HE internationalization: Working with cross-border professionals

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

Part 3
LAST week we wrote about the standard policies of several foreign volunteer agencies. Service years in the host HEI is limited to two years and, subject to mutual agreement, an extension of one year. Also, that a volunteer cannot displace a staff or teacher from his/her employment. The main objective of a volunteer’s service is to transfer the technology, which he supposedly has mastered, to the requesting HEI, such that the project becomes sustainable even after the volunteer leaves. Hence, a staff or teacher heading the project team is assigned as the immediate assistant to the volunteer. Application forms for a volunteer may be accessed from the National Economic Development Authority (Neda). The form requires the requesting HEI to specify the preferred foreign volunteer agency. The regional Neda office endorses the request for a volunteer to the Philippine National Volunteer Service Cooperation Agency (PNVSCA) which is the government agency mandated to promote and coordinate volunteer programs in the country. Volunteers receive their upkeep (board, food, housing, insurance, etc.) from their respective agencies. The VSO requires some contribution from the requesting HEI. The HEIs interested in contracting volunteer assistance in a project could search the web for more information on each agency.

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Entrepreneurial opportunities through volunteers. This was true with the Korean volunteer, a material science engineer I had at Surigao State College of Technology which I headed in its initial years (1998). He taught the voc-tech teachers the use of the “gem,” a lathe machine for special metals— one of the donated equipment of the voc-tech Australian education grant during the twilight years of the Marcos presidency. Stored in the school’s warehouse for 13 years, it was unused since no one knew how to operate it. The volunteer mentored the teachers along with the graduating students in using it to craft garden chairs, tables and accessories, which were sold to interested homemakers. Materials were bought with KOICA funds that came along with the volunteer service. Thus, the funds generated also sustained the teaching of entrepreneurial skills.

Feedback of Japanese volunteers decades after. Several foreign volunteers assigned to some of the HEIs I was with, had kept connected with me and with staff and faculty members, especially those who were involved with the project. We encouraged healthy social relationships of the volunteers, both within the academic and outside community. Mansi Eriko Arai (now with Tata Consultancy in Tokyo),a systems engineer (1990-1992), designed a student data management system (SDMS). Hence, that early in the digital divide, we had in school a system that can readily give the needed information about every single student we had from the time of admission to graduation, and which includes assessment, academic and financial history. When I messaged Eriko-san to ask what she remembered was the benefit of what she did, she messaged back that “the SDMS made record-keeping and maintenance accurate and easily retrieved.” Eriko-san further wrote that “before the SDMS, waiting for such release would take two weeks. Requesting parties had to spend on lodging costs or stay with relatives.” In those years, electronic data bases were unknown, much more so in Mindanao and in the Bukidnon hinterlands. Eriko-san helped us pioneer the tool. In her message, Eriko-san suggests “that volunteers should have a clear understanding of the project goal,” and that foreign volunteers “should immerse (themselves) in Filipino life,” so they can experience meaningful “living and working in the Philippines.” They need “to know and understand Filipino customs and culture, so too with Filipinos.” She ended with, “Thanks to Ma’am Tess, I enjoyed staying in Bukidnon and have sweet and unforgettable memories. I never forget their hospitality; … I will keep in touch with people in Bukidnon.” Mika Maeda (1991-1993), who was in science, wrote that “soaking one’s self in a different culture and watch Japan from the outside” was truly “worth her while.” Mika-san considers the Philippines “her second home country.” She will be with us this August.

Internationalization—frail attempts? We feel reassured that in today’s vocabulary, we had somehow internationalized both ways from the perspective of education and culture—our being taught by them of their advanced technology on computers, the mutual appreciation of each other’s lifeways. Particularly remembered during my summer studies in Kyoto University, were families washing their bamboo-matted fences around 5 p.m.—manifesting the Japanese bias for immaculately clean surroundings. Our maintenance people and campus populace especially noted this trait of the Japanese volunteers. No littering, no candy wrappers on campus grounds. On their end, the volunteers have kept to certain of our lifeways, using the honorific po when they try to speak to us in halting dialect and in bringing us and others they have worked with, some pasalubong—such as whey they surprised me with a visit several months ago.

Internationalization is a process—face new opportunities. Given those frail attempts, what should we do these days to prepare our students for the global work world? Jane Knight notes that globalization “affects each country in a different way due to a nation’s individual history, traditions, culture and priorities.” This means, it influences us. “Globalization clearly presents new opportunities, challenges, and risks.” In “Updating the Definition of Internationalization,” Jane Knight defines it as “a process… an ongoing and continuing effort”…that it has “a developmental or evolutionary quality.” Which means, at least, we have begun the process that early.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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