January 30, 2020
A Filipino teacher from Jibolo Elementary School in Iloilo Province joined other nationalities in learning from Japan's education system to improve teaching in the country's remote areas under a Japanese government training program.
Mark John Belleza, 28, a math teacher, was among the recent roster of participants to the Knowledge Co-Creation Program (KCCP) on Improvement of Education in Remote and Isolated Areas for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The KCCP is a program of the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that trains young professionals in various development areas as part of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
"In Japan, I saw that schools teach not only book learning but also morals and customs, laying the essential groundwork for life as a member of society," said Belleza. "For schools in remote areas, they have a School Support Station Program where volunteers from the local community help plan school activities."
Belleza joined other participants from countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Kingdom of Eswatini, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Solomon Islands in attending lectures and visiting schools in Kochi City including Kochi University, Namegawa Municipal School, and Kochi Prefecture Center for Teacher Education. "Unlike the Philippines, there are areas in Japan where the challenge is the few number of students, a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 15 in a grade level. So, they apply multi-grade teaching (combining two grade levels in one classroom) to solve such concern. In Iloilo, same strategy is used for schools where there are insufficient teachers. The difference is that in Japan they emphasize independent learning but they also create activities for slow performing students," he said.
As part of the training, Belleza is implementing a Mentoring the Mathematics Mentors in Iloilo in partnership with Kochi University as well as integration of Filipino core values in the curriculum through songs and stories. "The training gave me the opportunity to learn from other countries particularly in injecting real-life learning and including the support of the local community to improve the quality of education in remote schools."
Every year, JICA sends young professionals to Japan under its KCCP Program as part of its support to the human resource development in the Philippines. To learn more about the KCCP, please visit https://www.jica.go.jp/philippine/english/activities/activity02_03_01.html.
Belleza with representatives from Liberia (left) and Myanmar (right)