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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Classrooms Without Walls

No, there is no longer any need to be physically present at any place for things to actually happen – thanks to the advances in technology. Now check how this, too, is what’s happening in the educational system.

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Alvin C., a micro-entrepreneur based in Davao City, wanted to “get the qualifications afforded by prestigious (universities in Metro Manila) – even though I have a degree from (a similarly renowned) university in Davao City, the way people look at (those qualifications from Metro Manila) is still very high (even if many are without merit), so that getting one is a god way to make it,” he says.

The immediate problem for Alvin C. is access. “I have a business in Davao City, which, aside from keeping my family alive, will finance my getting (further) education.” Not to worry, though, as this was easily remedied by eLearning, that “opportunity to pursue (further) studies despite the absence of classroom/residential learning.”

And indeed, as more weight is given to additional industry recognized skills and certification in the corporate world, bachelor’s degrees earned fail, on their own, to sufficiently guarantee climbing the corporate ladder. Thus, more people are considering getting an edge by obtaining further education.

eLearning provides an alternative way of doing this by eliminating the actual physical contact between students and teachers in the delivery of education. The approach allows for students to pursue higher education without having to give up their work.

CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION

“eLearning has really changed drastically how we ought to conceptualize the design and use of learning materials and the learning environment. (It) has revolutionized the delivery of educational services, whether in terms of formal, non-formal, or informal education. eLearning has strengthened quite substantially the notion that the learner must take responsibility for his/her own learning,” Dr. Felix Librero, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), earlier said to Enterprise Magazine.

Traditionally, eLearning involved all learning using various electronic means, including the use of radio and television. But recent developments have highlighted the use of computers and the Internet (officially referred to as digital learning), so much so that eLearning has come to be synonymous to learning using computers and the Internet.

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With eLearning, people can get education or formal training without having to be in a classroom, with most, if not all, lessons and interactions between students and their teachers done online.

In the case of the UPOU, the Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE), the same information technology used by the National University of Singapore, is used. To empower students in their own learning process, the system has numerous tools and resources, including lesson plan and calendaring systems so students can schedule their activities ahead of time, discussion forum and chatrooms to encourage participation, FAQ and quiz systems for gauging the level of understanding of students, and work bins for electronic submission of assignments. Operating via the widely used Microsoft Windows system, IVLE simplifies students’ access to education irrespective of where they may be at any given time.

With the removal of the need for actual physical encounters between the students and the teachers, thus limiting disruptions in students’ professional lives, saving finances has been cited as the most obvious benefit of eLearning. But Librero says that the advantages go beyond the obvious, also including the easier access via the Internet to learning materials stored in various databases worldwide. Better yet, accessing knowledge from various sources can be done by the learner him/herself, which “strengthens quite substantially the notion that the learner must take responsibility for his/her own learning.”

QUALITY MONITORING

As a new development in the educational system, however, eLearning has also been questioned for, among others, its impersonal approach that destroys the relationship between teachers and students, and the students among themselves, as well as the inappropriate use of computers and the Internet.

Supporting the concept that the key to promoting improved Web-based learning lies more on how effectively the medium is used, Librero is more concerned with the need for more sophisticated instructional design of computerization and the Internet. “Most of those claiming to have adopted eLearning as a tool in Philippine educational institutions today has no training in instructional design. They do things in a trial and error approach,” he says. “It is extremely ridiculous for educational institutions (that) cannot even offer conventional programs to think that they can offer quality degree programs in the distance mode.”

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The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), through the Technical Committee of Reviewers for Open Learning and Distance Education (TCROLDE), formulates the policies governing all forms of distance education programs in the country.

Issued in 2000, CHED Memorandum Order No. 35, or the Updated Policies and Guidelines on Open Learning and Distance Education, identified the standards for the offering of distance education programs. More specifically, the memorandum requires institutions offering open learning and distance education (OLDE) to prepare developmental and appropriate instructional materials for every course, identify qualified subject matter specialists, course writers and production designers, and provide course content and mode/s of instruction.

The TCROLDE evaluates the qualifications of institutions based on a quality assurance framework anchored on the principles of learning centeredness, rigor and sound instructional design, public responsibility and accountability, and quality and continuous improvement.

