Asean 2015: Last two education priorities

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IN our last conversation, we focused on the first two education priorities of Asean 2015. What we suggested were a mix of Asean-related activities in and outside formal classes, extending our reach to our various communities through civic engagement. Also as academics, that we enhance our scholarship on the Filipino through literature written by Filipinologists. Let’s find ways to help with the last two priorities in education of Asean – strengthening both the Asean identity through education and the Asean University Network.

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In this regard, we can invoke the curriculum and the extra-curriculum. Although together with Singapore and Malaysia we have an edge over the other seven Asean countries in English proficiency, nevertheless, we have to keep improving the English proficiency of our students. English will be the language of Asean. Beginning in 2012, Thailand instituted a policy that English be stressed in various curricula. A research of the Thai Ministry of Education ascertained the state of English language teaching in a number of Thai high schools and selected those high schools where to pilot a new curriculum for language teaching.

In this regard, an adjustment of purpose, approach and content in existing English courses in secondary education schools is being planned to replace existing curricula. It is reported that professional English courses will be added during English hours in schools. Toward this goal, the Office of the Basic Education Commission has “provided training for 450 English-language teachers who will teach professional English courses in this pilot project which started in the second semester of the 2014 academic year. The project will be expanded to cover 7,000 schools in the future.”

The professional English courses focus on “conversation, or communication for ten occupational groups, such as English for Hotels, English for Construction Workers, English for Cashiers, and English for Convenience Stores.” More on this may be found in : <http://thailand.prd.go.th/view _news.php?id=7340&a=3>

On our part, there are likewise similar studies on English language teaching in our schools. Given that we have an edge over other Asean countries, nevertheless, we should improve further our proficiency in English, even as we learn more the many aspects of Asean cultures. We could include also Asean life and beyond in the social sciences and humanities such as economics, political science, sociology, literature, music, sports, etc. We need authors for texts in Asean Literature, Asean Social Life, etc. In the sciences, we can include those among the Asean who have or are outstanding scientists and their contributions to the vast fund of knowledge of Asean and beyond. Theology or Religious Studies which are subjects in sectarian schools could introduce Comparative Asean Theology so that these courses can dwell on the basics of Asean religions sufficiently understandable to baccalaureate students. In literature, anthologies could include works from Asean authors (although at this stage, translations in English may be few and far between); foreign language electives may include Bahasa besides the more usual European languages such as French, German, Spanish, etc or East Asian, usually Mandarin and Nihonggo – popular to hotel and restaurant and tourism and business as well as international studies students.

Besides adjustments in curriculum content, we may likewise shift to giving more responsibility for learning to students. This way they can improve on critical skills and become more creative. For example, we have to change our approach to teaching history. The more common mode of history test is the matching type, where an array of events appear in one column and under another column are the dates the events happened. Under the Holy Spirit Sisters, the teaching of history never used this mode of test. If the question were “When did Jose Rizal die?” we were expected to write the events that led to Rizal’s execution on 30 December 1896. Also, in introducing historical personages, for example, Napoleon Bonaparte, our French teacher in history, would precede her lesson with an anecdote on Napoleon illustrating an aspect of his character.

For the Asean University Network, our HEI’s could arrange for portability of credits for easier student exchange, junior-abroad programs, linked curricula for across border sessions and internships or on-the-job trainings. To accelerate faculty exchange and collaboration, HEI’s can institute policies on secondments, sabbaticals, collaborative research agenda, etc. Our research agencies such as DOST extend collaboration with Asean counterparts for funding schemes for research, training, graduate/postgraduate bursaries and study visits.

Similarly, Asean airlines could offer affordable rates for groups of students and for academics who shall cross borders in the service of the Asean University network.

Asean 2015 will take a long time to achieve its primary goal of free flow of goods and services due to some disparities in several areas vis-a-vis our Asean neighbours. These include infrastructure development — roads, bridges, etc as well and policy review.

We could strive harder toward fit and purpose. Let’s have more scholarships for highly qualified students to choose from the STEM strand (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in Grades 11 and 12 to prepare them for careers in technology and science development. Knowledge-based education programs could stress on functional digital resources knowledge to train students to effectively find, analyze, create, communicate and use information in a digital context. There may be a host of other strategies for our higher education institutions to do our part for the Asean University Network.

Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities.

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