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The importance of education in the future of our country cannot be over-emphasized. It was Jose Rizal who said that the youth are the fair hope of our fatherland. And the molding of our youth into excellent and productive future citizens and leaders of our country lies mainly in the hands of our teachers with whom children spend most of their growing up and learning years.

Unfortunately, most teachers, especially in the public school system which has a limited budget and yet where most Filipinos undergo their education, take on this crucial role with scant resources. They have to tap their own ingenuity and resourcefulness to fully deliver on the challenge before them. However, with the advent of the era of Information and Communications Technology or ICT, teachers can now make use of ICT to expand and enhance their teaching capability and methodology. The children learn better and faster and become adept at using ICT tools themselves.

Microsoft Philippines has long been a partner of the educational community in promoting the use of technology in the education sector. It organized the Partners in Learning (PiL) program in 2003. The aim of PiL was to empower teachers and students to achieve their fullest potential by providing greater access to the latest computer technologies, comprehensive ICT skills development and locally-tailored training for teachers on ICT integration into curriculum and learning.

Worldwide, Microsoft has committed more than US$250 million in cash grants over 5 years to government agencies, businesses and schools. In the Philippines, in 2004 alone Microsoft invested US$2.5 million or P125 million in the program, a testament to its long-term commitment to assist local schools, teachers and partners. Through the PiL program, an ICT-enabled infrastructure has already trained more than 3,000 public high schools nationwide. PiL has also forged an online network of over 4,000 teachers nationwide.

The real impact of PiL is better felt when seen in the context of the neighborhood school, especially in the provinces. In Cebu, the Punta Engaño High School and the Science and Technology High Schols are reaping the benefits of being PiL partners schools.

Punta Engaño High School

Punta Engaño High School (PEHS) is located in the last barangay on the northern part of Lapu-Lapu City and has 7 classrooms, 6 teachers and 356 students. Using a computer laboratory with 20 computer units and one server donated by the LGU(Lapu-Lapu City Government), PEHS implement integrates ICT in the teaching-learning process through the PiL program which it only began implementing in school year 2005-2006.

"Previously, students were dependent on teacher and class discussions, textbooks and other resource materials. But with ICT integrated in our curriculum, the students have the freedom and wider resources for their learning," shared Reynold Q. Velos, Officer In-Charge, PEHS.

According to Velos, the teachers now use Microsoft PowerPoint and other computer programs to improve their class presentations. The teachers noted that the technology has enabled them to deliver more material to students and has also eliminated several basic problems such as poor handwriting, poor artistic skill, contrast, lighting, and visibility.
With the gains experienced, PEHS is keen to continue and improve on its participation in the PiL program.

"ICT in education recognizes that students need to have the skills to use new technologies, as well as understand how those technologies affect their everyday lives by way of faster communication and the learning possibilities with the great amount of information that can be found in the internet," stated Velos.

Science and Technology High School

At the Science and Technology High School, a 138-student school in Basak, Lapu-Lapu, ICT is not confined to computer lessons but is integrated in the curriculum to improve understanding, retention, and motivation in different subject areas.

"Using technology in education not only lets the students learn the concepts fast and easy but also allows them to have a better understanding of why they are studying those concepts and what they can do with it," said Donald Dungog, STEC-ICT Coordinator / Teacher - I, Science and Technology Education Center, Science and Technology High School.

"Genuine understanding comes from real and hands-on approach. The students have the chance to see where their knowledge leads them and have a full grasp why they needed to hone those skills to their benefit. With the help of technology, our learners are intrinsically motivated. They are the ones who want to study more because there is so much to learn," shares Dungog. "Technology brings new information, new challenges, and new ways to learn. With technology, new generalizations and outcomes have been demonstrated and performed by our students with more resources and more content,"

For the school's instructors, they are more excited each day because of non-routinary tasks they undertake to prepare and perform with the students. With fast, easy, efficient and more accurate information readily available on the Internet, teaching instructions are centered on students, teaching them how and what to learn so that they themselves teach each other.

According to Dungog, the school has experienced a paradigm shift - from being locally-informed to being globally competitive. "We are not only limited to the resources, norms and standards we gathered on our own, but also, with the PiL program we have compared ourselves to the global standards where our resources are boundless and our dreams are unto our reach."

Concludes the teacher: "I think they are very fortunate to have these kinds of programs in their time. I wish I had these opportunities during my high school days. But, I have no regrets because I see my students having these same dreams. We teachers never cease to be amazed by the output of our students. Their ideas now are far beyond our expectations. If students are upgraded that way, so should we, their teachers."
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