CHED’s power, however, is limited only to monitoring and evaluating higher education institutions offering OLDE, and encouraging voluntary accreditation.

“What worries me in this aspect is that if CHED is unable to impose discipline in the design, preparation, delivery, and evaluation of quality formal courses and academic programs through electronic means, then we shall have chaos in the educational system,” Librero says.

GROWING TREND

For UPOU’s around 1,500 online students, “hands down, courses on management and business administration are the most popular and common,” Librero said. This popularity is because of the availability of software and content coming from known universities in more advanced countries in degrees in management and business administration.

For online education, “one could easily spend as much as US$30,000 (about P825,000) for a master’s degree,” Librero said. UPOU charges around P65,000 for a similar degree.

“Overall, I’d like to believe that eLearning has introduced a phenomenon in Philippine education that encourages teachers to be more creative in their design of learning experiences, and students in their desire to learn more meaningfully,” Librero says. “Digital learning, which makes extensive use of computerization and the Internet, will continue to become popular to both students and teachers. More and more teachers in various schools will gravitate towards more use of computers and the Internet in the delivery of specific course content even under the conventional mode of instructional delivery. Because of this trend, more courses and academic degree programs shall become available and accessible through the Internet, which shall make mix mode of instructional delivery much more popular and common to various educational institutions.”

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Alvin C. is expecting to finish the degree he is taking by eLearning in less than “a year and a half,” he says, “depending on how well I can balance my business with my schooling.” But even with this, “I am glad for eLearning. It allows for me to continue learning while running my business. Success times two, truly.”

Select Philippine HEIs offering eLearning:

University of the Philippines – Open University
Dr. Felix Librero, Chancellor
UPOU, Los Baños, Laguna
Tel: (049) 5366016 and 16
E-mail: UPOUC@laguna.net
The CHED Center of Excellence for OLDE pursues distance education through print-based, learning center enhanced courses, and courses offered online via a customized Integrated Virtual Learning Environment, adopted from the National University of Singapore.

De La Salle University
Bro. Rolando Dizon, President
Taft Ave., Manila City
Tel: 5214611-26
One of the private institutions in the Philippines exploring alternative and innovative modes in offering courses. DLSU implemented the Internet-Enhanced Master of Arts in Teaching Literature Program, funded by the CHED.

Ateneo de Manila University
Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, SJ, President
Loyola Heights, 1108 Q.C.
Tel: 4266001 local 4002
Having implemented the International eLearning for Professional Journalists, AdMU is one of the pioneers of online education in the country.

Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Dr. Ofelia A. Carague, President
Anonas St., Sta. Mesa, Manila
Tel: 7162644, 7161143

"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

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Travel

Ecuador passes same-sex marriage

With the decision by the Constitutional Court, Ecuador joins a handful of Latin American nations – including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay – that have legalized same-sex marriage either through judicial rulings, or less frequently, legislative action.

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Ecuador became the latest country to allow same-sex marriage, with five of nine judges in the country’s top court ruling in favor of two gay couples who sued after their request to be married was denied by the country’s civil registry.

With the decision by the Constitutional Court, Ecuador joins a handful of Latin American nations – including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia and Uruguay – that have legalized same-sex marriage either through judicial rulings, or less frequently, legislative action.

Also with this development, the Latin American nation is now the 27th country to allow same-sex marriage.

In Asia, still only Taiwan became the first territory in Asia to pass same-sex marriage.

There are still 68 nations where homosexual relations are illegal.


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Travel

Brazilian Supreme Court criminalizes homophobia, transphobia

Brazil has actually already legalized same-sex marriages. But violence in the country toward LGBTQIA people remains common, with 387 murders and 58 suicides happening in Brazil in 2017 due to “homotransphobia” or negative feelings towards homosexuals or transsexuals, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia.

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Brazil’s Supreme Court voted to criminalize anti-LGBTQIA discrimination, with eight of Brazil’s 11 Supreme Federal Court (STF) justices ruling to include homophobia and transphobia within the country’s laws prohibiting racism.

