SEAMEO Regional Centers in the Philippines

INTERNATIONALIZATION units in many higher education institutions (HEIs) have begun setting up or if they already had, are improving on it, especially after the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) issued Memo Order 55, s. 2016 (CMO). Provincial universities, not wanting to be behind, and with our Asean presence becoming strongly felt in many spheres of life, many in academe vie for scholarships of their academics to experience some exposure to off-shore studies - to the culture of academe and around it. Why? Because the popular strategy for internationalization is "study abroad."

Internationalization as space and as process. Internationalization in its broad sense refers to our reaction to globalization. Internationalization of higher education literature can overwhelm us, which, write-ups of this kind could only limitedly expound. Suffice that we can expand our knowledge of international organizations within our reach. These organizations can help us navigate the cultural space to enable us to pursue our formal internationalization plan considering the guidelines that the said CMO has set for Philippine higher education. Globalization is a compacted world where time and space are compressed (cited in Curie, 1998); Harvey, 1989), allowing for interconnections arising among mass cultures creating a consciousness of living in a "global village" (McLuhan, 1964; New World Encyclopedia, 2007). Despite this pandemic, internationalization can go on, though virtually, given this amazingly advanced communication technology in our time.

Internationalization at least cost. Internationalization strategies popularly give prime opportunities for both academics and students to have off-shore academic experiences whether these are further studies, visitor-ships or exchange. Universities would need to finance faculty salaries, obliging these faculty members a return service, which in some cases demand from them two years of service for every semester of studies even without salaries during study leaves. Quite stringent from the usual length of return service which is a year for every year of studies and with salaries. Less costly would be familiarizing ourselves with different international organizations which may help us connect our own university to those in offshores. Of course, given this pandemic, much has changed in carrying out these processes and goals, providing more chances of on-line training and at least cost. And as we do so, be guided by what is applicable of CHEd's 2016 Memo Order and link, too, with our own education organization, the SEAMEO.

SEAMEO. "The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) is a regional intergovernmental organization established in 1965 among governments of the eleven Southeast Asian countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. SEAMEO's goal is to promote regional cooperation in education, science and culture in the region." "As an organization that has continued to nurture human capacities and explored the peoples' fullest potential, the SEAMEO maintains its work and aspirations for development with peoples of the region to make lives better in quality and equity in education, preventive health education, culture and tradition, languages, information and communication technology, poverty alleviation and agriculture and natural resources." SEAMEO's highest policymaking body is "the SEAMEO Council, which comprises the 11 SEA education ministers," with its Secretariat "located in Bangkok Thailand."

SEAMEO Regional Centers in the Philippines. "SEAMEO has 26 specialist institutions, (regional centers) located in SEAsian countries," three of which are in the Philippines. These centers "undertake training and research programs in various fields of education, science, and culture. Each regional center has a Governing Board composed of senior education officials from each SEAMEO Member Country." This Board "reviews the Centers' operations and budget and sets their policies and programs." The three centers in the Philippines are the Innotech (Educational Innovation and Technology) in Quezon City, SEARCA (Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture) in the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus, Laguna, and TROPMED (Center for Public Health, Hospital Administration, Environmental and Occupational Health) in Ermita, Manila.

Innotech. One of 11 human development focused centers, Innotech's mission is to "provide innovative and technology-oriented learning services and research-based solutions to enable the education community in SEA to effectively respond to current and emerging needs and concerns." Innotech's current Director is Dr. Ramon Bacani, former Undersecretary of the then Department of Education, Culture and Arts, at present named the Department of Education.

SEARCA. "The SEA Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture works to elevate the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable and resilient livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets." This regional center "aligns with other global, regional and national organizations toward contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Goals (SDGs)" of Agenda 2030 "that address global challenges to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all." Committed "to contribute and allocate resources toward the achievement of five SDGs (Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Climate Action, and Partnerships for the Goals) that directly align with its mandate and focus," SEARCA gives greater emphasis on creating partnerships (SDG 17). To achieve the said five SDGs, SEARCA "touches three other SDG's - No Poverty, Gender Equality and Responsible Consumption and Production."

TROPMED. Three other Regional Networks in TROPMED (tropical medicine) are in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The Networks' "mission is to promote health and to prevent diseases through training and research, scientific fora, publications and information dissemination, personnel exchanges, institutional partnerships, and technical consultant services."
Even as we avail of what these regional centers can add to our expertise, let's join membership in SEAMEO's schools network and offer our university's expertise in instruction, research, production and community engagement. Involved as such, we join SEAMEO in its mission of service.

Next, June 10, 2021: SEAMEO TROPMED Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia

Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on higher education institutional management majored in education, science, history and British literature. She studied in the topmost universities in the Philippines and also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She held top academic affairs positions at Xavier University, the Ateneo de Cagayan, was presidential appointee after EDSA 1986 to normalize campus operations in state institutions, serving 17 years thereafter as SUC president. She has been at Liceo de Cagayan University appointed to top academic positions and copy editor of Liceo journals. She is presently internationalization office director and professorial lecturer. Awards include the CHEd Lifetime Professional Achievement Award, the Federal Republic of Germany Order of Merit, The British Council Valuable Services Recognition Award, and the Department of Education award for her initiatives as pioneer member of the Philippine Teacher Education Council.