INTERNATIONALIZING higher education, as we noted last week, particularly in provincial HEIs, may not be readily possible. Resources are not as much as, or foreign linkages are not often as easily acquired as, in the more widely known HEIs in the Philippine capital. In the HE’s we had served, inviting foreign professionals such as foreign volunteers, visiting professors, or retired professionals from across borders made possible the meeting and exchange of cultures. They helped share good practices I came across during post graduate studies and study visits across borders with our peers, who, as I verbally acknowledged, had “minds like summer windows, open all day long”. Desirable change would need more time to introduce, especially when comfort zones are threatened and higher-ups do not buy-in such change for their own reasons. Earning the trust and respect of one’s peers, though this may not always be readily earned where strained relationships are on a healing stage. Change is possible—but slowly, until one is proven right. One should bless him/herself to be in an institution where the culture fosters open-mindedness.
Foreign volunteer policies. Foreign volunteer bodies, as agreed in bilaterals with partner countries, fix volunteer service for two years and, subject to mutual agreement between the volunteer and an HEI, an extension of one year is possible. As professionals, volunteers share their educational practices and lifeways with co-workers in academe. An HEI may request for a volunteer for a specific project. As an international policy, no volunteer displaces a Filipino of his/her employment, hence volunteers cannot replace a teacher or staff depriving him/her of possible employment. Volunteers, equipped with the appropriate expertise, assist HEI’s do projects. To ensure the project’s sustainability after the volunteer is gone, an HEI assigns a specific faculty member to assist the volunteer for the project. Along with these volunteers are usually donations of relevant equipment and in some cases, some funds. As mentioned in last week’s column, Japanese volunteers enabled an HEI I headed to introduce in 1995 computer technology as a subject integrated from the grade one to high school curricula. Eriko Yano, a systems engineer, designed a student data management system which facilitated the release of academic documents. Akimtshu Nagai, media resource officer, enabled us to pioneer a computer technology program in the Commerce College. Toru Nagata trained the sciences faculty in genetics. Nagata was among those who perished in a plane crash; his parents donated a scholarship fund at BukSU in his memory.
What was internationalization for us, then? In the 1990s, the digital world was then unknown in our country, communication being done through telegrams, long distance telephone and snail mail. During the time when those foreign volunteers were with us, the terms globalization and internationalization were not in our vocabulary. We invited them to help us attain our goal—to cross-breed educational services of the HEI both in content and delivery with viable higher education technology in Japan and in the United Kingdom which I experienced during my studies in those countries. Was working in person with those foreign professionals some kind of internationalization? One definition considers it as a process of “integrating an international, intercultural and global dimension into the goals, teaching and learning, research and service functions of a university or higher education system.” <http://www.aqu.cat/elButlleti/butlleti75/articles1_em.html!#.WSPUg1SGNME>. Regardless from which perspective—political, business, education, etc.—it seems to me that the bottom line of this definition is that internationalization is an impact or influence of globalization.
British volunteers. Our experience with British volunteers was just as pleasant as what we had with the JOCV volunteers. At the then Bukidnon State College (now a university), we had three British volunteers—Ms Caroline Angus, Mr. John Davis and Mr. Nicolas Hampton. They all did very well in their assigned projects on teaching and learning. In late September 1998, I was appointed first president of the Surigao State College of Technology (SSCT), formerly the Surigao del Norte School of Arts and Trades. The new chartered HEI needed to transform academic-wise without dropping its voc-tech character. We requested VSO for a volunteer. Karl Green who served from 1999 to 2002 trained a core of faculty members to prepare slides and videos and other presentation forms through digital technology, which was then newly introduced in the Philippines. This was in preparation for the activities of the Education Resource Center (ERC), which we established to support faculty members for their teaching and learning activities, similar to the Teaching and Learning support units in British universities. To date, Karl connects with me through email and FB. Once he wrote “The time I spent in Surigao was amongst the most and happiest and exciting times of my life. I can only thank you Ma’am for giving me the opportunity to go there. I really don’t know what I would be doing now if I never went. Maybe it was fate? I don’t know. Soy (Karl’s wife, a teacher of English in Surigao) gained her LLB here in the UK and I finished my MA, so we hope we can use them one day. Take care.” These volunteers were passionately devoted to work on assigned projects making sure the faculty members concerned mastered the needed technology. Nicholas Hampton (who helped Liceo HS link with Islington Green through a common electronic Newsletter) and who, like Karl, also married a teacher in English from a neighboring HEI, makes me conclude that, indeed, such personal and lifetime partnerships are one endearing result of sharing cultures.