HIGHLIGHTS

  • In 1999, the Bernidos surprised colleagues by moving to the poor, remote municipality of Jagna, in Bohol province, to run an old, struggling high school—heeding the request of its owner, Christopher’s aging mother.
  • In 2002, they introduced a revolutionary way of teaching science and non-science subjects, which they called CVIF Dynamic Learning Program (DLP). A cost-effective strategy focused on strong fundamentals, DLP devotes 70 percent of class time to student-driven activities built around clear learning targets, aided by well-designed learning plans and performance-tracking tools.
  • The program also uses a “parallel classes scheme,” in which three simultaneous classes are handled by one expert teacher with the help of facilitators.
  • In 2006, the Bernidos designed the “Learning Physics as One Nation” project, to address the problem of severe shortage of qualified physics teachers.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “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”.

 CITATION

The state of a country’s science and technology indicates its capacity to develop. By this measure, there is cause for grave concern in the Philippines. Consider science education. Poor facilities, unqualified teachers, unproductive pedagogies, and inadequate state promotion have worked against efforts to upgrade science education. Thus, the Philippines has trailed other Asian countries in number of scientists, volume of scientific research, student performance levels, and the quality of its universities.

Thankfully, there are some bright lights in the landscape. One is the inspiring story of the couple Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido. Coming from privileged families, both earned their doctorate degrees in physics from the State University of New York. They headed the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines in the 1980s, recognized for their teaching and research excellence. They stood at the top of their profession and were well respected in the world community of physicists.

Then, in 1999, the Bernidos surprised colleagues by moving to the poor, remote municipality of Jagna, in Bohol province, to run an old, struggling high school—heeding the request of its owner, Christopher’s aging mother. It was not just filial duty, however, that led Chris and Marivic to devote themselves, as the school’s president and principal, respectively, to the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF). They knew it was more practical to simply close down the school; but they also glimpsed a challenging opportunity. Running CVIF would force them to come to grips with the problems of basic education in the Philippines. Marivic says, “For us, it has always been the bigger picture, the country. We both wanted to do something for the country.”

It was not an easy transition but they faced the challenge in a determined, methodical way. In 2002, they introduced a revolutionary way of teaching science and non-science subjects, which they called CVIF Dynamic Learning Program (DLP). A cost-effective strategy focused on strong fundamentals, DLP devotes 70 percent of class time to student-driven activities built around clear learning targets, aided by well-designed learning plans and performance-tracking tools. The program also uses a “parallel classes scheme,” in which three simultaneous classes are handled by one expert teacher with the help of facilitators.

In designing the DLP, the Bernidos wanted to show that poverty need not be an excuse to compromise on teaching and learning excellence. The results proved them right. In the years that followed, CVIF students showed radical improvement in their performance on national scholastic examinations and university admissions tests. CVIF is a small school of only five hundred, mostly-poor students. But the significance of what the Bernidos initiated quickly spread throughout the country. The school attracted national attention, and educators from over three hundred schools visited CVIF to learn about its program.

In 2006, the Bernidos designed the “Learning Physics as One Nation” project, to address the problem of severe shortage of qualified physics teachers. Launched in 2008, the project is now implemented in over two hundred private high schools, on top of the many other schools that have independently adopted the DLP model. The program includes a portfolio of learning activities to be individually accomplished by the students, and closely-associated weekly video-based lectures featuring National Expert Teachers. Real-time teacher-expert and student-expert interaction happens through text-messaging and electronic mail.

In remote Jagna, the Bernidos also hold regular workshops that have drawn the country’s physics teachers, international scientists and even Nobel laureates. And they continue to mentor young scientists from various Philippine universities.

In electing Christopher Bernido and Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido to receive the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes 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.

 RESPONSE

The Honorable Benigno S. Aquino III, Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, fellow Awardees and friends.

As we were growing up hearing about the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Awards being given to those who have selflessly dedicated their lives for others, we could not have imagined that we would also be elected to join the list of Asian men and women we greatly admire. Being trained in the sciences, we expected our lives to be mostly dedicated to solving the puzzles of nature and discovering its laws and principles, rather than directly dealing with the plight of humans and the problems of society.

Our love of science and the teaching of science, however, have led us to a path often acknowledged as a key in solving myriads of problems in our society: the education of our youth, especially those who have less in life who belong to the majority. We believe that education and a mastery of the sciences will, in the long run, spell the difference between a world of plenty and a world of hunger, disease, suffering, darkness, and a hostile environment.

The importance of paying special attention to the less privileged cannot be overemphasized since many of the giants in science and mathematics come from their ranks. Élie Cartan, an influential mathematician, was a son of a blacksmith. The Physics Nobel laureate, Carl E. Wiemann, attended a rural primary school with only three rooms, and his home was miles away over unpaved roads to the nearest store. The Economics Nobel laureate, James Buchanan, Jr., was a farm boy educated in a tiny, poor, rural public school. Had society not given them a chance, and others like them, our world today would be poorer.

Today’s task of providing quality education, however, is imperiled by an extreme shortage of qualified teachers. In the Philippines, the percentage of qualified high school physics teachers dropped from 27 percent in the 1990’s to a mere 8 percent by 2003, due to massive migration of science and math teachers to advanced countries. Even nations in the West which spearheaded the development of modern science are now worrying over the high school education for their youth and the future of science in their countries.

We, therefore, gratefully accept the Ramon Magsaysay Award which challenges us to pursue further a new paradigm in teaching designed to bypass barriers that have prevented present-day educational practices from providing quality education to a new generation.