UPOU’s space for lifelong learning in Kaohsiung

| Written by Arlyn VCD Palisoc Romualdo

Its name may be Philippines Learning Commons (PLC), but it isn’t just for Filipino workers in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It’s for all overseas workers who wish to acquire knowledge, whether for personal development or career advancement. And yes, locals are welcome, too.

A result of the UP Open University’s (UPOU) partnership with the National University of Kaohsiung (NUK), the PLC was inaugurated in November 2018 at the main campus of NUK. It was a highlight of the UPOU-organized 3rd International Conference on Open and Distance e-Learning, which was held abroad for the first time.

 

National University of Kaohsiung President Leon Shyue-Liang Wang during the inauguration of the Philippines Learning Commons in its main campus (Photo from https://www.nuk.edu.tw/files/16-1000-19661.php?Lang=zh-tw)

 

The initiative was also supported by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education, Manila Economic and Cultural Office, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Taiwan Ministry of Labor, Taiwan Ministry of Education, and Edu-Connect Southeast Asia Association Kaohsiung.

Two months prior to the inauguration, a soft launch was held at the UPOU headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, where NUK President Leon Shyue-Liang Wang captured the essence of collaboration in his statement: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” At the inauguration program itself, he said the PLC sparked hope in people “who didn’t even dream of going to college before”.

That spark of hope is what UPOU intends to ignite by widening access to quality higher education, for those who need to work or take care of family, for those who can’t physically attend traditional universities, wherever they may be in the world. As the acknowledged leader in open learning and distance education in the Philippines, the UPOU adds another achievement with the PLC and UP, a milestone in its history.

 

Standing, from left: Director-General Cheng Tai-Yun, Kaohsiung-Pingtung-Penghu-Taitung Regional Branch, Workforce Development Agency, Ministry of Labor; UP VP for Planning and Finance Joselito Florendo; and National University of Kaohsiung President Leon Shyue-Liang Wang; Seated, from left: Director General Huang Chiu-Kuei, Workforce Development Agency, Ministry of Labor and UP Open University Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria (Photo from the UP Open University)

 

The latest University statistics from 2017 show that UPOU’s student population only accounts for almost seven percent of the UP System’s population of more than 53,547. It is not an impressive figure. But when one considers that UPOU has the second highest student enrollment on the graduate level across the UP System, then its strength as a provider of advanced and continuing education cannot be ignored.

Having global reach means UPOU is no stranger to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) hoping to earn their degrees from UP. One of them is Joanne Gerio, who graduated with a Master of Development Communication degree in 2018. “How fortunate we are now to live in a world where learning is not only confined within the four walls of the classroom,” she said in her valedictory address.

 

The UP Open University (UPOU) caters to those who are unable to attend traditional universities because of familial and professional obligation or because of physical disability. Some of the University’s students and graduates are overseas Filipino workers. Here is the UPOU Class of 2018 during the graduation ceremony in September. (Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO)

 

And it is true. In today’s technology-driven world, anyone, not just OFWs, with internet access can avail of UPOU’s learning materials. They can even become UPOU students, whether through its degree programs or its massive open online courses. There is just a little something extra for those in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. With the PLC, lifelong learners not only have a technology-equipped educational facility, but also the space to converge and converse, where they can learn from quality resource materials and from each other.

And UPOU won’t remain the only Philippine institution involved in the PLC. As part of the national university system, it is not only expected to lead but to help build the capacities of other Philippine universities, public and private, so that higher education in the country is strengthened. According to UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria, “This is in consideration of UPOU’s initiative and mandate to cascade our best practices and really include other Philippine universities to have their opportunity to serve and be part of this Philippines Learning Commons.”