How global Pinoy scientists revolutionized teaching in Bohol
MANILA, Philippines -- The world was their laboratory.
After obtaining their doctorate degrees in Theoretical Physics from the State University of New York at Albany, Doctors Christopher and Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido further explored the world of science. They steered the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines in the 1980s. They also visited major universities and research hubs in Europe and Asia.
The scientist-couple was a distinguished member of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy, research fellows of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, and exchange scientists in Japan.
But in 1999, they decided to go back home and conduct a social experiment at the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF), a school owned by Christopher's family in Jagna, a remote town in Bohol.
The school of about 500 mostly poor students was set to be foreclosed. Its roofs were leaking. The teachers lacked training. The books in the shelves were remnants of the last century. And for the scientists, nothing could be worse than to work in a place without a laboratory.
The Bernidos succeeded in saving the struggling school, catapulting the unknown institution to national attention.
They called their solution the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP), a method of teaching that nurtures independent learning among students, which they introduced in 2002.
The Bernidos believed that the problem was not so much the lack of teachers, books, and facilities as the poor curriculum content and learning disposition of students.
“The program is designed in such way that [it can] bypass the lack of qualified teachers, bypass the lack of equipment, bypass the lack of text books if needed. But if a school has textbooks, it‘s okay. It would even bypass the lack of infrastructure requirements needed to reach your target in education, so in that sense it is cost-effective,” said Christopher, who is currently the CVIF president.
Unlike a typical class, only 30% or about 15 minutes of the class is spent for an expert teacher’s lecture. 70% of the time is devoted to student-driven activities that seek to achieve clear learning targets.
This method is carried out following a scheme called "parallel learning classes" in which the expert teacher, with the help of co-facilitators, simultaneously hold 3 classes.
“In all subject areas, if you are given a complex task, you can always divide it into 10 smaller steps and this would be the 10 smaller activities. And if you wish, that single step, you can further subdivide into 5 easier steps. So, each activity now becomes very simple and doable even without teacher intervention or a prior lecture,” Christopher said, explaining how the program is carried out.
"It’s learning by doing, discover approach on their own. So that’s the type of mindset that we would like to foster in the program," Christopher said.
Moreover, during their 4 years at CVIF, home assignments are not given to the students so that they can rest and relax with their families.
The DLP does not only tackle science and mathematics. It also covers other areas such as music, the arts, and physical education.
"Even in physical education we would try to inject the scientific culture because in fact the countries who are doing very well in the Olympics, they have a very good scientific approach. They have sport science for example," Victoria said.
“It’s a synthesis of different pedagogical theories -- Montessori method, distance learning, so many things. We got the best features of these different theories. The purpose? Our target really was to have a program effective for Filipino students in Filipino classrooms with Filipino teachers in the Filipino situation,” Victoria, CVIF principal, said, explaining how the strategy came about.
Numbers tell stories
"When we first moved back to Bohol, the first 3 years, we were still traditional in our handling of the high school, and there were no UPCAT (University of the Philipines College Admission Test) passers for 3 years in spite of the fact that we put in a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of effort," Christopher recalled when they were just starting.
Things began to change when they introduced the DLP in 2002. “It just kept on improving. So at the end of any program, really, it is the numbers that should tell the story,” Christopher said.
In the recent National Career Assessment Examination, 45% of the CVIF seniors students made it to the top 10% nationwide.
In the mathematics component of the test, 51% of more than half of the CVIF seniors belonged to the top 10% nationwide. 17% of them belonged to the top 1% of the passers.
Meanwhile, 16 or more than 10% of the graduating class passed the competitive UPCAT in 2011.
“At this point we don’t have [all] the numbers yet, but behaviorally and other indicators like it have remarkably diminished the number of absences, truancies,” Victoria said.
She added that they are also getting feedback from teachers and parents that DLP students have become more mature and focused in their studies.
Facts redeemed the program which initially faced skepticism among students, teachers, and parents who had become comfortable with mediocrity for a long time.
"The only way to convince people is to show them evidence," Christopher noted. "At the end of any program, really, it is the numbers that should tell the story,” he added.
How it began
What actually started as a filial duty to help Christopher’s mother in running a troubled school has become an advocacy for the Bernidos.
“I remembered we were both scientists and for a long time we were at UP and the talk at the time was really for our country to move forward, we have to keep up with science and technology,” Victoria recalled.
“With the discussion on how to troubleshoot what is wrong with the school, and treating it as a microcosm of the larger Philippine society, we realized that education is really the weak link. Elementary is still early enough that you can still correct any mistakes in the educational systems in the high school. College is too late,” the educator said.
The Bernidos presented DPL as a Filipino solution that can fix a Filipino problem.
"We wanted to help develop signs of technology in the country to help us also move forward, so we really try to solve or address the issues in education. And as it turned out, it reflected the different issues and solutions also for the entire country," Christopher said.
Revolutionary teaching method
The DLP was hailed as a revolutionary teaching method when the Bernidos bagged the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “their purposeful commitment to both science and nation, ensuring innovative, low-cost, and effective basic education even under Philippine conditions of great scarcity and daunting poverty.”
The prestigious citation helped in paving the way for the expansion of the CVIF program across the country.
According to Victoria, the governor of Bohol, together with the DepEd, implemented DLP in more than 150 public high schools in the province.
PLDT and SMART also adopted the program in Cagayan de Oro City, Negros Oriental City, Sagay City, and Basilan.
"I doubt if it is already considered mainstream. But it‘s going in that direction," Victoria said, noting that the expansion started only last school year.
According to Victoria, it would take another 2-3 years to take stock of the program's definite impact as they are still testing it in expansion areas, monitoring scholastic performance, and addressing adjustment challenges.
But if Bohol is any indication, chances are, the impact elsewhere will also be good.
(Today, October 5, is World's Teacher's Day. Express your gratitude to your teachers. Say #ThankYouTeacher)