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  • Good morning. For the past four years, I've had the pleasure of working in Xavier's International

  • Programs Office where we've been focusing on a program that we called the Xavier China

  • Experience or the XCE.

  • This is a study abroad program in china that is now a mandatory requirement for all of

  • our students to participate in before they graduate.

  • And I'd like to share this morning some of the lessons and insights that we've gained

  • from implementing the Xavier China Experience because I think that those insights and those

  • lessons can be relevant not just for those who might want to study abroad but for educators

  • everywhere.

  • So I'd like to go back to our theme this morning about innovation based on tradition. And I'd

  • like for us to think about what it means to have innovation and tradition in the educational

  • context.

  • So let's think of traditional education. For me, I think of traditional structure of having

  • subjects that are separate, the Chemistry and Physics and Math and English that are

  • entirely separate from each other.

  • I think of a structure in an organization where we have several periods in a day that

  • are usually the same amount of times. For the first 45 minutes, you're in one class.

  • The next 45 minutes, you're in another class, then 45 minutes after that and so on and so

  • forth. And everything is sort of predictable and expectations are clear.

  • Now, this doesn't work for everyone. We've heard speakers this morning who aren't always

  • so thrilled with that educational setup. But at the same time, there are some really valuable

  • things I think about the traditional education that are worth preserving.

  • One thing about an educational system that's very traditional is that it's structured and

  • it's clear. A student always has very clear expectations of what's expected of him or

  • her in the classroom, from the time that you stepped into school to the time that you leave.

  • You know where you're supposed to be, you know where you're supposed to sit, you know

  • what notes you're supposed to take, what pages you're supposed to read, what essay you're

  • supposed to write, what multiple-choice questions you're supposed to answer.

  • And while this can be at times frustrating, on the other hand, it provides very clear

  • structure for us to learn and acquire very difficult things.

  • I can't imagine studying Trigonometry or Calculus or Physics in an environment that's chaotic.

  • The structure and the clarity definitely helps.

  • In addition to this, many of the things that we learned from a traditional educational

  • setup are quite intellectually rigorous. It's not easy to learn to solve some of those Physics

  • problems, it's not easy to do a well-designed scientific experiment; it's not easy to write

  • a well-composed essay.

  • And so, to have the structure and clarity and guidance and supervision of good teachers

  • in a traditional classroom setup are definitely things that are worth having.

  • But as we've heard this morning and as we know from our own experience, that when we

  • think about the hours that we've spent in class, when we think about those subjects

  • that we maybe, we weren't so interested in, there are large portions of our own educational

  • system that to us can seem irrelevant and boring.

  • And so what we want to do is to try to think of ways that we can innovate, think of ways

  • to be more creative, think of ways to energize our educational system so that it can be more

  • engaging to us.

  • And so, there have been a lot of movements and a lot of efforts in the past few years

  • to try to do this. And one of these efforts is something that we call student-centered

  • learning where you give students the initiative and the choice to figure out what they want

  • to study and figure out how to study it.

  • And certainly doing this provides a kind of relevance and engagement to the students that

  • they wouldn't otherwise have. It allows students to choose topics of their own choice and so

  • they're motivated. And we all know that when you're motivated, when you have that energy

  • to do something out of natural curiosity, you'll accomplish much more. Not because of

  • a grade, not because you're going to fail but simply because you want to. So that's

  • a real value.

  • At the same time, I think this kind of student-centered learning is also quite empowering. What we're

  • telling the students in this setup is that you are in-charge of your education, that

  • learning is a life-long process and that you need to be active in it.

  • And what a valuable lesson rather than saying that education is about sitting in a classroom

  • and being passive and trying to take everything that a teacher is telling you. Now, we're

  • saying you are - you have the responsibility, you have the freedom, you have the privilege

  • to learn on your own.

  • But just as traditional education has its own setbacks, so too does innovation and progressive

  • education. If we sit in a classroom and we say, "Okay, everyone, what do you want to

  • study and how is it that you want to study it?" there's a real danger of the education

  • system becoming a bit aimless.

  • And let's face it. There are certain standards that we want our students to live up to. There

  • are certain standards of writing that we want them to be able to achieve. There are certain

  • standards in Mathematics and Science that they should be able to have before they graduate

  • and go on to college and go on to the real world.

  • So we don't want to be aimless in our student-centered approach. We don't want to be aimless when

  • we try to just come up with all of these innovations.

  • So what do we want? What would be ideal? I think would be really perfect for all of us

  • is if we could take the best of traditional education and take the best of our innovations,

  • if we could have a system that had the same kind of rigor and structure and clarity that

  • a traditional education provides but is also relevant, meaningful and empowering. But what

  • would that look like?

  • For Xavier School, one of the ways that we've tried to do this is through the Xavier China

  • Experience or the XCE. This happens during the third quarter. So it happens during an

  • academic time.

  • And so, in addition to having our students study Chinese language and Chinese culture,

  • they also have to study Physics and Math and Biology while they're there.

