Coming home to INNOTECH
“Sa INNOTECH, para akong umuuwi sa bahay ko (At INNOTECH, it is like I am coming back to my own home). I do not have to exert efforts to blend with people, sense the atmosphere, and adjust. With INNOTECH, I can go straight away to what I want and expect that I will go to new places. It is always a merging of minds and that is how we come up with beautiful products.”
I have been serving the country’s education sector all my life. Starting as a classroom teacher in my youth, it was a thrill to go up to management and leadership positions at the Department of Education (DepEd) Central Office. Dr. Erlinda G. Lolarga, whom I have been fortunate to call my mentor, was the one who inspired me to finish my doctoral degree. With her encouragement and through a scholarship grant, I completed a postgraduate program on Guidance and Psychology and Doctor of Public Management.
My initial encounter with SEAMEO INNOTECH was when I was with the Schools Division of Manila City. I participated in some executive committee meetings of the Division, but since I had numerous tasks with several other government agencies, I did not have more in-depth involvement with INNOTECH projects. However, when I joined the DepEd Central Office as Chief of Special Education in 1994, I began to appreciate the programs of INNOTECH, especially when we jointly implemented several projects together.
Our collaboration continued and when I was appointed Director of the Bureau of Elementary Education, we developed the PhP 49-million Project q-Learn, or School-Based Quality Learning Cells, a trailblazing project which focused on multimedia learning packages cum training of elementary school teachers and school heads on the use of a media-assisted learning delivery modality. The project is notable for its built-in sustainability features and it is still used as an assessment tool in the examinations of School Principals and Superintendents. Equally important, it has a professional development component for teachers and school heads and it has enriched the school-based Learning Action Cell (LAC) strategy through the use of q-Learn self-learning modules and video packages designed to further improve school-based teaching and learning.
Together with DepEd Undersecretary for Programs and Projects, I served as an Instructional Design and Content Development Adviser in the text2teach Project, an information and communications technology-based learning project in Science, Math, and English. This was another notable project with INNOTECH because it was one of the first educational initiatives which utilized mobile phones and satellite technology to reach the hard-to-reach and unreached schools of the country. In many other DepEd projects with INNOTECH, I felt quite at home sharing my vision and goals because discussing my educational perspectives with INNOTECH officers was easily appreciated and sometimes even strategically enhanced by them.
During the time of DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus and INNOTECH Center Director Dr. Erlinda Pefianco, I got to know the organization more intimately. I took part in SEAMEO’s High Officials Meetings (HOM). I felt that this activity allowed me to gain several insights on the processes and the actual conduct of official meetings. It also let me experience personal interactions not only with the Ministers of Education of Southeast Asia but also with other officials involved in actual operations and management of educational projects in various contexts of the region.
I was impressed with how SEAMEO INNOTECH managed the multi-faceted dimensions of the HOM. These dimensions included the planning and implementation of the sessions, balancing the different requirements of socio-cultural contexts of the presentations and open fora, and the different social affairs. These were handled through many activities addressing the need to attend to delicate situations which the Center handled with high professionalism.
Since my relationship with INNOTECH predates the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) law, I turned to them for the design and management of the ECCD Council’s Leading and Managing an Integrated ECCD Program (LMIEP). Even when INNOTECH had no experience training on social welfare and development at the time, I trusted that they would deliver. LMIEP’s objective was to train Municipal and City Social Welfare Development Officers who did not have a pedagogical background. They would feed and house children, disburse the conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, and protect the welfare of women, but they did not have the strong organizational and managerial skills to manage the new ECCD program. It was a challenging task.
The Center Director mobilized a team of facilitators who drafted the project proposal that included a learning design. After consultations and negotiations, they submitted an expertly-developed project proposal. The INNOTECH team organized and conducted the LMIEP trainings in different parts of the country — and they were excellent! Even the Faculty of the University of Southern Philippines, one of our partners, sat and participated in the sessions. They learned a lot from the INNOTECH team, specifically, their exceptional facilitation skills. When I proposed to integrate credit units into the program, the team recommended partnering with Teacher Education Institutions and universities that offered childhood education programs. INNOTECH made things happen!
LMIEP starts with face-to-face sessions, followed by an online portion where participants and their mentors refine their action plans and monitor progress. It ends with another face-to-face integration component focusing on the important lessons in implementing the plans. An integral part of LMIEP’s design is technology transfer — a solid testament to INNOTECH’s commitment to building its partners’ capacity to manage programs on their own. During the latter part of the program, they phased in and mentored our team on how to implement the training courses. I am very proud of the program design! For me, it is one of our bests. Perhaps the next phase for us is to track our completers and look at the program’s impact.
Our most recent project with INNOTECH is the Survey of Teachers in Pre-Primary Education (STEPP). The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Paris identified the ECCD Council as a project implementer, but we were not allowed by the Commission on Audit to run it, hence, we engaged INNOTECH as a third party. Thankfully, the Center Director was so gracious to accept the offer. He hardly says no to our requests.
Sa INNOTECH, para akong umuuwi sa bahay ko (At INNOTECH, it is like I am coming back to my own home). I do not have to exert efforts to blend with people, sense the atmosphere, and adjust. With INNOTECH, I can go straight away to what I want and expect that I will go to new places. It is always a merging of minds and that is how we come up with beautiful products.