By Akihito Ikegami
What impressed me most in Bendum is the deep commitment and dedication of the youth to their community. On the second day of the fieldtrip, I engaged in planting bamboo with the help of the local youth who are very knowledgeable about the local bamboo and responsible for their assigned task in the field. I could sense that most of the youth were very proud of their jobs and community, and so they would not leave their community behind in their lives. This is also the case with the school teachers, with some of whom we exchanged our experience and stories. What struck me is that teachers in Bendum are so young that some of them are still in their early twenties but they all looked very confident and proud of their job, sharing their particular concerns related to the community. I understand the local teachers are driving force to bring about community development, playing critical role in teaching students community-based values and leading other community members to being united.
When we visited the local school in Bendum, I witnessed many teachers as well as students enthusiastically engage in their teaching, enjoying their jobs at school. Through teaching, the teacher must have felt satisfied with their contribution to the community development, which is probably what I was looking for as a teacher in Japan.
Although I graduated from teacher-training program in college, I did not want to be just a teacher as my lifetime job. I wanted to find out something more than teaching, with which I could contribute myself to the better world.
However, studying abroad about a various types of education in Costa Rica and the Philippines, I was finally able to realize the fact that teaching is one of the most meaningful and influential jobs to bring about transformation in existing society. My observation in Bendum made me reconfirm my passion and commitment to improvement of school education in Japan after the APS program.
In addition to the teachers’ commitment to the community development, what impressed me is the development of indigenous education school on their own without much of the governmental support. In order to maintain the community-based cultural values, teaching and learning with their own indigenous language is indispensable because language and identity are intimately-connected with each other. As one of the elderly member of the community council spoke of, losing their indigenous language is one of the main concerns in the community we visited in Bendum. Given the globalizing situation of the Philippines in which being able to speak English is the bottom line to continue one’s education and accordingly improve one’s livelihood, the social demand for appreciating indigenous languages has yet to be shared broadly in the society.
My concern on the issue of language in education is not only based on rights of indigenous people to preserve and claim their traditional culture, but also for the significance of the first language as medium of instruction, which is proved very influential to students’ understanding. Using the indigenous language as medium of instruction at school, more and more students would be able to enjoy learning, which would definitely help build capacity among human resource in the community, leading to accelerating community development. As a matter of fact, in most classes I observed at the school in Bendum, the teachers were teaching challenging contents for each grade, but students were learning very hard and catching up with the contents. According to one of the teacher, students’ academic performance is very well established. I assume that this can be mostly attributed to the indigenous language as medium of instruction. Another factor is probably the fact that most of the students in the school are boarding student and so they study even after school back in the dormitory house. Given the fact that though the boarding students are very young in their teen, they are staying far away from their family, it seems like very sad for the students, but the truth is that this boarding schooling system helps guarantee those students opportunities to engage themselves in the learning materials even after school. This boarding schooling system in combination with the indigenous language education play an important role in the community’s future development.
The idea of school education is still very worth-while for the community development.
Photo caption: Aki is a mathematics teacher in Japan and has a master’s degree in Mathematics Education. He visited Bendum last July with about 30 other students from various Asian countries taking up peace and development studies under the Asian Peacebuilder Scholarship program of the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica and Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. Bendum is a learning place for their course in human development and natural resource management.