That is good enough for me

The great Nelson Mandela once said, Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” Nine years ago, I wanted change. After leading the quintessential yuppie life for six years, I realized that I wanted more than just a job that paid the bills and kept a roof over my head; I wanted a career that would make waking up each day more meaningful, to do something not because I was being compensated for what I was doing, but simply because I wanted to. At the time, it felt like the world and living has boiled down to getting through the day because that was what one had to do in order to survive. I wanted my personal world to change, and I wanted to live a life where I could contribute more to changing the world. To my surprise, I found myself going home to the alma mater that prepared me for the corporate life that I thought I wanted. I became a teacher.

Truth be told, I stumbled into teaching quite accidentally; nonetheless, I feel that I was meant to be an educator all along. I grew up with teachers and scholars, as my paternal grandparents were both basic education teachers, while my father taught part-time at the graduate level. I have always found fulfillment in being able to share what I know, in whatever means possible, and being able to learn from that experience as well.

I have been teaching for seven years before coming to Virginia Tech and taught here during my first semester, and my teaching style is drawn largely from instinct and personal experience as opposed to formal training in education. I mainly looked back at my own experience as a student, adopted practices used by my own professors that I thought effectively aided my learning process, and stayed away from those that I felt were not helpful. Indeed, there is a lot for me to learn about how to effectively impart knowledge to my students; what has been constant since the first day I stepped into a classroom as a teacher, though, is the fact that I have never stopped learning from my students.

I have always viewed learning as a transformative experience, for student and teacher alike. As such, I favor activities that would expose students to situations where they would be able to derive learning. For Special Project, the senior capstone project course, I encouraged students to look for ways through which their knowledge of electrical engineering may find practical application and make a project out of that. I created situations that would expose them to entities or communities that may need their assistance and connected them to the appropriate people; from there, however, they are encouraged to innovate and use their creativity as they set out to find solutions to the problems that they identify.

I also subscribe to the notion that while there is a lot of information that can be gained within the four walls of the University classroom, there is no teacher quite like the School of Hard Knocks. And as I prepare my students to go out from the University classroom into the harsh realities of the world out there, I find myself going back to my own experience as part of the work force, and sharing these personal and professional experiences with my students. In teaching Computer Systems, a course taken in the fourth year, I consistently tie the seemingly abstract concepts that are being discussed in class to actual applications in the workplace, in the form of anecdotes – stories about my little successes and frustrations as a one-time programmer and project manager. These stories have served as a springboard of lively discussion, as students are able to visualize the lessons and make it real. Being honest about my own struggles in the workplace also allow them to think through their own struggles and find ways to face their own fears and challenges.

I value respect, and as a teacher, I feel that it is not something that I am entitled to just because I am the person of authority standing in front, with the power to make or break a GPA. It is something that I earn as I show students that they are people who I respect as well. This atmosphere of mutual respect is something that I try to maintain in the classroom, regardless of the course that I am teaching. And in my experience, it has allowed me to remain the person of authority in class – without forcing that fact to the students.

I respect the individual, and the fact that every person has strengths and weaknesses, attributes that, when recognized, acknowledged, and understood, allows people to build meaningful relationships and make positive contributions to society. In teaching an elective course on Project Management for graduating students, I used case studies and subsequent class discussions to illustrate this, and to stress the reality that engineers function in multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural teams that attempt to resolve ill-structured problems.

With the graduating class of 2013, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Ateneo de Davao University. Davao City, Philippines.

I believe that as an educator, I do more than just teach. My responsibilities go beyond instruction, as I play an important role in the formation of these young people as they prepare to take their place in tomorrow’s society. And every single day, I wake up trying to do better than how I did yesterday – not because I have to, but because I want to.

So how has education helped me change the world? I take pride in the fact that while I myself have not formulated a new theory or developed the next big thing in electrical engineering, I have been a part of the lives of young people who may eventually change the world. That is good enough for me.

