MSU-IIT, Cisco Systems, Inc. and UN Volunteers: Bridge the Digital Divide in Mindanao

by Venus R. Parmisana

Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), Iligan City, Philippines, responded to the call of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to implement the Ladderized Education Program (LEP) through Executive Order 358 issued on September 15, 2004, that seeks to institutionalize a Ladderized Education Career Program. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) are mandated to develop and implement a unified qualifications framework that establishes equivalency pathways and access ramps to allow an easier transition and progression between Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Higher Education (HE). Thus, the vocational courses offered by TESDA will be credited to degree courses recognized by CHED.

In June of 2007, MSU-IIT, strategically located in Northern Mindanao, started the implementation of a ladderized curriculum program in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Education under the Department of Electronics Engineering Technology (ESET) of the School of Computer Studies (SCS). These are:

  • 2 – Year Diploma in Electronics Technology (DEST), majors in
    • Option A: Communication Technology, and
    • Option B: Computer Technology;
  • 3 – Year Diploma in Electronics Engineering Technology (ESET), majors in
    • Option A: Communication Electronics, and
    • Option B: Computer Electronics;

The year 2009 will be a banner year for the ESET Department as it launches the degree program that completes the interface between TVET and HE ladderized education system in the department, the

  • 4 – Year Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Computer Technology (BSECT), majors in
    • Option A: Communications System, and
    • Option B: Embedded System.
BS SECT Illustration

Illustration of the Ladderized Curriculum of BSECT

The illustration shows the comparison of the traditional “tubo” – type education system and the succession of the ladderized programs starting from 2-year DEST to 3-year ESET and onwards to 4-year BSECT. The 2-yr DEST curriculum prepares students to develop skills in ICT such as Computer Hardware Servicing, Networking, and Consumer Electronics Servicing. It aims to make students employable in various industries by making them equipped with skills in order to pass national and international certifications – which include Computer Hardware Servicing NCII, Consumer Electronics Servicing NCII, and PC Operations NCII, for the national; and Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT), and Cisco Certified Networks Associate (CCNA) and International Computer Driving License (ICDL) for the international. Graduates under this DEST program can be employed as PC Operator; Office Clerk; Associate Electronics Technician; Associate Computer Technician; Network Technician; and Network Engineer.

The DEST students will have the option to land a job after completion of the program or ladder to the 3-year ESET to upgrade their knowledge and technical skills in technology. After this 3-year program, the students can be employed as Assistant Automation Technician; Electronics Technician; Computer and Network Technician; Programming Support Staff; Firmware Programmer; Electronics and Computer Technology Trainer. As an option after this program, students can proceed to the degree program BSECT by taking another year to complete the study. 

With the interfacing of the vocational DEST and ESET courses to BSECT, graduates are given more opportunity to grow professionally after earning their degree since they will be offered better positions in industries. The possible jobs include Network Engineer; Embedded System Specialist; Communications System Specialist; Electronics and Computer Trainer; ICT Technologist; supervisory, managerial and consultancy works.

The implementation of the ladderized curriculum in MSU-IIT opens the opportunities of strengthening the program in partnership with Cisco’s Networking Academy Program (CNAP) and promotes the students’ global competitiveness. In view of this, MSU-IIT, being a Regional Academy for IT Essentials (PC Hardware and Software course) and a Local Academy for CCNA, designs and implements the curriculum whereas Cisco Networking Academy offers the state-of-the art ICT technology. Specifically, Cisco provides assistance in Online Learning Environment; course contents for IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software and Computer Networks; International certifications; and faculty capability building. Moreover, a United Nations Volunteer in the Philippines, Engr. Roy Pamitalan, supports the operations of the programs by helping establish Cisco academies under the MSU System and reaching out to the communities across regions in conflict-affected areas and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

When queried on how he has committed to continue this benevolent endeavor, Engr. Roy Pamitalan, a UN Volunteer since 2005, stated “I believe in the spirit of volunteerism and I hope to effect individuals whose lives I may have touched to undertake similar advocacy in working to accomplish the thrust of Cisco and UNV project.” Pamitalan (currently completing his post graduate degree in Rural Development), a Registered Electrical Engineer and a Cisco Engineer, continues to share the same zeal to Cisco enthusiasts and instructors in the Mindanao State University System and other schools and universities in the area.

Dr. Emmanuel M. Lagare, MSU System Vice President for Academic Affairs and Cisco Legal Main Contact, sees MSU-IIT embarking on an off-campus program whereby the 2-year DEST program will be offered to all constituents in the MSU System all over Mindanao, namely: MSU Marawi, MSU Iligan, MSU Naawan, MSU Gensan, MSU Tawi Tawi, MSU Buug, MSU Maigo, MSU Maguindanao, MSU Sulu, MSU LNAC, MSU LNCAT, and MSU Lopez Jaena. To note, on its first year of implementation, there were three campuses of the MSU System, namely: MSU-IIT, MSU-Naawan, and MSU-Baloi, that offered the said program; MSU-Wao and others plan to offer this program in the near future.