The country’s laws banning racism were passed in 1989, allowing for sentences of up to five years. The new clause would legally protect the country’s LGBTQIA community, which actually still has some of the highest rates of violent LGBTQIA deaths in the world.

With the Supreme Federal Court (STF) decision, the Congress – which is held by a conservative majority and is strongly influenced by evangelical churches – may still pass a law specifically addressing such discrimination.

Justice Carmen Lucia Antunes argued in her ruling that the LGBTQIA community is treated differently in Brazil’s “discriminatory society,” and as a result, it faces a higher rate of violence. “All human beings are born free and equal and should be treated with the same spirit of fraternity”.

Brazil has actually already legalized same-sex marriages. But violence in the country toward LGBTQIA people remains common, with 387 murders and 58 suicides happening in Brazil in 2017 due to “homotransphobia” or negative feelings towards homosexuals or transsexuals, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB). For 2019, at least 141 have already been killed.

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also been very vocal about his anti-LGBTQIA sentiment, claiming that the Supreme Court was “completely wrong” and had overstepped its powers, moving into legislative territory.

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In a 2011 interview with Playboy Brazil, Bolsonaro said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son. He was also quoted as saying that that they could not let Brazil become a “paradise for gay tourism”.

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Travel

High Court in Botswana rules to decriminalize same-sex relations

In particular, the judges stated that “a democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness”, as well as highlighting that discrimination serves to hold back not only LGBTIQ people, but society as a whole by stating that “societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”

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On 11 June 2019, a full bench of the High Court of Botswana ruled to remove a relic of its colonial past by striking down section 164(a) and (c), and section 167 of the penal code, which criminalize same-sex relations, or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, and prescribe a prison sentence of up to seven years for those found guilty.

The court unanimously ruled that the provisions are discriminatory, against public interest and unconstitutional. 

In particular, the judges stated that “a democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness”, as well as highlighting that discrimination serves to hold back not only LGBTIQ people, but society as a whole by stating that “societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”

With this decision, the court continued its record of recognizing the human rights of LGBTIQ people in the country. In 2014 the High Court ruled that the government had to allow the registration of LEGABIBO, an LGBTIQ organization. And in 2017, in two separate cases – one concerning a trans man, and the other a trans woman – the High Court ruled that the refusal of the National Registration to change the gender marker of trans people violates their rights to dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, equal protection under the law.  

With this ruling Botswana joins Angola, Mozambique, India, Trinidad and Tobago and other countries that also recently struck down similar colonial-era laws. However, there are still numerous countries that maintain this discriminatory colonial-era relic, including places such as Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Kenya, where the High Court ruled last month to maintain the barbaric law.

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In the Scene

Vienna comes to Manila to celebrate pride, diversity and equality

Under the theme “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership and the Arts” the Austrian Embassy and its partners Frontrow Philippines and Love Is All We Need bring together Austrian and Filipino equality advocates from the disciplines of photography, visual arts, fashion and makeup, performance art, film and music in a celebration of diversity, unity and equality.

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Austria stands together with the Philippines against gender-based discrimination and violence at its first-ever MNLxVIE Equality Fest, a five-day campaign championing the LGBTQIA+ community through creative activism.

“On this 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Austria continues to take a strong stance against isolation, hatred and discrimination, while honoring self-affirmation, dignity and equality: We are more than our borders. We are more than the languages we speak and the color of our skin. We are more than our gender and who we want to love. This was the mission statement and message that EuroPride 2019 hosted in Vienna this Pride Month successfully delivered. Today, we look back on a great deal of progress, but all along in the sober realization that there is still a way to go. And our ambitions are not restricted to just one country: because LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights – and as Austria we will always stand up for them all over the world,” said Austrian Ambassador Bita Rasoulian.  

Under the theme “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership and the Arts” the Austrian Embassy and its partners Frontrow Philippines and Love Is All We Need bring together Austrian and Filipino equality advocates from the disciplines of photography, visual arts, fashion and makeup, performance art, film and music in a celebration of diversity, unity and equality.