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Learning need not be all work

Before I found my way back to the academe, I worked as a programmer and systems analyst. One of the fond memories I have of that “era” was being invited to my daughter’s school for a sort of show-and-tell about what I did at work. At this time, I was rarely home; these kids barely knew who I was, and the last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass my daughter. But how do you explain COBOL programming, data processing, and If-Else structures to 8-year-olds?!?!

Needless to say, the days leading up to my talk were stressful. Suddenly, all the PowerPoint slides that I throw at the newcomers to my team were of no use to me. Thankfully, an idea finally came to me – how it managed to pop into my usually methodical and no-nonsense brain I cannot recall now, but I certainly am glad it came just in time.

I turned to what I thought 8-year-olds will find more appealing: playing a game. We did a modified version of “Pass the message,” having the children form two groups and form a line, simulating a computer program. The “Message” is the data input that the child at the head of the line received, and passed on to the child behind him. The “Message” was “processed” by a group of two or three children, following “commands” that were given to them, before passing the processed data to the next group behind them. The “Output” was produced at the end of the line, and the children (thankfully!) had fun looking at how the initial message has changed, and how each group has contributed to that change. When the teacher facilitated a discussion afterwards, it seemed, at least to me, that the children did understand what was going on – and they had fun doing it. My daughter smiled proudly at me. I didn’t embarrass her! My day was complete.

This memory reminded me of how opportunities to learn are present in many different forms, and it does not necessarily mean sitting quietly for hours on end, listening to a teacher, reading books (or PowerPoint slides). Learning is not a solitary activity, and does not consist of receiving information, but constructing knowledge from experience. Which means that playing can give just as much – if not more – opportunities for learning as sitting in a classroom. Mark Carnes talked about active learning, and Jean Lacoste talked about giving students more autonomy and allowing them to take an active part in the learning process; all these point to a shift to a more student-centered paradigm that focuses on creating environments that produce learning, as opposed to simply transferring information.

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Childhood is a journey, not a race…. Lessons from my daughter

Alfie Kohn’s article The Case Against Grades reminded me of a moment from about a decade ago, when I received one of the loudest “wake-up” calls in my life from my then-10-year-old daughter. At the time, I had been an absentee parent for six years due to work responsibilities, and was getting “re-acquainted” with the responsibilities of parenthood – including monitoring how my kid is doing at school.

Like most parents, I am particularly fond and very proud of my daughter. Even as a little girl, I found her to be sharp and articulate, and she could certainly hold her own even when engaging in conversations with adults. In short, I firmly believed that my daughter is one of the most intelligent kids in the world (don’t we all?). So I was very surprised when, after my first parent-teacher meeting, I found out that she was behind in Math and Science. I sat there in disbelief for quite some time that it overshadowed the fact that her teacher also told me that she was capable of handling more advanced course work in English and Literature.

I am an engineer. While I did not particularly care for Math and Science (wait, so why am I an engineer? That’s a whole other post in itself), I had always done pretty well in these courses, and I expected my daughter to do the same. When we got home, silly me launched into a tirade that began with “When I was your age… I could do this, and this, and this…” (I was not yet teaching at this point, so maybe I did not know any better?) After I finished my “speech,” my daughter looked me and said: But Mama, childhood is a journey, not a race.

Boom. I had no comeback. Granting that the phrase she just told me is the mantra that her school believed in (she’s smart, but no, she did not come up with that on her own), hearing it from her got me thinking about my own experience with school and learning, and whether that was really the kind of learning experience that I would also like her to have. Did it really matter whether my 10-year-old could do exactly what 10-year-old me could do?

Growing up, my most memorable things about school were the “accolades” that were up for grabs at the end of the school year. I always made sure I got a hefty slice of that pie, which my parents dutifully enshrined on a wall in our house for everyone to admire. I picked up a number of things along the way, sure (such as rattling off the multiplication table at the drop of a hat), but at the time they did not seem as important as the shiny things with my name on them hanging on the wall. During the academic year, I fixated on being able to get certain things and maintain certain grades, so much so that when I am unable to achieve a goal or two, the frustration can overshadow everything else.

