Searca scores high in aggie education, R&D

- Rudy A. Fernandez () - November 20, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A total of 1,213 Southeast Asians, 331 of them Filipinos, earning their doctorate (PhD) and master’s (MS) degrees in agriculture and related fields.

Exactly 13,859 professioals and specialists, 6,043 of the Filipinos, attending short-term training courses in various fields of specialization.

A good number of scientific researches and studies conducted.

Many books, training manuals, monographs, and other publications churned out.

These and many more have been achieved by the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA) over the past 45 years.

And as it commemorates its almost half a century of operation in the service of Southeast Asia on Nov. 21-25, it remains confident that it can continue being a big plus factor in the development process of the region.

Los Baños-based SEARCA, currently headed by Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., is the oldest of the 20 “centers of excellence” of SEAMEO, an inter-government treaty body founded in 1965 to foster cooperation among Southeast Asian nations in the fields of education, science, and culture.

The center was established in 1966 to assist SEAMEO countries (now all the 11 Southeast Asian nations) through its core mission areas of graduate (PhD and MS) scholarships in agriculture and related discipline, research and development (R&D), specialist short-term training, and knowledge management.

SEARCA’s most successful activity is its scholarship program, which was launched in 1968 to produce highly educated manpower in agriculture and related disciplines to help accelerate the development process of SEAMEO countries.

Of the 1,433 products of the center’s scholarship program, 343 are Filipinos, 172 of whom have earned their PhD and 171 their MS degrees. This makes the Philippines the program’s top beneficiary over the past four decades.

Thailand ranked second with 321 fellows, followed by Indonesia (271), Vietnam (88), and Malaysia (57). The other graduates are from Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Timor-Leste, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam.

SEAMEO SEARCA scholars pursue their degrees in prestigious schools in Southeast Asia, notably the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), UP Diliman, UP Visayas; Universities Gadjah Mada, Institut Portanian Bogor, both in Indonesia; Universiti Putra Malaysia; and Kasetsart University in Thailand.

The graduates have become the “pride of SEARCA”.

In the case of the Philippines, for instance, one of the program’s outstanding fellows is current Agriculture Undersecretary Dr. Segfre Serrano, formerly the top economist of the DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

Another is Commission on Higher Education (CHED) commissioner Dr. William Medrano, former director of the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).

Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan, the first SEARCA graduate to become the center’s director (2004-2009), is now dean of the UP Diliman School of Economics.

Dr. Cecilia Gascon is currently president of the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) in Lucban, Quezon, following in the footstep of about 30 fellows who had become top officials of the state universities and colleges across the country.

One outstanding fellow, the late Dr. Ricardo T. Gloria, has become Education (DECS) and Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary.

The SEARCA graduate study program has contributed much to the alumni’s accomplishments in their respective universities and countries, attested a study done by Dr. Alex Brilliantes of the UP Diliman-National College of Public Administration and Governance.

Also in manpower development, the center’s short-term training program is intended for nationals of SEAMEO countries who cannot be released for long-term training as is needed in the pursuit of PhD and MS degrees.

Over the past four decades, the about 400 short-term courses conducted by SEARCA and collaborating international, regional, and national partner-organizations benefited 13,859 professionals, 11,698 of them nationals of SEAMEO countries, including 6,043 Filipinos.

The training activities are crafted in line with the oxigencies of the times, making them timely and relevant to the needs of the SEAMEO region. For instance, among the latest offerings are on food security, climate change, and biotechnology.

R&D has also been an integral part of SEARCA’s institutional activities.

During the 2011 SEARCA Governing Board (GB) meeting held recently in Bali, Indonesia, the 11 members of the body (one each from the SEAMEO countries) lauded the center under Director Saguiguit’s leadership for providing capacity-building support and technical services to, among others, the Philippine Departments of Agriculture (DA), Education (DepEd), and Agrarian Reform (DAR) in various initiatives on food security, climate change, and agricultural competitiveness.

Many publications have also been churned out by the center and now form part of the agriculture and rural development literature in Southeast Asia.

Looking ahead, Director Saguiguit stated:

“The center remains relentless in its pursuit of agricultural and rural development in spite of the many challenges that abound. We are already in our 9th Five-Year Development Plan and we would not have reached this milestone without the support of our partners and donors. Now is a good time to look and thank them for contributing in no small measure to what SEARCA is today.”

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