UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria talks about "Open Education in the Philippines: The Imperatives; The Initiatives; The Impediments." as one of the speakers for third and last plenary session of NCODeL2017.

Dr. Melinda dela Peña Bandalaria, University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) Chancellor, served as one of the speakers during the third and last plenary session of the 5th National Conference on Open and Distance eLearning (NCODeL) held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on 23 November 2017.

In line with the country’s education agenda to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education as well as promote lifelong learning opportunities, Dr. Bandalaria tackled the importance of open education. Her staunch support for the democratization of quality education across learners of different social and economic backgrounds was apparent in her presentation, titled “Open Education in the Philippines: The Imperatives; The Initiatives; The Impediments.

With more than 400 million projected number of students who will be enrolled in higher education by 2030, Dr. Bandalaria believes that the educational sector should respond to the scale and urgency of the demand with accessible, affordable, and quality higher education. “In the Philippines, where poverty is still a major hindrance to accessing quality education, open education is a possible recourse,” she said.

She detailed UPOU’s initiatives to improve access to quality education, which includes the continuous development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Open Educational Resources (OERs). Currently, the university is developing additional MOOCs on business analytics, technology for teaching and learning, community-based disaster risk reduction management, and foreign service development. These have the support of both government and non-government agencies, such as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Anchored on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thrust toward public service, UPOU will continue to develop and implement initiatives that will support lifelong learning. Dr. Bandalaria stated that MOOCs and OERs are good starting points but she recognizes that more work still needs to be done to make open education work for the Philippines. Aside from enhancing the content of educational materials and learners’ access, the low completion rate of MOOCs must also be addressed. More importantly, institutions must keep lobbying for the recognition of MOOC certification among different stakeholders, academic institutions, and industry players.

Along with Dr. Bandalaria, Ms. Maria Susan P. Dela Rama, Executive Director of the TESDA Certification Office, represented by Mr. Carmelo Camon, discussed TESDA’s Online Program (TOP). TOP features online courses in several sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and health care. Another speaker for the session on “Open Education: The Philippine Initiatives (MOOCs and OERs)” was Atty. Michael Vernon M. Guerrero, a professor at the Arellano University School of Law. He shared his knowledge on Intellectual Property Rights and Creative Commons License.

Overall, the session opened a dialogue on the current trends and future directions of ODeL. It gave an overview of the status of open education initiatives – both formal and non-formal – and the importance of lifelong learning for all in the context of sustainable development in the country. (Patricia Calora, FICS)