In contrast, my daughter did not need to concern herself with such matters. When she was 7 years old, I was temporarily assigned to Phoenix, Arizona, and she spent part of that academic year with me. Since the academic year in the Philippines followed a different schedule, she was unable to enroll in the same school that I went to as a child upon our return, as they had strict guidelines regarding admission and she had missed so much. Instead, my parents found a small school that could accommodate her. This school had a “non-traditional” philosophy and approach to education; instruction and assessment were carried out differently. Even their classrooms did not look like the stereotypical classroom with rows of armchairs; children sat in round tables that allowed them to interact and work together. At the end of the school year, there was no program to honor a select few who achieved certain feats over others, but a general celebration of what each student has found meaningful to them. They did not show off the shiny things with their names on them that parents pinned on shirts (and that I loved so much growing up), but portfolios of the work that they have done and what these meant to them.

Over the years (after that first wake-up call ten years ago) my narrative for “When I was your age…” changed. Interestingly enough, they aligned with some of Kohn’s conclusions about grades. I saw that my daughter was truly passionate and interested in learning certain things (Math, unfortunately, was always a hopeless case and was not pursued with the same passion as Theater and Literature). When I was her age, I, on the other hand, worked so hard on making sure that I got excellent grades in everything that I had no time to really focus on what I loved and was interested in. She was more attuned to her strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and exercised a higher level of discernment in making decisions, such as those she made when she prepared for college. In contrast, my decision-making process mostly consisted of the prestige that I could get. In college, that meant reveling in the admiration of those who held my courage and persistence as the only female electrical engineering student in my class in high regard.

I do realize, though, that the question of grades and assessment is more complicated than “to grade, or not to grade,” and that not everyone who shared my experience went through life and made decisions the way I did. I do not trivialize the significance of grading and assessment and the roles that these have played, and will continue to play, in education, when carried out mindfully and appropriately. While there are a number of things that made my daughter’s learning experience more meaningful than mine, there are also pitfalls that I will not get into now, or this post will never get done. There are many things to consider, complexities that need to be navigated around. For me, though, an important step to take is to consider learning as a journey – one that is to be taken at a pace that makes sense to one’s unique circumstances, and to be enjoyed to the fullest extent that it can be, allowing for the development of passions, exploration of interests, and even committing mistakes that can be turned into valuable opportunities for growth. It should not be a race that one competes in against peers, or standards, or those who came before you (a.k.a. your mom). Because at the end of the day, what do letters and numbers mean? What defines who we are as individuals, serves as evidence of how much we know and how competent we are, and how valuable our contributions to society can be?

It has been said that “kids say the darndest things.” Mine told me to chill-ax and let her learn and grow up in her own way, at her own time. With that one statement, she inadvertently encouraged me to look beyond letters and numbers and report cards, and appreciate who she is through way she carries herself and relates to others, and how she handles the joys and challenges that she encounters. She will be 21 in a few months, and I have to say, I am glad she stood up for herself and journeyed through life, not harried through it. It might not work the same way for everyone, but at least in our case – I’m glad I listened.

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On Anti-Teaching and Mindful Learning: Keeping an open mind

My first reaction to this week’s topics was not very promising. The term “anti-teaching” elicited an unspoken “What?” in my head. The phrase “mindful learning” was also confusing to me – can one really learn anything mindlessly? Of course I had not done any reading at this point, and I had to remind myself to keep an open mind.

After all was said and done, I have to admit that there were still ideas and pronouncements that I found difficult to wrap my head around, but at the same time, I appreciate the passion and advocacy of Michael Wesch and Ellen Langer, because I share the same commitment to fostering student success. If anything, I found that their heart is in the right place, and their ideas provide great starting points for reflection and discourse.

