Though it was my second visit to Davao, I must say that the place never fails to amaze me, geographically and culture wise. It was a trip to Talikud Island when I first visited Davao along with my co-workers way back year 2009 as my supervisor was a “Dabawenyo” (a local of Davao city). But if there is one thing that differentiates this second visit from the first, it would be the visits to the schools.
My second visit to Davao was with my fellow graduate students last February 16-18, 2013 as the field work is part of our requirements in our Socio-Cultural Foundations of Education class in UP Diliman. Before the trip, I already have my own expectations about the visit i.e. what we would learn regarding the different educational systems that they have in Davao, what kind of classrooms do they have, what kind of students do they cater, how do teachers instruct students, what are the materials that they use for teaching, etc. And as far as my observations are concerned, somehow all my expectations were met and even more.
If there is one thing that I find particularly significant about the educational systems in Davao, it would be the support, active participation and involvement of the local government with regard to the implementation of the said systems. Like for example in the Badjao community, the ALS (Alternative Learning System) program provides opportunities for the settlers in that community to participate in socio-civic affairs which would then allow them to raise their concerns and the issues that need to be dealt with i.e. health, source of livelihood, promotion of wellness for every family, etc. But it posed one certain dilemma – the idea of culture slowly diminishing once the Badjaos were educated. I believe educators, through the mobile teachers, are not just sent out to the field to teach the basics of writing and reading to the people of the Badjao community, old and young. It is also their responsibility to teach the Badjaos how to preserve their culture through the knowledge that they have acquired. For example in folk songs, these can now be written and preserved for the future use of the next generation. In the ALIVE Madrasah, for example, the children were taught Arabic, which is, preserving the native language by passing them on and by teaching them to the younger generations. MTBMLE (Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education) also has the same aim and in the class that I have observed, children are more receptive, they are more at ease when it comes to learning and they do participate actively in the discussions. The ALS at the city jail, however, may not be inclined to cultural preservation but it somehow shares the same vision to that of the E-skewala Program and the Open High School of the Davao National High School which look into holistic development of skills to those who may not have the same opportunities as what regular students commonly have.
All the educational systems that we were able to visit in the selected schools in Davao hold one very good vision which would benefit all – both the indigenous groups and the non indigenous groups. I see this as satisfying one very important goal and should be the main goal of every educator and every educational system – breaking down barriers when it comes to providing opportunities in terms of knowledge acquisition, cultural ventures and holistic development of every individual. The Pamulaan College and the ALS at the city jail are very promising projects considering that learning is not held in a regular classroom setting/school. It posits greater challenges not just for the educators involved in running the program but as well as to the learners themselves. Indeed, the society, as a whole, has a huge partaking in making the program a success. For example in Pamulaan College, one challenge that I see in the implementation of their mission is considering how open the society would be when it comes to promoting culture and passing it on by teaching the cultural traditions, beliefs and practices to the younger generation. The idea may sound interesting to foreigners and those who are not particularly in the area, but will the locals, themselves, voluntarily participate in promoting the advocacy and not because it was required by the city government of Davao? It is imperative in every advocacy/mission that they should aim for the success of the system taking into consideration that its success entirely depends on how involved the community is and not only with the supporters and the organizers who run that mission. I also would like to put emphasis on what kind of opportunities will the graduates of the college have, career wise and will they still devote in promoting the college’s aim even after graduation. As for the ALS in the city jail, it is a huge responsibility not just for the educators but also for the government officials concerned with the project to make the program not just as a one-time, testing project but that its implementation will remain consistent regardless on who holds office both in the department of education in Davao and the local government.
I have observed that when it is time to change officials, the problem lies in keeping the projects running implemented by the previous officials and maintain consistency. Newly elected/ appointed officials also would like to raise and push through with their own projects regarding the educational system and society in general. It will continue to be a greater challenge that a very good collaboration between the local government and the educators would push through as any tension between the two when it comes to promoting projects will and can affect the status of the implementation of said programs.
Learning the culture part is where leisure would come in. Yes, the less serious part. I must say that our dissecting Davao’s educational system started and ended on a very positive note. And to cap off the 3-day field work, we have decided to tour around Davao city’s local hot spots at the last day of our stay there. If there is one thing I can say about Davao’s cuisine, it may not be far from the regular dishes we have in Manila, but the recipes have a slight twist to it, making them as a Davao original.
We were able to visit tourist attractions such as the Crocodile Park, the Butterfly house and the Japanese tunnel which all contributed to our having a very fulfilling field work/vacation. I may have been to Davao for more than once already but there will always be something more, something new, and something exciting to look forward in Davao city. Yes, 3 days are not enough for me to completely acquaint with the place and learn more about its culture.
Therefore, it is decided that I will make it a point to visit the place – OFTEN. 🙂