Asian Century By Herman Tiu Laurel
“To gain knowledge quietly, to learn without losing interest, to instruct others relentlessly,” – Lao Tzu
When Chinese Foreign Minister and State Minister Wang Yi attended President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.’s inauguration last July, he also made a side-visit to Vice-President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio. During the visit F.M. Wang Yi proposed to Madame Sara Duterte for China and the Philippines to strengthen the “educational cooperation” of the two countries.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) both reported that Duterte “fully agrees” with the proposals and looked forward to the prospects of the two nations’ cooperation. The Office of the Vice-President said in its statement, “She looks forward to partnering with China in the field of education to enhance the academic performance of Filipino students,”
FM Wang Yi said, “… education comes first in national development. China is ready to deepen educational cooperation with the Philippines to enhance the understanding and cognition of China among the younger generation of the Philippines, cement the foundation of public support for friendship between the two countries and provide intellectual support for bilateral practical cooperation…”
“China supports more Philippine young people to study in China and will facilitate the return of the Philippine students to China for their studies,” China’s Foreign Minister added.
The agreement signaled new enhancement of the cooperation between the countries in education that goes back at least two decades but achieved new heights in 2019 when the two countries signed an agreement between the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and China’s Ministry of Education (MOE).
Fast-tracking education cooperation
In August 2019, the Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education (CHED) of the Philippines and the Ministry of Education (MOE) of the People’s Republic of China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to fast-track bilateral cooperation in higher education. CHED Chairman J. Prospero E. De Vera III and China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister His Excellency Wang Yi signed the mutual commitment to push for:
1. Mutual recognition of degrees to promote lifelong learning and the practices of profession in both countries;
2. Increasing the number of universities recognized by both countries in their registry;
3. Faculty and student exchanges through scholarships, training programs and country visits;
4. Information sharing on the structure of higher education, academic quality, performance standards, evaluation of results, methodology development, student affairs, and qualifications frameworks;
5. Establishment of a credit transfer arrangements;
6. Strengthen cooperation in the study of languages and the establishment of additional Confucius Institutes in the Philippines; and
7. Promotion of participation in educational congresses, conferences, workshops, symposiums, training courses, and exhibits.
CHED Chairman de Vera said, “This academic cooperation manifests our collaborative efforts to deepen and expand support and opportunities to develop future-ready graduates and contribute to innovation and technology for economic growth and national competitiveness for both countries…” CHED and the MOE set up a joint working group (JWG) to develop programs and projects between the two countries.
Agricultural Education and Research
The cooperation in education and its ancillary fields between China and the Philippines continue even farther into the past decades. In the year 2000 the PhilSCAT (Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology) was established by the Chinese and Philippine governments with an initial US$5 million donation from China and the Philippines respectively, and situated within the Philippines’ premier agricultural schools – the Central Luzon State University.
Through the joint effort PhilSCAT has built up a bridge and linkage in the demonstration trial of quality hybrid rice varieties, showcasing of advanced and practical agro-machinery and training and promotion of agricultural technologies.
Apart from demonstration, the center also brought in more than 150 varieties to test their adaptability in the Philippines. So far, four varieties including Mestiso 38 have passed the Philippines’ National Rice Cooperative Tests and are ready to be sold in the market.:
In 2022 PhilSCAT the inauguration and blessing of its Chinese donated three new laboratories and cold-water irrigation system for hybrid rice breeding on March 25, 2022.
The event was graced by the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Honorable Huang Xilian and a team of Chinese hybrid rice experts. Phiippine Agriculture Secretary (DA) William D. Dar attended the event and served as the guest speaker together with the different DA officials and heads of its attached agencies.
As a recipient of agricultural grants from China, PhilSCAT successfully implemented three Technical Cooperation Programs (TCP) over the past twenty years. With the progress and accomplishments of PhilSCAT, Ambassador Xilian expressed his support and commitment to pushing for the fourth phase of the cooperation to further strengthen the technical support for agricultural modernization in the country.
There are four Confucius Institutes (CI) in the Philippines: Ateneo de Manila (AdMU), Angeles University Foundation (AUF), Bulacan State University (BSU) and the U.P. Diliman University (U.P.) Confucius Institutes. They are all doing fantastic work in promoting Philippine-China understanding and friendship, boosting intergovernmental working relations with China and promoting productivity in Philippine-China trade and tourism through Mandarin language education.