I agree with Michael Wesch that it is important for students to “find meaning and significance in their education.” As someone who was also a student at one point in time, I can certainly see how it can be easy to fall into a cycle of merely trying to “survive,” of, for example, desperately trying to remember which formulas to use for what type of problem – at least until after the test is done. It is when one finds the “so what?” and sees what role today will play in the future that deep and meaningful learning can occur.

That being said, I found it difficult to relate to the notion that “teaching can be a hindrance to learning.” While I do see where Wesch is coming from, I found myself arguing that maybe there is only a certain context ascribed to teaching that may end up detrimental to student learning. Maybe if we thought of teaching as more of an act of facilitating learning as opposed to talking at students, it would not be such a hindrance to the learning process, at least when hindrance is taken in the context of what Michael Wesch was talking about. For this concept, I find Barr and Tagg’s (1995) article on the shift to the Learning Paradigm particularly interesting and informative.

I also found it hard to read that learning “the basics” so that they become “second nature” as a “myth.” When I read Langer’s Mindful Learning, I began to associate the concept with intentional learning as discussed by Jeanne Ormrod (2012) in her book Human Learning. While I also see where Langer is coming from, I believe that there is value in learning certain things to automaticity, to a point where they become second nature; if anything, it is because we have learned some things to automaticity that we are able to learn in a mindful and intentional manner, because it is at that point where we have the luxury of focusing on what truly matters.

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Musings on learning in today’s world

The learning experience – especially in the context of formal education – has certainly evolved over the years. While I cannot directly quote literature right now, I have certainly heard stories from the “yesteryears,” stories shared by my parents, grandparents, and others in their respective generations, about the relationship between teacher and students. Nay, I would say that my early memories of education is that of being talked at by my teacher, and I attribute whatever knowledge that I eventually possess as things that I passively received from that sage-on-stage.

Advances in technology and telecommunications have made a lot of things possible. There is a wealth of information “out there” that is now more readily accessible. What I think this has meant for the learning process and the learner is that there is more opportunity to explore and independently embark on a quest for truth, in order to actively construct knowledge.

What this also means is that teaching has consequently evolved from delivering information and course content to facilitating the process where learners build knowledge for themselves. It is an interesting paradigm, one that may not necessarily be the norm for everybody at this time, but is certainly gaining traction in both basic and higher education. It is also certainly aligned with the “high-impact practices” promulgated by Kuh and referenced in Gardner Campbell’s article.

What I have come to realize is that when knowledge is actively constructed, through a variety of resources and media, it becomes a more engaging activity, a more holistic experience. And when the concept of learning moves from the rather uninvolved process of receiving and regurgitating information to that of living an experience and making memories, the knowledge that is built leaves a more lasting impact and is more meaningful. Nowadays, this can be done in a wide variety of ways; and with the internet bringing down barriers related to distance and time, there is no limit to the knowledge that one can build. There is also a great opportunity to share one’s intellectual work, and engage in discourse, even with people halfway across the world.

I guess the next question may be: as an educator, what can I do to maximize the opportunities that are made available to me? How can I make a difference?

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My first post

“If you don’t know where you are, a map won’t help.” – Watts Humphrey

 

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The International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy

It was interesting to find that there are organizations that provide open access to work in engineering education. Since I started in the Engineering Education program last year, I had gravitated towards articles published in the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE) and the International Journal of Engineering Education (IJEE), perhaps because most of our assigned readings came from these journals. I eventually found, however, that the culture of open access is very much alive in the discipline, through such journals as the American Journal of Engineering Education (The Clute Institute) and the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (Purdue University Press).

