related note, there is the problem of the PDAF scholars, whose future hangs uncertain as the funds on which they depended were declared unconstitutional. Already, the CHED assured the scholars that they would be taken care of, naming several funds from which they can draw the needed money. Still, in 2014, this would likely remain an issue, especially if some scholars are forced to temporarily stop their schooling.

Still another problem are disasters. Last year, a number of disasters affected the schooling of students by wrecking schoolbuildings, or destroying school records, among others. Some of these include the floods brought about by typhoon Maring in August; the fighting between the government and the MNLF in Zamboanga in September; the earthquake in Central Visayas in October; and super typhoon Yolanda in November. Currently, our disaster-preparedness protocols fail against these incidents. This means that better preparation is in order to secure our schools from these disasters.

There is also the problem of school safety. Students, even in private schools, last year fell victim to crimes right within the school premises.  Even teachers have been reported to have been attacked. Many instances of bullying, likewise, are noted, prompting the question of whether our schools are truly safe places for students.

Lastly, there is the problem of decreasing proficiency of students in core subjects such as language, science, and mathematics. Evidenced by the results of the National Achievement Test (NAT), the proficiency level is alarming, especially if one considers that employment is getting more competitive as our population continues to grow.

As a teacher, I strongly encourage the public to keep themselves informed and try to find solutions to these problems. After all, the problems of the Philipine public education system are not only for educators, school administrators, and DepEd officials to ponder; they are for all of us to mull over. We must never forget that students of the public education system today will one day run our nation and make the crucial decisions. Therefore, if we become complacent today and ignore these pressing issues, we might as well throw the entire future of our country into the trash.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ready for the revelry

These firecrackers displayed at a stall in Naga City await the merriment of New Year's Eve parties. (PHOTO: BICOL STANDARD)


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