#MINDANAO: What I'm expecting in the “next normal” for universities

Published June 23, 2021, 6:00 AM

by John Tria

As vaccines continue to be rolled out in many areas, we cannot help but think of the next normal, and imagine a post-pandemic scenario for our universities.

More schools are learning to sharpen their capabilities in delivering online courses, even reaching out to learners from other countries, and new hybrid modalities being developed, we may yet see more educational institutions explore, and execute new and innovative ways of delivering their mission and vision as centers for learning to help us meet the new knowledge requirements not only of students, but of everyone in the next normal.

This is because as information moves faster and further, the demand for new skills also rises. Thus, more new skills and knowledge will be necessary for many, even in the workplace.

In particular, I see more schools offering courses that enable learners who are from more varied age brackets, and providing learning experiences that are useful for more people.

With this, many universities can explore lifelong or professional learning for the workplace. Schools already have the personnel and capacity to develop learning programs, and have the tight personnel to also assess learning development, or, in short, whether learners are actually learning. This is what free online videos cannot do. These unique capabilities can also be maximized.

Recent news of seven local universities landing in the list of the World’s Universities with Real Impact (WURI) show that these schools are innovative with their research and education. A number of them are from outside of Metro Manila. (https://mb.com.ph/2021/06/20/7-ph-universities-enter-2021-real-impact-rankings/)

Perhaps many other schools would like to examine these real impact rankings to see how that can have stronger impact on their local communities, particularly in their partnerships with local enterprises to drive innovation in the local economy.

Moreover, a development for local educational institutions is the launch of the Niche Centers in the Regions (NICER) for R&D, a program of the Department of Science and Technology , which helps qualified educational institutions boost their research which I believe can help local stakeholders especially local businesses wishing to innovate.

Another area I will expect to see expanding in the next normal are partnerships with foreign universities to offer joint courses and research. These bring fresh perspectives.

Educational innovations will be needed to fortify our human capital with new skills and knowledge vital as many enterprises see new opportunities for foreign trade, with our entry into new trade arrangements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and expanded trade with ASEAN. As I have written previously, many MSMEs will need to expand their markets beyond borders to enable them to be resilient and competitive enterprises similar to their foreign counterparts.

The recent formation of the Philippine Trade Facilitation Committee (PTFC) under EO 136 can drive academe-business partnerships. In a June 16 MB article, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that the PFTC will help our MSMEs actively participate in international trade and value chains.

Local universities, especially in Mindanao can and should play a big part need to create the learning programs needed for local companies to take advantage of foreign trade opportunities sharpen their capabilities in technology based innovation, branding and marketing their products abroad.

It is critical for local schools to take note of these developments and opportunities as they navigate the next normal. The educational institution is a strong partner of the community in the drive to build strong and resilient local economies and for citizens to broaden their skills and knowledge for the next normal.

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