  • So it's a real challenge. We're trying to again, take the traditional subject areas

  • and make sure our students keep up with those subjects and at the same time innovate and

  • say that you can learn while being abroad, you can learn while being in a foreign environment,

  • you can learn outside of the classroom.

  • And we have three programs that we offer students. And they can choose one before they graduate.

  • So 7th grade students who are 13 to 14 year olds here, they have a chance to go to Southern

  • China and spend six weeks in Guangzhou or high school sophomores have the option to

  • go to South West China and study the diversity of Yunnan province.

  • And our seniors have the chance to go to the capital of China in Beijing where there's

  • a rich sense of history and a rich sense also of development.

  • And what we want to do is make sure that this is relevant and engaging and at the same time

  • rigorous and difficult, challenging. And one of the ways that we do this is providing certain

  • themes to our educational process rather than subject areas.

  • So what do I mean? What I mean is that when our students go to Beijing as a good example,

  • they aren't taking courses in English or Social Science or Filipino. They're taking classes

  • in a theme.

  • One theme that we see in China is all of the societal and cultural change. So we have a

  • course entitled Societal and Cultural Change. Because if you go to Beijing, you might go

  • see a place like the Great Wall of China, 500 years old or 600 years old. You'll be

  • able to appreciate the richness of China's history and China's past.

  • But at the same time, maybe the same day, you can go see the Olympic venues and see

  • how China is modernizing and developing at a very rapid pace.

  • And so, there are a lot of discussions to be had about how does China deal with all

  • of that societal change and how should we as Filipinos or anywhere in the world deal

  • with rapid cultural and societal change. So we feel that's quite relevant and quite engaging.

  • Something similar occurs in our Yunnan program for High 2 Students. They go to South West

  • China. I mentioned, it's an ecology rich and diverse environment. They're taking Biology

  • in their sophomore year. And during the third quarter, they focus specifically on ecology.

  • So what better place to study ecological diversity than Yunnan province? Early in the trip, they

  • get to go up North to a town called Lijiang and they get to see and experience the wetlands

  • just by Lasher Lake. But a few weeks later, they go down to Southern Yunnan province where

  • it's quite tropical and they can walk around the tropical rain forest park and see the

  • biodiversity there.

  • So now, we've moved beyond just real life themes, but we've also have a real life setting,

  • we have real life activities, we have real life instruction. And these courses end up

  • being some of the most highly rated programs that we have based on our post-program evaluations.

  • But it's not just fun and engaging. Our students on those same evaluations also say that these

  • programs are some of the more difficult programs that they've had, that they do more work in

  • the XCE than they would do in a typical third quarter at Xavier.

  • And the reason is that the assignments that we give and the projects that we give cannot

  • be solved simply by reading a book and they cannot be solved simply by listening to a

  • lecture.

  • In the Beijing program, we have a course called Local and Global Citizenship. And our students

  • are tasked to go out into Chinese universities and interview university students about their

  • opinions on Chinese citizenship. They then come back to the classroom and have a dialogue

  • about what it means to be a Filipino citizen and what it means to be a global citizen.

  • And they collate all of their ideas and then we go to the Philippine Embassy in Beijing

  • and present our ideas to the Ambassador and to the Consuls there.

  • And it's a wonderful dialogue because we also get to hear the perspectives of professionals,

  • of public servants who are also talking about their experiences with citizenship on a national

  • level and on a global level.

  • So now we have real life themes, real life instruction and now real life assessments

  • and real life projects. These things are not easy, they're difficult. But probably the

  • most difficult thing of living in China, whether it's in Beijing or in Yunnan or Guangzhou,

  • is just being away from home and being in a foreign environment.

  • This is especially true for our Grade 7 students, again, only 13 or 14 years old. For many of

  • them, they're away from home for the first time in their lives, away from their family,

  • away from their friends, away from their support system.

  • And this comes out, the anxiety and disorientation, that that causes comes out in different ways

  • when they're there.

  • This is a picture of some students that I was with. And we took them to local restaurants.

  • So we went out of the dorm, away from the canteen. And we went to the restaurant and

  • I gave the guys the menu and I said, "Order away." And the problem is they don't read

  • Chinese characters very well.

  • So they sort of opened the menu and randomly selected dishes, some based off pictures,

  • some just sort of random. And so, you have a boy there on the left who's looking very

  • curiously at what he originally thought was a plate full of fried potatoes but in fact

  • is a plateful of cold tofu. And so, he's trying to decide whether or not he really wants to

  • eat it.

  • So this kind of disorientation happens all the time. It happens when they're doing laundry

  • and they pull out pink underwear because they threw in a red t-shirt along with the mix.

  • And so, they're trying to figure these things out for themselves and there is anxiety, there

  • is fear, there is frustration. But by the end of the program, there's also a sense of

  • responsibility, of accountability, of real achievement.

  • And many of our students much later into high school and even after high school point back

  • to the Grade 7 experience as one of the most transformative and meaningful programs that

  • they had in their Xavier education.

  • And I think it was this experience of being lost, of being out of your element, of being