I also found another open access journal that is related to engineering education – the International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (IJEP). IJEP is published by the International Society for Engineering Pedagogy (IGIP), based in Austria, through Kassel University Press. The peer-reviewed journal, published four times a year, is described as a venue for forums related to engineering education and pedagogy at the international level, and covers such areas as teaching practices for engineering courses, assessment, inclusivity, and faculty development, among others. IGIP, on the other hand, situates itself as an organization that facilitates international cooperation among various societies that are “dedicated to engineering education,” and lists bringing improvement to teaching methods in technical subjects, “encouraging the use of media in technical teaching,” and “supporting the development of engineering education in developing countries” as some of its aims. The last aim was particularly interesting to me, as I myself come from a country classified as “developing,” where engineering education as a discipline is yet to be formalized and organized.

In its discussion of its adherence to an open access policy, IJEP specified that its objective was to support “a greater global exchange of knowledge” by making access to research more accessible to the public, emphasizing the principle of “free access.” It also made a reference to the Public Knowledge Project, a non-profit initiative founded in 1998 by open access advocate John Willinsky of the University of British Columbia.

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All about “Hence”

About three weeks ago, I came across an article on Inside Higher Education that brought me back to our conversation in class about microaggressions experienced in the classroom. One of the things that was brought out was being subjected to such statements as “Wow, your English is SO good!” if one did not look like the stereotypical Caucasian American, as experienced by some of my fellow students in class – and as I have experienced time and again. I distinctly remember commenting back then that I would have taken that as a compliment. Reading the article reminded me, however, that the concerns of my fellow students are valid, and that there are certain assumptions that some people make based on how one looks and the color of one’s skin that do not necessarily hold true and are, in fact, unnecessary.

Tiffany Martinez, a student at Suffolk University, blogged about her experience with a professor. She apparently turned in a paper that seemed too well-written that it could not have possibly been her own words – at least according to the feedback she received from the professor, written on the margins of the paper that she submitted. Specifically highlighted (or more accurately, encircled in blue ink) was the word “Hence.”  On her blog post, Tiffany Martinez shared her past accomplishments and background, and about the fact that she is a US citizen. All things considered, she definitely is someone who can and knows how to use “hence.”

The United States of America is an interesting country. I have never been in the midst of such diversity in terms of the culture and experiences of the people who call it home. It is this unique interaction that, to me, makes America great. As a non-citizen looking in, I find that to be rich and fascinating, and that it speaks of the history of America as a land that has welcomed people from different places and given them an opportunity for a fresh start – giving birth to such stories as that of founding father Alexander Hamilton (and yes, I am a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical, and the concept of not throwing away your shot). It is a bit disheartening, though, that there are still instances when America is not seen and acknowledged as the melting pot of different people and different cultures that it is, sometimes by the very people whose family histories could all be traced back to other lands far and wide (and not here) but now call it home – and that it still happens in higher education.

English is not my first language. I have only lived in America for 0.05% of my life. But I have studied, spoken, and written using it long enough to be comfortable with it – and know it enough to use the word “Hence” appropriately. And I believe that there are many in the world like me who are not US or British or Canadian citizens and have never seen America, Britain or Canada, but speak, write, and understand the English language well. Perhaps not with absolute perfection, but well enough. English, after all, is often considered as a universal (and, to me, unifying) language, that at face value it seems imprudent to still readily assume that someone who does not physically look a certain way will not be able to communicate well in the language. If anything, I may be more likely to receive the same prejudice that Tiffany received – but neither of us deserve it.

It also made me think of how vital words, actions and attributions are, especially when it comes from a member of the professoriate. Professors are in a unique position to contribute to shaping a young life by providing guidance and feedback. It is therefore essential to exercise utmost fairness and prudence, and to use appropriate language, when providing feedback. Words matter a lot. And professors need to make them matter in a positive way.

Who would have known that a word as short and simple as “hence” would cause such a ruckus? One thing is sure, though, I empathize with Tiffany Martinez and other American students like her, some of whom I have had the privilege to engage in conversations and interact with through this class. You are America. And it is my fervent wish that everyone will readily acknowledge that.

