After a three-day intensive planning workshop, the teams of SEARCA and Yezin Agricultural University (YAU) came up with the strategic directions of Myanmar's only agricultural university for the coming years. A coherent plan was the critical element that YAU needed in the face of the new developments in Myanmar and the many opportunities that are now knocking on the university door.
The strategic planning workshop on 4-6 March 2013 hit the ground running with SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr.'s welcoming the entire delegation. In his message, he underlined that SEARCA's extensive experience in institutional development, university consortium management, as well as its rich pool of experts are its main arsenals to help YAU in its institutional development.
Dr. Editha C. Cedicol, Program Head of SEARCA's Graduate Scholarship Department, then expounded on SEARCA's institutional development assistance (IDA) project, which serves as the main framework by which the said strategic plan is anchored upon. She said that the "IDA program is an effective strategy to enhance capacities of universities strategically located and mandated to assist national and regional economic development." Due to the unique structure, resources and systems among the different institutions in Southeast Asia, particularly those located in the different growth areas, Dr. Cedicol emphasized that SEARCA's IDA program vary from one institution to another.
Meanwhile, Workshop Facilitator and YAU-IDA Project Leader, Dr. Rogelio V. Cuyno likened the said activity to a shopping-spree with the resource persons dishing out models and best practices in instruction, research and extension and YAU officials picking out the most appropriate approach for the University.
To lay the foundation for YAU's strategies and direction, Dr. Vedini Harishchandra, Rural Development Economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) presented an assessment of the agriculture, natural resource, and environment sectors in Myanmar. While she reiterated the important role of agriculture in Myanmar, Dr. Harishchandra likewise mentioned that agricultural development in Myanmar is weighed down by a multitude of constraints in the food crops, water resources, and environment sectors. Having said this, she laid out ADB's priority areas towards poverty reduction and encouraged YAU to consider those programs/proposals where ADB would be able to extend policy, program, and investment support.
Dr. Cecilio R. Arboleda, Executive Director of UPLB Foundation, Inc., then complemented Dr. Harishchandra's presentation with the report of a SEARCA study on the challenges and opportunities in ASEAN higher agriculture education and development. Despite the important role of agriculture in the region, Dr. Arboleda said that a prevailing challenge is the continuously declining trend in agriculture graduates and post-graduates. Thus, there are huge opportunities for reforming the agricultural higher education in the region. This can include curricular reforms, such as strengthening of academe and industry partnership, improving the curricular review; and organizational reforms, such as promotion of consortium and network activities.
The team from YAU headed by Dr. Myo Kywe, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, then discussed the University's history, current state and future plans. The presentation depicted in a nutshell the activities and programs that will form part of the University's strategic plan. It likewise reflected the challenges and opportunities that beset YAU. With all these information, the YAU officials, with the help of a multi-disciplinary team of resource persons dissected the programs and thrusts related to the instruction, research and extension of the university in order to come up with a coherent and focused direction for the university.
The five-part workshop started off with Dr. Cuyno's paper on Strategic Planning for Higher Education Institution that served as a platform for examining into YAU's vision, mission, goals and core values. Dr. Rita P. Laude, UPLB's former Vice Chancellor for Instruction shared valuable insights in coming up with a relevant curriculum for YAU. On research, Dr. Fernando A. Bernardo, former SEARCA Director stressed the importance of research in the university and discussed ways by which YAU can be motivated to move into quality research activities. Meanwhile, Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas, SEARCA's deputy director for administration and UPLB professor in extension education teamed up with UPLB Center for Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship (CTTE) Director, Dr. Enrico P. Supangco to give the YAU team a wider perspective on Agricultural Extension. Admittedly, YAU's extension system is an Achilles heel, which they know should be advanced so that their role in the agricultural development of Myanmar will be affirmed. Considering all the plans that will be put into reality, the team went on to discuss the most effective and efficient organizational setup and human resource development.
Before the conclusion of the workshop, Architect Mary Ann A. Espina, dean of the UP Diliman College of Architecture, gave a presentation on the principles that need to be considered in developing a master development plan (MDP) for a university campus. She shared how these principles were physically translated for the campuses of the University of the Philippines in Diliman and in Cebu, Philippines. Dean Espina highlighted the importance of having a green university through the use of sustainable water systems, solar energy, protection and enhancement of wildlife, natural landscape, maintenance of open areas, and promotion of urban agriculture. (Jesselle S. Laranas)