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Asia's Nobel award to Don Bosco Past Pupil

By Australasia
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New Delhi, Aug. 22. MANILA: 21 August 2010 -- Christopher Bernido, an alumnus of Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong, Philippines, and his wife Maria Victoria are among the seven honoured this year with what is considered Asia's Nobel Prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award. Both come from well-to-do families who earned their doctorate degrees in physics from the State University of New York.
   The Philippine-based Ramon Magsaysay Award was established in 1957 by the trustees of the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund to commemorate the late Philippine president known for his ''integrity in government, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.''  
   In 1999, Christopher and Maria Victoria left their lucrative jobs in Manila to manage a struggling high school in the poor and faraway province of Bohol better known for its white-sand beaches and endemic tiny primate called tarsier. Both respected physicists in the National Institute of Physics, Christopher and Maria Victoria introduced to poor students a ''revolutionary way of teaching science subjects'' they called the ''dynamic learning program.'' The ''cost-effective strategy'' uses locally available teaching aids, as it was the advocacy of the late Salesian pioneer in the Philippines Fr. George Schwarz, and limits teacher participation by devoting 70% of class time to student-driven activities ''built around clear learning targets, aided by well-designed learning plans and performance-tracking tools.''
   Radical improvement in the performance on national scholastic aptitude and university admission tests of these poor students more than pay off the couple's sacrifice. Through their ''Learning Physics as One Nation'' program, the Bernidos are also addressing the problem of severe shortage of qualified physics teachers in the country. Their school in the remote town of Jagna in Bohol holds regular workshops that have attracted not only hundreds of schools all over the country but even international scientists and Nobel laureates.
   By leaving behind his high-paying job, Christopher Bernido wanted to show that poverty is no excuse to compromise on teaching and learning excellence. The late Salesian Fr. George Schwarz, who pioneered in the Philippines the use of local materials to create instruments to demonstrate the laws of physics especially to poor people who did not have the resources to return the favor, had the same dream. He taught the poor that they were not helpless to excel no matter how limited the available resources were. Fr. George Schwarz must be rejoicing in the afterlife over such legacy to a past pupil.
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