On June 25 the festival opens with a launch party at Tarzeer Pictures, Makati, by Amb. Rasoulian and equal rights advocates RS Francisco and Queenmelo Esguerra. The launch is accompanied by the photo exhibit “RECORD, RECORD” on Austria’s LGBTQIA+ history and excerpts from the book “Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi?” by UP Babaylan, Babaylanes, Inc. and UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies,  as well as works by renowned and upcoming local LGBTQIA+ photographers. Flying in straight from Austria to join the festival are Austrian intersex rights activist Noah Rieser, filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger and drag queen Tamara Mascara.

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On June 26, the Intramuros Administration unveils a Pride-themed public mural. Situated across Museo de Intramuros, the art work is a collaborative project of the Austrian Embassy, Austrian artist Katharina Kapsamer and Salzburg Global Forum fellow Ralph Eya.

On June 26, drag queen Tamara Mascara, heading cosmetics giant MAC’s Viva Glam online campaign for Pride month in the Philippines, performs at Tomatito, BGC with Filipino queens MC Black, Precious Paula Nicole and Queen Viña! Don’t miss Tamara on June 28 as DJane at XX:XX’s Elephant Night closing party.

On June 27, intersex activist Noah Rieser leads the panel “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership: An Equality Talk” on Austria’s recent legislation allowing for a third gender option in legal documents. Joining him at the De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde are Myla Escultura of Intersex Philippines, 2018 bar topnotcher Sean Borja and Filipino artist fellows of the Salzburg Global Forum Reymart Cerin, Mark Salvatus, Andrei Venal and filmmaker Cha Roque.

On June 27, Austrian filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger in cooperation with the FDCP premieres his film “NEVRLAND” in Manila at the Cinematheque Centre.

On June 28, Schmidinger and renowned Filipino filmmakers Joel Lamangan, Moira Lang and Samantha Lee discuss LGBTQIA+ films in a Q&A at the UP Film Institute.

On June 29, the MNL-VIE Equality Fest culminates with the Metro Manila Pride March, where Amb. Rasoulian and all festival participants and partners march with The Red Whistle campaign #FuelTheLove and #ExtinguishTheStigma.

MNLxVIE Equality Fest 2019 is supported by the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, UP Babaylan, Babaylanes, Inc., Benilde Hive and The Red Whistle; with the support of EuroPride Vienna 2019, MAC Cosmetics Philippines, Intramuros Administration, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Digi Ads and Think Big Events; and venue partners Tarzeer Pictures, Tomatito Manila, UPFI Film Center – Cine Adarna, Cinematheque Centre Manila, SoFA Design Institute and XX XX.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

College-age males at bars, parties more likely to be sexually aggressive

A study found that it wasn’t alcohol use, per se, that leads to sexual aggression, but the combination of alcohol and the setting that the drinking takes place in had a major impact on the number of reported aggressive tactics used.

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College men who frequently attend parties or go to bars are more likely to be sexually aggressive compared to those who don’t, Washington State University researchers have found.

“We found that it wasn’t alcohol use, per se, that leads to sexual aggression,” said Michael Cleveland, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development. “But the combination of alcohol and the setting that the drinking takes place in had a major impact on the number of reported aggressive tactics used.”

The study, which surveyed a group of over 1,000 college males repeatedly for five semesters at a large Northeastern university, asked participants if they had used sexually aggressive tactics, Cleveland said.

“We asked them how often they drank and if and how often they went to bars or parties,” Cleveland said. “Then we asked if they used any specific tactics to convince, or even pressure, women to have them sex with them.”

Those tactics ranged from threatening to break up with her to getting her drunk and harming her physically.

The results were published April 25 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Personality traits

The study questions looked at the personality traits of each participant. The researchers found that the men who went to bars and parties more often tended to have higher levels of Impersonal Sexual Orientation, characterized by a preference for sex without commitment and a greater number of sexual partners.

“Men with that orientation have a proclivity towards more casual sex,” Cleveland said. “And it’s been associated with a higher level of sexual aggression. So this study shows that men with those personality traits are going to parties – perhaps in order to find sex partners –and acting more sexually aggressive.”

