What kind of education is needed for a person to succeed in the 21st century? The answer in many cases is an education in one of the “STEM” fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Despite the importance of an education in these fields, most women in developing countries have limited access to information and communication technology, according to a report by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID is working in the Philippines to ensure that more women and girls have access to technology education. The Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Phase III project, funded by USAID, for example, aims to accelerate economic growth through programs such as computer literacy training in the southern Philippines. More than 700,000 secondary school students — the majority girls — and more than 20,000 teachers have benefitted from computer literacy and Internet training.
Under the USAID/Philippines Education, Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills-2 (EQuALLS2) project, 1,400 public primary school teachers from high poverty and conflict-affected areas in Mindanao received training in basic computer literacy. In addition, 350 teachers received training in intermediate computer literacy. Of the teachers, 79 percent were women with minimal or no prior exposure to technology.
Maria Dulce Mayordomo was one of those teachers. Mayordomo, who worked overseas as a nanny for three years to help put her younger sister through college, is now a science teacher at Tuyan Elementary School in Malapatan, Sarangani province. She received training through the EQuALLS2 project and is now using technology to teach her students and co-teachers to improve their lives. With the continuing exodus of Filipino skilled workers, especially teachers, to other countries for higher wages, Mayordomo, despite earning less money, is glad to be back in the Philippines.
As an exemplary participant in the EQuALLS2 project, she received a laptop on behalf of her school. Mayordomo uses the computer to create PowerPoint presentations that she uses to teach science. “The computer is a complete tool in classroom instruction. It has Encarta [a multimedia encyclopedia] and provides a wide range of references. My new skills help me to be a better teacher and my students are more motivated to learn,” says Mayordomo.
Mayordomo also uses her computer skills to mentor two teachers, Marlem Ugalde and Rosannie Laruan. She meets with them to share student-centered teaching strategies, and they use the laptop to explore science lessons together. Mayordomo’s new computer skills have also given her the confidence to pursue a master’s degree. She was able to access the necessary information online to apply for a scholarship from the Philippines Department of Education and is currently working on her master’s in science education at Mindanao State University in General Santos City.
Mayordomo is very grateful for the opportunities provided by USAID to help her grow professionally while staying close to home. She can attest to the fact that technology is creating an improved learning environment, for both teachers and students, in the southern Philippines.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. government.