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Looking ahead

It was interesting to read about how American higher education has responded to society’s changing needs and the directions it ought to take moving forward in James Duderstadt and Farris Womack’s book The Future of the Public University in America. The book was published in 2003, but the trajectory for the future that was set at the time has continued over the past thirteen years, and I believe still holds true today. Conversations about access and diversity continue to be relevant, perhaps even more so now due to recent developments in the country.

As I thought about how universities continue to cater to and respond to a society that continues to evolve, there are two things that came to mind. First, I thought about the importance of integrating principles of teaching and education in graduate school, especially among those whose goal is to one day become part of the professoriate. Duderstadt and Womack talked about reconsidering the undergraduate experience and the shift to the learning paradigm, echoing the work of Robert Barr and John Tagg. This paradigm shift calls for faculty members to go beyond the stereotypical role of identifying and presenting discipline-specific content and think about developing environments and activities that will foster the construction of knowledge by students themselves. Duderstadt and Womack note, however, that most academic training received at the graduate school level are oriented towards preparing students to be academic researchers. While this is still considered to be an integral and important responsibility of a faculty member in higher education, it is not sufficient preparation for an area that is also of vital importance: that of being an educator, as a member of the professoriate. To this end, I believe that it is just as important to prepare for and think about preparing graduate students – especially PhD students who aim to become professors – to be educators as it is to hone their abilities in discipline-specific research.

I also thought about how innovation and technology has brought down barriers and has made the world smaller, at least in terms of the ability to communicate and interact at a global scale. To me, it means that the University can set an example for international cooperation, collaboration, and the sharing and transfer of skills, knowledge and resources. There are more opportunities now than ever to reach out to other institutions and academics from anywhere in the world, and to bring the rest of the world into the classroom, thus broadening the perspectives of students in higher education.

No one will ever be able to tell us for sure what the future holds. But one thing is certain, the little steps that are taken today will definitely shape what tomorrow will look like. And the University will continue to play an important role in what these steps are going to be.

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Taking the next big step

Two years ago, I was asked to talk about discernment and choosing a college major to a group of high school seniors from various schools in our city. I would like to share this talk here, in the hope that it will also provide a glimpse into what young people in the Philippines are expected to do and what they go through in considering higher education.

“Let us leave this mall for a moment, and imagine that we are in Wonderland – with Alice and the Cheshire Cat. Alice says:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Coming back to our own individual realities, we may realize that at some point in our lives, we find ourselves in Alice’s shoes, at the crossroads, wondering where we should go. One such turning point is graduating from high school and deciding what next big step to take. And when we reach that point, an important thing to remember is that unlike Alice, we can’t NOT care where we want to go, because which way we go DOES matter. Which means that the first question that we ought to ask ourselves is: “Where do I want to go?”

For many, the next logical and expected big step after high school is going to college. Unlike the move from primary to secondary school, however, where there is really no other way to go but forward, college presents its future “recruits” with a wide array of majors to choose from. Hence, there is a need to begin with the end in mind; one needs to discern what discipline will bring the most fulfillment and provide ample opportunities for personal, professional, financial, and, to some extent, spiritual growth while keeping one’s values intact and making a positive contribution to society. It is, definitely, a big personal decision to make – something that should not be taken lightly and should be done with a great deal of reflection and maturity.

In trying to answer the question “Where do I want to go?” and choosing which road to take, there is yet another question that needs to be asked: “Where am I now?” To quote Watts Humphrey, the father of Software Engineering, “If you don’t know where you are, a map won’t help.” Once you determine where you want to go, it is therefore equally important to know exactly where you are right now, because it will determine the road that you should take to get to where you want to go – and in the process, become who you want to be.

Fortunately, we live in an era where there are a number of tools and resources available for future college students to use in their process of discernment.

