Seventy-six representatives from 30 Philippine schools in Bahrain, China, East Timor, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Tripoli, and United Arab Emirates converged in Puerto Princesa City on 13-16 May 2015 to participate in the 13th Conference of Philippine Schools Overseas at The Legend Palawan.
With the theme “21st Century Learning: Re-engineering Education for the New Millennium,” the conference highlighted the role of education reform initiative as a response to the challenges and emerging needs of education.
The conference was formally opened by the members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Philippine Schools Overseas headed by Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro of the Department of Education. Other representatives were Director Jocelyn O. Hapal of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Labor Attaché David Des T. Dicang of the Department of Labor and Employment, Ambassador Renato Pedro O. Villa of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Undersecretary Mary Grace Tirona of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Vice Mayor Luis Marcaida III also welcomed the participants to Puerto Princesa City.
In his keynote speech, Secretary Luistro acknowledged the importance of PSOs but challenged the group to review their status where they are right now based on the developments in their respective host countries. He said that PSOs must rediscover its reason for being, and that is to fulfil the link that keeps our overseas youth rooted to a place called home. He also encouraged all PSOs to dream and work together to make Philippine Schools Overseas at par with international standards.
The first plenary session began with the discussion of the “K to 12 Program Updates” by Undersecretary Dina S. Ocampo of the Department of Education. Usec. Ocampo said that the K to 12 Curriculum aims to holistically develop Filipino learners with 21st century skills. She also discussed classroom assessment methods consistent with curriculum standards.
The first day ended with the presentation of Mr. Elvin Ivan Uy, DepEd’s Program Coordinator for K to 12, about “Addressing Educational Paradigm Shift: The Senior High School.” Mr. Uy shared/reiterated the agency’s commitment to zero deficits in classrooms, teachers, textbooks and seats by the end of 2016. He also discussed in detail the Senior High School (SHS) curriculum, the SHS Voucher Program, and the displacement of Higher Education Institutes (HEI) teaching and non-teaching staff.
The conference inputs on the second day focused on the teachers, learners and the learning environment. Dr. Melanie P. Estacio, Education Program Supervisor in Davao City, talked about the “Learners and the Learning Environment in the K to 12.” Dr. Estacio emphasized that the role of education in the 21st century has gone beyond mastery of the content or use of new technology. More importantly, students must learn how to observe, discern for themselves, think critically, and be creative. Educators can help achieve this goal by providing a framework that will help reduce barriers, minimize challenges and optimize support to meet the needs of all types of learners.
Dr. Maria Teresa Calderon, Dean, Graduate School of Education of the Arellano University, talked about the “21st Century Teacher.” She encouraged the teachers to learn using a variety of tools to empower their Personal Learning Environment; design interactive and engaging learning experience, empower learning environments that inspire students to think deeper and learn more effectively, assess learning using variety of methods and transform themselves to become better educators proactively through self-learning.
Atty. Jemirose Loot of the DepEd discussed the rights of the child and guidelines on protecting children in school, and encouraged each school to come up with their own rules on violence, exploitation, discrimination, bullying and other forms of abuse.
Concluding the second day was an inspiring talk about “Inclusive Education: Identifying Learning Disabilities” by a multi-awarded life coach, therapist and teacher, Dr. Marylendra “Neth” A. Penetrante. She identified the different learning disabilities and recommended approaches and teaching styles on how the teachers can handle students with special needs. Dr. Penetrante emphasized that children with learning disabilities can, and do, succeed and the keys for them to succeed are early diagnosis and intervention. She challenged the teachers to view learning disability as a gift and not a burden.
The last day of the conference started with Dr. Penetrante talking on “Managing Difficult People”. She said that difficult people make for challenging interactions. Learning to recognize the characteristics of negative people and how to work with them can lessen their impact, and maybe even encourage an attitude shift.
Ambassador Villa informed the participants on the Assistance to Nationals by the DFA, which continued to the discussion on Crisis Management. Ambassador Villa advised the PSO Teachers and Administrators to formulate their own basic contingency plans in case of crises and emergencies; more particular focusing on the safety of students. This was followed by a dialogue of the participants with the members of the IACPSO. Some of the concerns that arose were related to employment, visa and passport renewal, distressed Filipinos and repatriation, among others.
Time was also provided to the Association of Philippine Schools Overseas (APSO) to discuss their programs and projects.
Mr. Elfred del Rosario of the CFO discussed the “institutionalization of YouleaD Chapters in PSOs with the following goals: a.) to concretize partnership between CFO and the schools in establishing YouLeaD chapters to PSOs; b.) to create in PSOs support network for young overseas Filipinos in their respective regions; and c.) for PSOs to become conduits in enhancing the engagement of the young overseas Filipinos in Philippine development.
The closing ceremonies included the awarding of certificates of attendance and the CDs containing the conference materials to the participants and sponsors.
In behalf of the participants, Ms. Liezel A. Aguilar, School Principal of the International Philippine School in Al-Khobar, thanked and commended the organizers for the successful conduct of the conference. She also took the challenge of Secretary Luistro to make the Philippine schools overseas comparable in the Middle East if not at par with the performance of the best international schools through re-engineering PSO education.
Ms. Maribel C. Buñi, Chief Tourism Operations Officer, and CFO Undersecretary Mary Grace A. Tirona delivered a message and closing remarks, respectively, for the participants.
The conference was made possible through the sponsorship of the Vibal Group, Inc., Rex Bookstore International, Inc., F & J de Jesus, Inc., Jo-ES Publishing House, Inc., Phoenix Publishing House, Inc., Abiva Publishing House, Inc., Digilearn Multimedia Corp., C & E Publishing, Inc., Southville International School Affiliated with Foreign University (SISFU), PhilHealth Insurance Corporation, Pag-Ibig Fund, De La Salle - College of St. Benilde, First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities (FAITH), iAcademy and BaLinkBayan.