12th Conference of Philippine Schools Overseas in Ilocos Norte

OWWA Director Rosalia Susana B. Catapang, CFO Senior Consultant Jose Z. Molano, Jr., CFO Undersecretary Mary Grace A. Tirona, DFA Special Assistant Lorenzo Rhys G. Jungco IV, NRCO Director Violeta N. Muñoz, and DOLE Labor Attaché Nasser B. Munder (seated L-R at the center) with the participants of the 12th Conference of Philippine Schools Overseas

To keep abreast on the current roll-out of the education reform initiative – the K-12 Basic Education Program, the Inter-Agency Committee on Philippine Schools Overseas conducted the 12th Conference of Philippine Schools Overseas at the Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte on May 06-08, 2014. It was attended by sixty-one representatives from 27 Philippine schools in Bahrain, China, East-Timor, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

The annual conference is a regular activity to promote and strengthen Philippine curriculum-based education overseas to ensure a continuing education for Filipino expatriate students and support the unification of the Overseas Filipinos families.

Themed "K – 12 and the Management of Change in Basic Education," the conference was formally opened by the members of the IACPSO represented by Undersecretary Mary Grace A. Tirona of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), Mr. Lorenzo Rhys G. Juncgo IV of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Atty. Nasser B. Munder of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Governor Maria Imelda R. Marcos also welcomed the participants to Ilocos Norte and thanked them for choosing the place as venue of this year's conference.

Department of Education Secretary Armin A. Luistro, in a message to the conference participants, said that the conference is a strategic activity to revisit the roadmap of the Filipino-operated schools in many parts of the world. He added that, where there is a congregation of Filipinos, there will be schools to cater to the needs of our young. Thus, it is very important that the educational content designed for the Filipino learners respond to their need as citizens of the Philippines as well as their being citizens of the world.

The three-day conference had an array of proficient resource persons. The first plenary session began with a professorial lecture, "The Management of Change: K – 12 & the UMak Experience as a SUC" by Prof. Tomas B. Lopez, Jr. of the University of Makati. Prof. Lopez shared with the participants his revolutionary views on education and the UMak's actual experiences in the implementation of the K -12 program. Atty. Teodoro C. Pascua of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority discussed "The K-12 Voc-Tech Track & the TESDA Programs."  Dr. Chito B. Salazar, President of the Phinma Education Network, talked about "Implementing the K – 12 Curriculum in the Private Schools from the Perspective of the Phinma Education Network."

As a means of coming up with innovative program for Overseas Filipinos, Mr. Raul A. Alcantara, CFO Consultant, provided the participants with a glimpse on one of the CFO's flagship program, the BaLinkBayan, an Overseas Filipinos' One Stop Online Portal for Diaspora Engagement. A quip on the Filipino word balikbayan (a returning overseas Filipino), and "link" (with its internet connotation) BaLinkBayan is a means to connect Filipino individuals and communities to the Philippines through the Diaspora to Development (D2D) program of the CFO. Mr. Alcantara explained that the program promotes and supports diaspora-driven initiatives such as investment and entrepreneurship, diaspora philanthropy, brain gain program, educational exchange and medical mission.

On the second day, Ms. Ma. Luisa Clotilde P. Manahan, Directress of Explorations and Keys School (Manila) and Ms. Victoria A. Coralejo, President of the Association of Private School Administrators shared their views on "How Private School Providers of Basic Education Are Gearing Up for the K – 12 Roll-Out." It was followed by a lively workshop-discussion on "The Management of Change to the K – 12 Program: a PSO Leadership Challenge" by Professor Nieves R. Confesor of the Asian Institute of Management. The whole afternoon focused on the "Author's Roundtable Discussion on the Adoption of the K – 12 Curriculum Guide & the Production of Learning Materials" by the various textbook authors from the C & E Publishing, Inc., Phoenix Publishing House, Inc. and RBSI International.

The third day of the conference featured lectures which promotes the well-being and welfare of the participants as Overseas Filipinos. Dr. Ma. Lourdes "Honey" A. Carandang of the MLAC Psychological Services for Well-being discussed the"Stress Management for Overseas Filipinos as PSO Administrators, Faculty and Parents." It was followed by a panel discussion on "Strengthening the National Reintegration Center for OFWs" by Director Violeta N. Muñoz of the NRCO, Dr. Veronica E. Ramirez of the University of Asia and the Pacific, Director Rosalia Susana B. Catapang of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Atty. Munder of the DOLE.

During the conference, the participants were also formally informed of the highlights of the proposed 3rd Edition of the Manual of Policies, Standards and Regulations for Philippine Schools Overseas (3rd Edition, 2014). The Manual was revised based on the following rationale: 1.) To empower PSOs to act as private educational institutions; 2.) To define/limit the intervention of the IACPSO on curricular matters rather than on administrative issues; and 3.) To update the Manual vis-à-vis the adoption of the K – 12 curriculum. The panel discussion on this topic was participated in by Mr. Jose Z. Molano, CFO Senior Consultant and the representatives from the DFA, DOLE and OWWA.

Ms. Giselle L. Pastoriza of the CFO also discussed the "Empowering the Overseas Filipino Youth" through the Youth Leaders in the Diaspora or YouLeaD, another flagship program of the CFO. A video presentation of the 2014 YouLeaD in PSOs Ilocos Adventure which was participated in by 14 students from five Philippine schools was also shown to the conference participants.

The closing ceremonies included the video presentation of winners of the 1st PSO Culinary Competition held last 01 May 2014 at the Enderun Colleges in Taguig City. The Philippine School – Dubai bagged the No. 1 Finalist as well as the Top Grade School Team and Top High School Team Awards. The next in rank are the Philippine School Bahrain, Philippine School Doha, Philippine School Oman and the International Philippine School of Shanghai.

Certificates of attendance and the CDs containing the conference materials were awarded to the participants and sponsors. It was followed by the oath-taking of the newly-elected officers of the Association of Philippine Schools Overseas formerly PSOAPT of which Dr. Alexander S. Acosta of the Philippine School Doha is the President.

The conference was made possible through the sponsorship of the Abiva Publishing House, Adamson University, Bookman Publishing, Inc., C & E Publishing, Inc., Data Science Technology Corporation, Digilearn Multimedia, Inc., F & J De Jesus, Inc., iACADEMY, Jo-Es Publishing House, Inc. Phoenix Publishing House, Inc., RBSI International, Vibal Publishing House, Inc., University of Asia and the Pacific, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH), DLSU – College of St. Benilde and Enderun Colleges.