Sometimes it doesn’t matter how small the stone is. What’s amazing is how the small ripples it creates become bigger and wider as they move farther away from where the stone was dropped in the water.
That’s exactly what the Teacher Development Program (TDP) of the UP Open University (UPOU) has been doing in Mauban, Quezon since 2005.
What started as a capacity-building program to help public elementary and high school teachers through training programs and scholarship grants has grown to include other sectors integral to the development of the municipality.
Because of its impact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has cited the TDP in a 2017 report as one of the good lifelong learning practices in Southeast Asia.
It seemed like the stars had aligned for the creation of TDP. UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria, then the University Registrar, was actively seeking funding for scholarship programs for teachers when Quezon Power called for a proposal on a sustainable training program for teachers. Both institutions had what each other needed and with the added support of the local government, the Department of Education-Quezon, and UPOU Foundation Inc., the program was born.
Bandalaria says it was a great opportunity “to test the private sector-government-academe partnership model” and to design a continuing professional development program that combined formal and non-formal courses to upgrade knowledge on subject areas, strengthen teaching skills, and allow the pursuit of advanced degrees.
While things seemed to be in order for TDP’s roll-out, the program faced an enormous challenge outside its purview: its target participants were intimidated by the prospect of studying in UP.
Mauban human resources head Conchita Mirabueno reveals that during the first phase of TDP, “There was a lot of apprehension because of the implementing school. They were so afraid they couldn’t meet the standards and requirements of UP.” This was also noted by Luisa Gelisan in a reflection paper she wrote on the TDP, which she has been a part of since its inception.
This hurdle was overcome through the TDP’s encouragement, which built the scholars’ confidence and guidance on what a UPOU student’s life entails. As TDP continued, the number of eager applicants increased. They witnessed how it has helped not only in the professional development and promotion of their fellow teachers, but also in enhancing their capabilities to become more effective educators. Quezon Power even reports that the performance of Mauban schools with TDP scholar teachers improved in the national aptitude tests because of the program.
Building the confidence of those pioneer scholars has, in turn, empowered those around them to also pursue self-improvement—whether as teachers, administrators, or students.
Resources, adaptability, and evolution
As with any program, funding is a consistent concern in implementation. For TDP, there have been highs, like national political support that expanded the program to the whole first district of Quezon, and lows, such as the withdrawal of local political support that left the TDP operating on half its needed budget.
Through the lows, UPOU placed primary importance on the scholars and their need to be able to continue their studies. And these hurdles were overcome. This kind of institutional support is one of the reasons why TDP is continuing.
Apart from finances, technology was also a challenge. It wasn’t possible for Mauban to simply adopt UPOU’s existing mode of education delivery at the onset because of Internet connectivity issues. The project team at UPOU acknowledges that while it couldn’t bring better ICT facilities to Mauban, it could still deliver what the scholars needed.
Dialing down on the use of technology, UPOU adapted to the situation by scheduling face-to-face sessions, conducting pen-and-paper enrollment and examinations, and accepting hard copy submission of assignments, among others. But that was then.
The ubiquity of ICT and its numerous possibilities for teaching and learning necessitated the inclusion of ICT training in TDP, not only to make the scholars more adept in using these technologies as UPOU students, but as educators who also need to provide a better learning environment for their students.
Mirabueno shares the effort of a TDP graduate who “initiated the establishment of a Tablet Room” in his school, despite its having no Internet connectivity because it was located in a remote barangay. “He brings home the tablets to download the learning modules and the students access these materials in the Tablet Room. Learning has become more fun and engaging for the students. Plus, they become exposed to the use of ICT.”
Today, an e-Learning Ville stands in Mauban, a center that caters to the ICT needs of the community, whether in the use of facilities or for ICT skills enhancement. UPOU partnered with then Quezon First District Representative Mark Enverga, PLDT, Intel Philippines, and the National Computer Center for its establishment. TDP now also includes a technology grant that provides scholars with netbooks and mobile broadband connection.
Not just for teachers anymore
In August 2017, the sixth phase of TDP was launched at UPOU, where it also presented its latest batch of scholars. It has been renamed TDP/Enhanced Continuing Education Program for Mauban or TDP/eCEP4Mauban because it now includes training programs for people in areas integral to the municipality’s development.
Current and potential school administrators will have the opportunity to take part in leadership workshops. Other teachers who are not part of the scholarship program to earn advanced degrees can continue to participate in training programs that incorporate digital literacy as a necessary component of K-12 implementation. Disaster risk reduction and management is now part of its roster of training programs, which also widens the reach of the TDP beyond the education sector.
With more than a hundred graduates and with its scholars moving up the professional ladder, the positive impact of TDP on Mauban’s education sector can’t be denied. But more than its direct effect on its participants are the ripples it makes across the greater community.
Bandalaria relates she has seen the growth of Mauban into a learning community, and that is the TDP outcome she is most proud of—that it has gone beyond its primary audience. As for Gelisan, she adds that she is “proud that we are able to make UP education available and accessible to those who need it—no matter how far they are.”
Mirabueno, who continues to see firsthand the impact of TDP on the municipality she serves, says, “It has transformed the lives of Maubanin—from the teacher-scholars to the students to the schools to the municipality.”