For over a decade now, the Eggie Apostol Foundation has been saying that teachers are at the heart of all learning. But the reverse is also true. When I met Dr. Evelyn Mejillano for the first time some years back, she already had a sterling, 45-year teaching record to her name. And yet, Dr. Eve (as her friends, fellow academics and students fondly call her) was always quick to say that learning is at the heart of teaching. The day one feels that there is nothing left to learn is the day one ceases to be a true teacher.
Dr. Onofre Pagsanghan (Sir Pagsi to thousands of young Ateneans) is without doubt the quintessential teacher. He has been honored for his consummate skill, commitment and dedication by various organizations many times over. Speaking from the heart as he led the opening prayer for one of our teacher training sessions, Sir Pagsi said that apart from teaching, he knew of no other calling where “so much is asked, and so little is given.”
The various education stakeholders and education reform advocates have learned much as well. Just this past week, at a special consultative workshop organized by the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap), Dr. Chito Salazar of the Phinma Education Network and the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) emphasized that the approach to education reform must be systemic in order for qualitative change to occur. The implications are clear for the various industries who over the years have repeatedly decried the purported declining quality of college graduates applying for jobs: It’s time to stop complaining and pitch in to raise our graduates’ competencies to acceptable standards of global competitiveness. After all, as PBEd says, quality education is everyone’s business.
Teachers, however, deserve special attention at every stage of the learning cycle, from basic to higher education. At present, the Department of Education under Secretary Armin Luistro’s leadership is implementing a comprehensive package of reforms mandated by the K to 12 Law. Chief among these is the continuous training to enable teachers to improve oral fluency and reading competency in the early grades by effectively implementing Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education.
Things are a bit more complicated in higher education primarily because the stakes are much higher. In today’s highly globalized and technology-driven workplace, college instructors and professors are constantly feeling the pressure from industry for more graduates who can communicate effectively, work collaboratively, and think strategically. The information technology and business process management industry, for instance, expects to generate around 1.3 million full-time jobs by 2016. That’s about double the 772,000 full-time employees hired in 2012.
This was why I was thrilled to meet Far Eastern University president Dr. Michael Alba, who showed me “The Art of Teaching,” a compendium of best practices culled from the teaching experience of more than 30 top-caliber college professors. Compiled and edited by Jaime An Lim, Noel Bejo and Danny Vibas, “The Art of Teaching” published by Far Eastern University Publications is more than just a treasure trove of great essays on teaching and education. It is an invaluable resource for both novice lecturers and seasoned instructors in our public or private higher education institutions.
The book offers reflections on the teaching vocation and practical tips for teaching the sciences, the humanities, and much more. Take, for example, the chapter on “Coaching Winning Teams” by Dr. Marcon R. Espino. No, it’s not a sports piece, even if FEU has a sports program that has consistently produced outstanding athletes. According to Espino, one critical role a teacher has to master is coaching, an undertaking that implies “a serious responsibility and tremendous accountability.” He writes that “despite life’s setbacks and complexities, a teacher continuously finds effective and efficient ways to simplify things and make them more comprehensible and meaningful to his or her students.”
In another chapter simply titled “Teaching Mathematics,” Prof. Ma. Corazon de Guzman delves into the complexities of teaching a subject that many students perceive to be difficult. “I lighten the discussion [by] making the students feel that what they are learning is functional and no information is wasted,” De Guzman writes. She is humble enough to admit that “learning may have failed … because the teacher used an ineffective method.” This is why the feedback that she gets from quizzes are vital, because more than determining how well her students learned the lesson, it is her gauge of her effectivity as a teacher.
Prof. Esmeralda D. Mostajo, on the other hand, asserts that students can learn by themselves—with some decisive help from the teacher. In the chapter titled “Blending Creativity and Teamwork with Scientific Inquiry,” Mostajo says that aside from making her teach effectively, this blended approach nurtures teamwork and critical thought among her students.
I’m sure educators all over the country will appreciate “The Art of Teaching” from the FEU faculty—but wouldn’t it be great if the faculty of every higher education institution produces their own collection of essays on teaching and share these with their peers in other campuses?
Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.