There are hot spots, like bars and parties, where aggressive behavior happens more often. Having bystander intervention, where someone intervenes on behalf of the victim, is really important in these situations.

Study timeline

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The researchers started the survey by contacting every male in the freshman class at a large university in the northeastern U.S. in 2012. Over 1,000 took part through their first five semesters.

The survey was conducted by email or online, with participants compensated with money deposited in their student accounts. Participants were guaranteed confidentiality in the hopes of getting more truthful results.

The study states that the more the students reported drinking as freshmen, the more likely they were to commit a sexually aggressive act by the end of the survey period, Cleveland said.

“The results are very cumulative,” Cleveland said. “If a student reported drinking as a freshman, then he would be more likely to report going to parties or bars the next year as a sophomore. And then the men who were most likely to drink at these types of settings were the ones that most likely were sexually aggressive during their junior year.”

Preventing aggression

The study showed how much room there is to educate men on their role in reducing and eventually eliminating aggressive sexual behaviors.

“Prevention of sexual assault should target men’s behaviors and attitudes,” Cleveland said. “There are hot spots, like bars and parties, where aggressive behavior happens more often. Having bystander intervention, where someone intervenes on behalf of the victim, is really important in these situations.”

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Health & Wellness

LGBT-identifying females are at increased risk of substance use in early adolescence

The odds of substance use among females who identify as sexual minorities – an umbrella term for those who identify with any sexual identity other than heterosexual or who report same-sex attraction or behavior – is 400% higher than their heterosexual female peers.

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Females who identify as sexual minorities face an increased risk of substance use that shows up as early as age 13, suggesting early adolescence is a critical period for prevention and intervention efforts, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

The odds of substance use among females who identify as sexual minorities – an umbrella term for those who identify with any sexual identity other than heterosexual or who report same-sex attraction or behavior – is 400% higher than their heterosexual female peers.

“We saw this striking difference in substance use at age 13 and there was rapid increase in the rate of cigarette and alcohol use from there,” said Sarah Dermody, an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science in OSU’s College of Liberal Arts and the study’s lead author. “That tells us we need to find ways to intervene as early as possible to help prevent substance use in this population.”

The findings were published recently in the Journal of LGBT Youth. Co-authors are James McGinley of McGinley Statistical Consulting and director of behavioral analytics at the Vector Psychometric Group; Kristen Eckstrand, a physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; and Michael P. Marshal of the University of Pittsburgh.

Among youth, alcohol, marijuana and nicotine are the three most commonly used drugs. That is a concern because youth who use those substances are at risk of negative health and social outcomes, including addiction and poor cognitive, social and academic function.

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Past research has shown that sexual minority youth reported nearly three times more substance use than heterosexual youth. The disparity may be due in part to stress from discrimination, violence and victimization rooted in their sexual minority status, Dermody said.

The pattern of increased substance use for youth who identify as sexual minorities is magnified significantly for females. In the new study, researchers hoped to gain better understanding of how substance use rates develop over time for this group in particular, Dermody said.

Using data from about 2,200 participants in the Pittsburgh Girls Study, a large, longitudinal study of the lives of urban girls, researchers examined substance use among females over time from age 13 to 20, comparing those who identified as heterosexual to those identifying as lesbian/gay or bisexual.

They looked at when disparities in use between heterosexual and sexual minority identifying females began to emerge; rates of change over time for both groups; and how rates change as the girls approach young adulthood.

The researchers found that disparities in substance use between heterosexual and sexual minority girls were already present at age 13. The difference in use between heterosexual and sexual minority girls persisted and increased as they entered their 20s.

The findings suggest that early prevention and intervention efforts may be needed to reduce initial use and slow the escalation of substance use among the population. Such efforts could also help decrease substance use disparities over time, Dermody said.

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“It’s already a risky and vulnerable period for youths’ social development, and it’s also a vulnerable time for brain development,” Dermody said.

It’s also important to remember that within the population of youths who identify as sexual minorities, there are many youths who are not using any substances at all, or who are not using them as heavily, Dermody said.

“This is a subgroup that we are concerned about,” she said. “In future research, it would useful to explore how individual youths’ experiences influence where they fall on the spectrum of substance use.”

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