Looking at INNOTECH as a world player
Jesus Lorenzo R. Mateo
“We keep hearing now of Industry 4.0. INNOTECH, by its very name, ‘innovation,’ and its expertise and stature, could play a major role in shaping the policies and addressing the common education problems of SEAMEO and the challenges of education in the Philippines itself, being the host country.”
I first encountered INNOTECH in the mid-1990s. My knowledge about it was limited. I was with the Education Development Project Implementation Task Force (EDPITAF) of the Department of Education (DepEd). The EDPITAF team crafted a national project to be supported by World Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation that later became the Third Elementary Education Project (TEEP).
My first impression of the Center was that of an international body, not unlike the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or World Bank. I saw it as a technical resource for education with international stature and a focused mandate. It was later that we realized that INNOTECH has several products and services that the DepEd can utilize.
I got to know the Center’s work more precisely when Dr. Ramon C. Bacani, then Assistant Secretary and later Undersecretary of DepEd, asked me to attend SEAMEO meetings with him, on his behalf, or as alternate when he was not available for meetings. I also learned that INNOTECH is the proponent of the Instructional Management by Parents, Community, and Teachers (IMPACT) Project, one of the innovations under the TEEP that was part of the IMPACT learning system and the concept of which was applied in the project.
A deeper look at the TEEP and the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEDIP), the design would reveal a strong emphasis on key elements of IMPACT, such as strengthening the participation of parents and the community in education interventions. An enabling element of IMPACT, now called “school-based management,” was in the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA). IMPACT has been there since the 1970s. It gained new and enduring relevance through the TEEP, and later SEDIP, which made us think of a longer and broader reform horizon. These were the precursors of major reforms such as the K to 12 curriculum reforms and the restructuring of DepEd. Even now, with the pivot to emphasize quality, these initiatives remain relevant.
In one of the INNOTECH Governing Board discussions, we talked about IMPACT as an innovation for optimal access to learning services in resource-poor conditions and how it is as much a quality improvement solution as an access intervention, as was demonstrated in its long-running implementation in Zamboanga City.
Over the years, my involvement with INNOTECH as the Philippine Representative to the Governing Board gave me a broader perspective on issues. The Center’s seminars, workshops, and other learning events often left me with reflections on charting national and sub-national initiatives. I believed I gained a level of expertise as well.
Interactions with peers in the Ministries of Education, done in an atmosphere of collegiality, left me with the feeling of having more things to learn and having the confidence to share. Despite differences in our levels of development, culture, and educational tradition, the SEAMEO countries are actually more alike in education.
Part of my work as Head of EDPITAF was to design and negotiate education projects with institutions such as World Bank and ADB. My portfolio expanded when I moved to Regional Operations and Planning as Undersecretary. INNOTECH became a reassuring presence, making us confident that we can rely on the Center’s expertise and support in fulfilling our international obligations. The sharing of ideas continues even in informal conversations with the INNOTECH and its key staff.
The INNOTECH contributions that were useful in education reform and planning include the development of the K to 12 program which was not only about the adoption of a 12-year basic education cycle. Its many features include reforms in the delivery, curriculum, assessment, governance, and language of instruction, including the investment program to aid the Department in making the transition.
INNOTECH was instrumental for the quick studies and comparisons on the different structures, curricula, and key policies in the SEAMEO ministries; a number of these are being done now for the Department. Knowledge from such studies helped form and shape our policies and programs.
Another contribution is in tightening and fine-tuning education policies and in deepening ongoing reforms and projects. Currently, INNOTECH is doing the teacher motivation study that sits well with the Secretary’s initiatives. DepEd is the biggest human resource agency in the country, with 955,000 employees, of which 853,000 are professional teachers. The study would help strengthen existing policies like recruitment, selection, and hiring.
Disruption from technological advances is becoming the new normal in the education sector not only in the Philippines but in other Southeast Asian countries. We keep hearing now of Industry 4.0. INNOTECH, by its very name, “innovation,” and its expertise and stature, could play a major role in shaping the policies and addressing the common education problems of SEAMEO and the challenges of education in the Philippines itself, being the host country.
How will that happen?
What is currently being done is a step in that direction, such as reaching out to other organizations and engaging in conversations with the Ministries in formulating and executing ideas. Eventually, INNOTECH will be a player not only in Southeast Asia but also in other regions. SEAMEO can partner with regional groupings such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or the European Union. With all the linkages and the support of the SEAMEO family and organized professional bodies in the region, that would not be impossible.