UPOU hosts 30th AAOU annual confab

The UP Open University (UPOU) hosted the 30th annual conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) on October 26 to 29 at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria. The theme was “Open Education in Asia: Changing Perspectives.”

It was the second time the conference was held in the Philippines, the first in 2000, also hosted by UPOU.

UP President Alfredo Pascual, in his welcome message read by UP VP for Academic Affairs Gisela Concepcion during the opening ceremony, said that open and distance learning (ODL) is “a crucial tool in the delivery of education and the promotion of lifelong learning.” He added that ODL can be used to “uplift the marginalized and bring them to a place in society where they can become active participants in various social discourses and contributors to nation building.”

 AAOU President and Open University of Hong Kong President Yuk-Shan Wong delivers his message to conference attendees. Photo by Misael Bacani

AAOU President and Open University of Hong Kong President Yuk-Shan Wong delivers his message to conference attendees. Photo by Misael Bacani

AAOU President Yuk-Shan Wong, the president of the Open University of Hong Kong, said that since its inception, the conference “has been serving as a powerful stimulus in promoting [ODL]” as well as in discussing ODL issues, developments, and ideas. He added that the AAOU, as the region’s biggest organization of open education institutions, will continue to be an “important regional platform for professional sharing and collaboration.”

Commission on Higher Education (CHED)-Office of Programs and Standards Development Director Amelia Biglete talked about the ODL Act or RA 10650 in her speech on opening day. She cited several provisions of the law pertinent to course development, support, and the roles of involved agencies, i.e. CHED, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and UPOU. In an interview with UP News, Biglete said that CHED provides financial assistance to both organizers and participants for ODL-related activities. She also revealed that some Philippine schools have expressed interest in going into ODL.

UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria formally opens the conference.Photo by Misael Bacani
UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria formally opens the conference.Photo by Misael Bacani

UPOU Chancellor Melinda Bandalaria formally opened AAOU 2016. In a press conference held prior to the opening ceremony, she said that UPOU agreed to host this year’s conference for three reasons: “to build the capabilities of higher education and technical-vocational institutions in the country… take an active role in positioning ODL to achieve the Education 2030 Agenda… [and] to fulfill our role as an AAOU member institution.”

Wong also announced during the media event that Bandalaria will be succeeding him as AAOU president. UPOU Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Melinda Lumanta and AAOU Secretary General Kam Cheong Li joined Bandalaria and Wong as resource persons at the press conference moderated by UPOU Information Office and Multimedia Center Director Joane Serrano.

Around 500 delegates attended the AAOU conference, which featured eight plenary speakers, more than 100 parallel presentations, and 11 exhibits.