Academic Performance and Aptitude tests. Schools facilitate the administration of aptitude tests, the results of which may serve as a guide as to what one can learn and develop in the future. Aptitude is defined as “a natural ability to do something or learn something,” and this information, along with one’s academic performance, is helpful in determining one’s ability to hurdle the academic demands of a course or major. Academic performance alone may not be enough, because it may be influenced by a host of external factors. I, for one, never really performed as well academically in mathematics as I did in languages and social sciences in grade school and high school, and a lot of people thought I was destined for a career in the humanities or social sciences. Aptitude tests, however, indicated that my aptitude for mathematics is actually higher than my aptitude for languages, and I eventually did pursue a discipline and a career that was more mathematical, technical and analytical in nature.

Technology. This is, undeniably, the digital age, and it will be to your advantage to make practical use of your laptops, tablets and smart phones in preparing for college. Go online and research about what majors may be a good match for you, based on your reflection about your interests and your strengths. The internet has a lot of information about what courses are available, what skillsets are ideal for these courses or majors, and what career prospects are available for courses you are interested in, among others. Higher education institutions also have significant online presence, and you may read about what programs are being offered by the institutions that you are interested in; what their vision, mission and core values are, and how these may align with your personal values; what facilities they have; and what scholarships are available. If the institution is near enough, it is a good idea to actually visit the institution and experience your “future” campus life; you may even come together as a group and request for an orientation and campus tour. Request for a copy of the curriculum for your course preference, to give you an idea of the subjects that you may expect to take and how heavy your study load will be.

Conversations. In the interest of making an informed decision, you may talk to various people about your plans and preferences. You may talk to your high school guidance counselor, a trusted teacher, friends and family members. You may ask them about their perceptions as to your strengths and opportunities for improvement; and how they chose their college major, the College or University that they went to, their career, and why. It should be emphasized, though, that choosing one’s course is a PERSONAL decision; while it is certainly a good idea to seek the opinion of others, especially those who care for one’s well-being, the final choice will have to be made independently.

Reflection. To me, this is the most important part of the decision-making process. Take everything that you learned and realized from your academic performance, tests, research, and conversations with others, and think seriously about what all this information means for your future. What subject or activity is interesting to you? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What kind of effort are you willing to put in to overcome any difficulties that may come your way, because of the choice that you made?

We have, at length, been talking about the process that one will need to go through to make that ultimate choice of what course to take in college. It may be a good time to talk a little bit about the various “items on the College menu,” so to speak – and there are quite a number to choose from. Generally, these choices are classified into four main disciplines: Humanities, which includes History, Linguistics, Literature, Philosophy, Religion and the Arts, among others; Social Sciences, which includes Anthropology, Cultural and Ethnic Studies, Economics, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology, among others; Natural Sciences and Mathematics, which includes Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and, of course, Mathematics; and the Professions and Applied Sciences, which includes Business, Computer Science, Education, Healthcare, Law, Architecture and Engineering. Each of these disciplines will require a specific skill set and passion for the field, and it is your reflection and research that will determine which discipline is best suited for you and your personal aspirations.

The interesting thing about education – specifically, in this case, higher education – is that while it is a journey that one undertakes as an individual, its fruits are enjoyed not just by the person, but by the community and environment in which he or she lives. For us, that community, that environment, is Davao – is Mindanao. It is therefore appropriate to also discuss education in the context of contributing to the development Davao and Mindanao. The Mindanao Development Authority published Mindanao 2020, a Peace and Development Framework Plan that may be seen as a road map to the ultimate goal of peace and socio-economic development for Mindanao, in 2011. In choosing the next big step in your education, you, the youth of Mindanao, may also want to think in terms of being able to contribute to the development of Mindanao through: the promotion and development of sustainable and environmentally responsible practices in agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and mining; promotion and development of technology for the utilization of renewable sources for energy generation; identification and building of needed infrastructure; proper management of the environment and the economy; and promotion of ecotourism.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today.” Your tomorrows, therefore, will largely be determined by the planning that you will do today and how you nurture the knowledge that you have gained over the years. To the students here present, I give you a challenge also posed by Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And to answer that call, I quote Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” So learn, reflect, discern… and see you in the tomorrow that you will make for yourselves.”

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