The AUF-CI has since 2011 with its MOU with the Philippine Department of Education (Deped) conducted Mandarin Language Programs in 72 public high schools nationwide and over 20,000 public school students have benefitted.
AUR-CI has also partnered with CI-AUF inks MOU with the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) as well as Presidential Communications Office, Presidential Security Guards House of Representatives and Philippine Army to teach Chinese Mandarin to its personnel.
The UP-CI had its MOU with the Department of Foreign Affairs Foreign Service Institute (FSI) to conduct Mandarin Language and Culture Program, likewise it has an MOU with the Clark Development Corp. to train its officers and frontline staff in Mandarin to better serve its trade and tourism service.
The AdMU-CI has signed its MOU with the Caloocan City Government and University of Caloocan City establishing Bachelor of Science in Education, teaching Chinese as a Second Language program.
Fujian ’s “Doña Soledad College”
This one may be classified as a China-Philippine people-to-people educational cooperation project, donated by Chinese real estate tycoon from Xiamen Mr. John Kho.
His Chinese name is Xu Ming Liang who donated $ 20-million in seed money to set up the “Soledad College” in Fujian National University (FNU) named after the mother of President Rodrigo R. Duterte whose ancestry has been traced to Fujian, China.
In March 2021 Philippine Vice Consul Ms. Elaine Mae Laruan Hernandez from the Philippine Consulate in Xiamen visited the Soledad Building and Soledad Memorial Hall, had a forum with representatives of Filipino students of Soledad College and International College of Chinese Studies. On behalf of FNU, Chen Qinghua, extended a warm welcome to Ms. Elaine and her party.
Chen Qinghua introduced the educational cooperation with foreign countries in FNU, and the efforts made by FNU to overcome the impacts of the epidemic and ensure the study and life of international students.
Ms. Elaine spoke highly of FNU’s considerate care for Filipino students during the epidemic period, and hoped that Soledad College would cultivate more talents since it has become a brand of educational exchange between China and the Philippines.
The Doña Soledad College in Xiamen will certainly continue to serve as a bridge to promote the further development of China-Philippines friendship and educational cooperation.
Huawei is a top Chinese technology company that has a huge but quiet presence in the Philippines, not only in the technology field but equally significant in the field of education with its surprisingly wide imprint in science and technology education in the Philippines.
In July 2021 Huawei partnered with 15 new universities and colleges for its Huawei ICT Academy providing certification courses in AI, big data, cloud computing, storage, 5G, security and so on.
“Huawei cultivates talents for the ICT industry in the whole world. We also hope to build a strong and meaningful talent ecosystem in the Philippines for Filipinos,” said Mr. Ken Bijianjun, Director for Channel Department of Huawei Philippines Enterprise Business Group, at the signing ceremony.
Huawei ICT Academy was launched in the Philippines in 2018, with the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP) as one of its pioneering partner universities.
Huawei’s also has its “Seeds for the Future” program is its flagship Corporate Social Responsibility project that brings together young talent from top universities around the world, in the Philippines it was launched in 2015.
As of the end of 2021 it had reached 200 outstanding students from over 20 universities in the Philippines to join the rare opportunity to participate in immersion in technologies, cross-cultural experiences, and propose technical solutions to social problems.
Education as Bridge between cultures
Philippine-China educational has not been very noisy but a lot as anyone can see has been going on the past twenty-years. Our short review of the many educational initiatives between the two nations that reaches the highest levels of policy making of the two countries and the broadest spread of social sectors is evident in the tens of thousands that have already taken Mandarin language courses and benefitting from agricultural and technological knowledge exchanges.
Filipinos like to say that, “China in the past millenniums brought pancit (noodles), siopao (buns), siomai (dumplings) to the Philippines.”
Today, China is bringing cultural gifts that enables the two cultures to work together towards a strong, peaceful and prosperous future for the two countries and have enough to share with other neighbors in the region and the world. From language to technology in agriculture and information and communications, to enrich the life of the people.
From government-to-government and people-to-people projects we see the educational cooperation of the Philippines and China truly building the bridges of understand and progress to the two nations. As we witness before our eyes the success of cooperation bearing fruit, we can also expect more seeds to be planted in the years ahead promising more harvest of goodwill, friendship and cooperation between China and the Philippines.