2 Pinoy educators among Magsaysay awardees
() - August 3, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Two Filipino physicists are among the recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award this year for introducing a cost-effective method of teaching science and non-science subjects in a struggling high school in the remote municipality of Jagna in Bohol province.

In the citation, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) said the husband and wife tandem of Christopher Bernido and Maria Victoria Carpio-Bernido is recognized for “their purposeful commitment to both science and nation, ensuring innovative, low-cost, and effective basic education even under conditions of great scarcity and daunting poverty.”

Both coming from affluent families, the Bernidos completed their doctorate degrees in physics from the State University of New York. In the 1980s, they headed the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines, where they were also recognized for excellence in teaching and research.

In 1999, the couple surprised their colleagues by relocating to the municipality of Jagna to run the crumbling Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) owned by Christopher’s aging mother.

The couple initially thought it more practical to shut down the school but they also saw the opportunity to come to terms with the problems of basic education in the country.

“For us, it has always been the bigger picture - the country. We both wanted to do something for the country,” Carpio-Bernido said

The Bernidos started the CVIF Dynamic Learning Program (DLP), which limits teacher participation by devoting seventy percent of class time to student activities with specific learning targets.

The program makes use of a parallel class scheme in which three classes are held simultaneously by a teacher and assisted by facilitators.

In the following years, the 500 students who attended the program showed significant improvements in their performance in national scholastic aptitude and university admissions tests. 

The school also attracted educators all over the country who wanted to learn about the program.

In 2008, the Bernidos launched the “Learning Physics as One Nation” project to address the shortage of qualified physics teachers in the country. The program, which was patterned after the DPL model, uses a portfolio of activities to be individually accomplished by students and is supplemented by weekly video-based lectures. Real time interaction through text messaging and electronic mail were also encouraged.

In Jagna, the Bernidos continue to hold regular workshops with the country’s top physics teachers, foreign scientists, even Nobel laureates as guest lecturers. They also continue to mentor young scientists from various Philippine universities.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, established 1957, is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Asia. It was founded to celebrate the leadership example of the country’s third President and is conferred on individuals or organizations in Asia who have shown exemplary public service.

Magsaysay Foundation president Carmencita Abella said this year’s seven awardees are “remarkable individuals deeply engaged in reinventing the future for a better Asia, tapping into and strengthening the power of community.”

“Their concerns are clearly quite diverse...but there is one thing this year’s Magsaysay laureates share: a greatness of spirit which infuses their leadership for change. They all build collaboration and seek consensus whenever possible. They all refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition,’ Abella said.

This year’s awards would be formally conferred in presentation ceremonies on August 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Since 1958, the Philippines has had 42 Ramon Magsaysay laureates. 

Also given the award was Tadatoshi Akiba from Japan, a three-term mayor of Hiroshima who spearheaded “Mayors for Peace,” a global campaign for nuclear disarmament supported by 4,000 cities in 144 countries. The campaign includes educational events, anti-nuclear demonstrations, active participation in the review conferences of United Nations Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty, and aggressive lobbying with governments and international agencies for nuclear disarmament. 

Tadatoshi was three years old when a single American atomic bomb leveled the city of Hiroshima. In his desire to keep the memory alive, he started a travel grants program through which visiting journalists can interview bomb survivors.

Tadatoshi recognized that his city had the moral obligation to warn the world of nuclear danger.

Newspaper photographer Huo Daishan from Shenqiu in China’s Henan province was cited for his documentation of pollution and marine life kill in the Hua River, the third largest in China.

In 2001, Huo staged his first photo exhibit by stringing together on a clothesline more than 15,000 photographs taken with a cheap camera. He eventually held 70 exhibits in various cities.

Photographs showing the river covered in noxious foam, and village children wearing gas masks stirred public debate. Although harassed by local officials and factory owners, he succeeded in linking up with local authorities and industries to install water wells and low-cost water filters in the affected villages near the river.

Chinese government officials Pan Yue (vice minister at the Ministry of Environmental Protection) and Fu Qiping (chief of Tengtou village in Zheijiang province) were cited for creating opportunities to address China’s environmental crisis.

As vice minister of the environmental protection agency, Pan has actively implemented the Environmental Assessment Law of 2003 and the Open Government Information Regulations of 2007. In 2005, he either warned or shut down 76 energy-generating projects worth billions of dollars for non-compliance with environmental regulations. 

Fu, a farmer who has been a village chief since 1980, had used China’s decentralized system to turn Tengtou into one of China’s most prosperous villages by practicing environment-friendly agriculture and using renewable energy. The village of only 830 inhabitants has a wastewater treatment system and solar-powered streetlights.  

Social worker A.H.M Noman Khan from Bangladesh, meanwhile, was cited for setting up a training center for helping persons with disabilities by giving them skills and employment opportunities. – With AP

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