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Amid all heated discussions on the issue, two Ramon Magsaysay Awardees running a school in a fourth-class municipality in Bohol saw the potential value of K to 12 not just to students, but also to scientific research.
Dr. Christopher Bernido and Dr. Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido, who operate the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) in Jagna town, have their own reservations about the K to 12 program. Constrained to implement it, however, they decided to use the two extra years in high school to boost research. They have partnered with University of Utah’s Dr. Baldomero Olivera and his team for a marine biology project that will involve Grades 11 and 12 students in the preliminary processing of specimen collected in sea expeditions. The students will be trained in isolating, preserving, and documenting the specimen.
We want them to learn the scientific method, which has been taught since elementary but only in theory. This time they will get to experience science hands-on. They will learn how a scientist works, how they have to be meticulous, patient, and disciplined, said Christopher Bernido.
Beyond this, students can contribute to the classification of previously unknown specimen.
"About 10 years ago, an international team did an expedition in Panglao, Bohol. They got so much specimen – several thousands of mollusk species – but these had to be brought abroad for identification. What we need are young people who can help on this, Bernido said. Incoming Year 11 students of CVIF undergo a weeklong summer training to prepare them for real scientific research.
As early as 2013, Bernido has been stressing the need to maximize opportunities like this. In a speech delivered to graduating students of the University of the Philippines Manila that year, he said, "The Philippines is regarded by marine biologists as the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity. The island province of Bohol, especially near the Panglao island, is considered the center of the center of biodiversity. There is a lot of first-rate research that could be done given this marine biodiversity if only Filipino scientists are capable of doing it."
Research scientist Noel Saguil, one of the partners of the Bernidos, said the project is relevant not just to students but also to the scientific and medical world.
In August 2015, six students of CVIF went to Panglao, Bohol on a dry run with a team of scientists from Russia and other countries. The team retrieved nets from under the sea, and the students helped sort the haul. Bernido said the students were excited about the experience.
"They saw science in action. A Russian scientist taught them how to efficiently segregate and sort. After sorting, they took photos of the specimen before checking these into a laboratory for further analysis," he shared.
Last March, with support from the local government of Jagna, Olivera’s team laid down eight nets in different areas in Jagna Bay. CVIF teachers and students joined the expedition. They will retrieve these nets on April 18. Bernido said he expected students on summer break to volunteer to do preliminary processing.
They will be taught to identify specimen down to the species level. Because most of the specimen will be roughly unknown, they will be doing real science,” he said, adding that about 100 students will be involved in the project once the school year starts in July.
Bernido encouraged other schools to add much richer content to the K to 12 program. "In the future, they can come to Jagna to see the students in action. But they can have other research themes; it doesn’t have to be marine biology." Dr. Noel Saguil teaches Year 11 students the proper way of sorting and identifying marine specimen.
The Bernidos were given the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2010 for their efforts in improving science education in the country. In 2002, the couple introduced the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP) in CVIF. A revolutionary way of teaching subjects, this program involves just four academic days, absolutely no homework, and 80% independent student activity. The DLP proved to be a success, with students performing better in school.
PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications has partnered with the Bernidos to bring the DLP to more schools in the country, focusing especially on public schools. The DLP is now being implemented in more than a thousand public and private schools all over the Philippines. Excited students crowd over the specimen collected under the waters and on the shore of Jagna, Bohol.
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