“The Cisco projects have given MSU-IIT the insight into the employment opportunities in ICT for the people in the service area of MSU. It has helped us design a non-degree curricular program that will equip students to find jobs in a shorter period of time”, said Dr. Emmanuel M. Lagare, another keen supporter of the program, in a written communication. Further, he commented, “The program accomplishments are so inspiring that it drives us to plan an implementation of the program in other campuses of MSU System to benefit each local community.” 

Furthermore, the ladderized education program is supported by Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) scholarships under Republic Act (RA) 7678, the government’s science scholarship program for the poor and underprivileged. It includes Ladderized Scholarships; Bridging Education in Science and Technology for Indigenous People (BEST for IP); and Grant for Educational Assistance on Technology and Science Teaching Courses in Mindanao (GREATM). Likewise, the program also has students who are grantees of other scholarships like TESDA scholarship, congressman’s scholarship, mayor’s scholarship, among others. These scholarships are of great help since most of these students come from extremely poor families in Mindanao most especially in the campuses located in remote areas.

To further enhance and strengthen the program, the workforce is provided likewise with the necessary training and development in Cisco IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software and Cisco Certified Network Associate courses. A couple of MSU-IIT faculty members attended the following trainings: IT Essentials Trainer’s Training, attended by Ranie Boy Agad and Francis Ted Seguerra in May 2005 at De La Salle University – Manila; CCNA Trainer’s Training attended by Ernesto Empig, Joseph Allan Mascardo, and Ranie Boy Agad in May 2007 (for Modules 1 and 2) and in May 2009 in Cebu City (for Modules 3 and 4).

MSU-IIT, in continuing efforts, creates Cisco local academies in Mindanao. To note, in November 2005, eight (8) instructors coming from different schools in Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Conflict-Affected Areas of Mindanao (CAAM) attended the IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software Instructor’s Training, in partnership with USAID’s Growth for Equity in Mindanao (GEM). In addition, another ITE Instructor’s Training was held in September 2007, attended by 19 instructors from different Public High Schools in Iligan City, this time in partnership with the Rotary Club of Iligan Bay, City Government of Iligan and Iligan Computer Institute.

Similarly, last June 3-13, 2009, at the School of Computer Studies (SCS), MSU-IIT, 23 attendees from various institutions from MSU System attended the Trainer’s Training on Cisco Certified Academy Instructor for IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software Training which was facilitated by Engr. Roy Pamitalan, a UNVolunteer IT Specialist on the Cisco-UNV Project. Spearheaded by the Department of Electronics Engineering Technology (ESET) of the School of Computer Studies (SCS) and through the dynamism of Dean Jeremy V. Pinzon, it aimed to upgrade the participants’ working knowledge on computers; test their skills on assembling computers; troubleshoot hardware and software, and take CompTIA Certification Exams.

(From left, first row:) UNV Roy Pamitalan, Michael Angelo Cobo, Dan Israel Bagsican, Allan Bicada, Felix Villaluz II, Ricardo Coronado, Alan Vergara; (second row:) Ernesto Empig, Joverinde Elbina, Eddie Bouy Palad, Romelyn Inocencio, Editha Dimalin, Ranie Boy Agad, Nor-ain Ampang, Maria Erica Gonzaga, Erma Celia Retiza, Suzette Agad, Alexander Gaw, Llewelyn Elcana, January Febro, Joseph Sieras, Eugene Mosqueda; (third row:) Ivan Ray Lacanaria, Frederick Navato, Owen Lopez, Sadat Abdulrasid

Given this scenario, these technology courses are aimed at pulling these students out of poverty, equip them with technical skills and inculcate values to the less privileged youth. Thus, the program seeks to improve the students’ attitude towards work and productivity, as well as towards his family, society and life itself. With the collaborative efforts of MSU-IIT, Cisco Systems, Inc. and UN Volunteers, a great endeavor is seen through bringing technology to these remote areas, thereby bridging the digital divide for those underprivileged students across Mindanao. As Prof. Jeremy Pinzon puts forth his thoughts about Cisco, “Cisco is synonymous with reliable IT Essentials; we are confident of advocating ICT competencies, knowing that we are using quality-assured training materials and equipment as well as having quality trainers.” 

Hopeful that similar endeavors be undertaken in the future, Prof. Ernesto Empig, Department Chairperson of the Electronics Engineering Technology and coordinator of the recent IT Essentials Training, believed “that the human capital theory refers to the stock of skills and knowledge embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. The economic development of a nation depends on the quality of acquired education. There is no better way to improve our economy but to educate the Filipino people; hence, the more educated the people, the more job opportunities and the greater the chances of economic development.”

At present, MSU-IIT remains steadfast in pursuing developments in the IT infrastructure not only for instructors but also for other individuals who will benefit from the program and hopes that Cisco and UN Volunteers will continue their support in this field.

Topics : lep  cisco