Commentary

Teachers with a mission

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They woke up early, some as early as 3 a.m., to get on a bus that would take them to the 1st SMP (Service Management Program) Teachers Camp at Asia Pacific College (APC) in Magallanes Village, Makati City.

The first to arrive were teachers from Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) led by the affable Dr. Joel Bawica, dean of the College of Computer Studies.

From its humble beginnings as Baybay Provincial High School in 1952, LSPU is now spread out over four campuses in San Pablo City, Los Baños, Siniloan and Santa Cruz, the main campus. LSPU also has satellite campuses in Nagcarlan and Lopez, and abroad at the Thai Nguyen University in Vietnam and at the Changwon College in South Korea.

The incumbent LSPU president, Dr. Nestor De Vera, personifies the avowed mission of Cavite State University (Cavsu) to “provide quality education through responsive instruction, distinctive research, sustainable extension and production services for improved quality of life towards nation building.”

A few minutes later, the bus from Indang, Cavite, pulled up with instructors and professors from Cavsu’s 11 campuses. Prof. Roderick Rupido, dean of the College of Economics, Management and Development led the Cavsu contingent.

Divina C. Chavez, president of Cavsu, envisions it to be a global university by 2020. Cavsu adheres to its commitment to truth, excellence and service, and aims to be the “premier university in historic Cavite recognized for excellence in the development of globally competitive and morally upright individuals.”

The contingent from Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) led by Dr. Teresita Atienza and Henry Prudente quietly filed into the APC training hall as the teachers from Cavsu were disembarking. Earlier, its vice president for administration, Alberto C. Guillo, personally supervised the formation of a special committee with the deans of the different colleges for this training activity.

With 22 campuses and about 65,000 students, no other higher education institution comes close to PUP. According to its president, Dr. Emanuel C. De Guzman, PUP believes that “meaningful growth and transformation of the country are best achieved in an atmosphere of brotherhood, peace, freedom, justice and a nationalist-oriented education imbued with the spirit of humanist internationalism.”

Organized by the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) in collaboration with a special courseware development team from the APC and corporate trainers from Aegis People Support, the SMP Teachers Camp is a decidedly rigorous training regimen for the specialization track prescribed by CHEd Memorandum Order 6 and 34, series 2012, of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).

SMP is a joint pioneering effort by the national government, the academe and the IT and business process management industry to directly align our college graduates’ competencies with the demands of the modern workplace.

The four SMP learning tracks are fundamentals of the business process management industry (BPO 101 and 102), service culture, business communications, and systems thinking. A fifth track—the basic English skills training and advanced English preemployment training—is technically outside of SMP but has been included to buttress the average college student’s verbal fluency in English.

In his keynote address, Dr. Sinforoso Birung, CHEd standards and programs director, said that even before the training had begun, there were already important lessons learned from the collaboration between the CHEd and Ibpap. He said the industry should present not only the problem but also, more prominently, a clear solution: “Just as important as the presented solution to the mismatch is an element of shared objective, because academe [could be missing] on the core competencies particularly on critical thinking, communication proficiency, team or the ‘we’ spirit, and problem solving.”

He added that trainability and capacity for lifelong learning through developed core competencies are a critical outcome of education.

PUP, Cavsu and LSPU are among 17 state universities and colleges that have been nominated by the CHEd to implement the Service Management Program beginning academic year 2013.

Ibpap, in turn, was selected by the CHEd after a stringent public bidding process to be its project technical expert for this purpose.

LSPU’s Bawica noted that being a teacher is not an easy job. “Every day we deliver knowledge [to] our students, but it is a task that we embrace willingly, because the single most important component to drive us forward is manpower or our human capital,” he said.

Rupido, meanwhile, said: “We are being challenged today on how to make our students more competent, particularly with regard to communication skills.”

For her part, Dean Atienza said that just being part of a national training activity is an honor, but that there is more to it. “We are the single biggest human resource provider in the country. [And now] the national government has finally gotten it.
The quality of higher education is not going down. We just had to find out what we should be trained in. [The SMP Teachers Camp] is what we need. More importantly, we will make a lot of families better and happier, because [with better competencies] our young men and women can now work abroad while living here.”

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and the Education Lead for Talent Development at Ibpap.

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