The former APEID unit (I say former as APEID is now EISD, see this blog) holds a biannual international conference that brings together people from all over the World in a bid to facilitate discussions around education. I was lucky that the conference was scheduled for when I was working there! So come October 26-28th and some 150 people from about 40 countries arrived in Bangkok for the 18th UNESCO-APEID International Conference. The three-day conference featured several plenary and concurrent sessions. Needless to say, months of hard work and planning had gone into its execution.
As an intern I was providing support where needed. This meant work like cutting out name badges and putting them in ID card holders and clipping lanyards (yes, these are those strings that go around your neck) to them. We – me, other interns and staff, also had to prepare conference materials for the participants. Special stationery had been ordered so we were making sure that each bag had promotional material, the conference program and so on. We had a nice assembly line figured out, we put on some music (this tune had us in fits for a while) and Jonghwi ordered us some pizza so the task was much less tedious than I had expected. It was actually fun!
The next day, morning of the conference, I was running late so I caught a taxi to the hotel. I thought this was a good idea as changing lines at the BTS and walking between the stations and the hotel would take quite long. How wrong I was! Bangkok traffic is never to be trusted especially when one is in a time crunch. I did get to the hotel in time but just barely.
I stationed myself at the registration table and welcomed participants as they started coming in after breakfast. Once the welcome address began, I quickly surveyed the concurrent session hall I was going to manage. Four halls were assigned for the concurrent sessions and each hall was to be managed by a pair of interns. This meant that we were to setup the laptop and sound system, make sure that the presentations were running and generally be on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly.
The first day was uneventful, except two out of three presenters were not able to make it to the concurrent session I was managing. However, the chair, Edizon Fermin more than made up for it by giving one of his own presentations. This half-hour presentation was by far the best presentation I attended not only at the APEID conference but throughout my stint as an intern at UNESCO Bangkok. He talked about 21st century demands and how Philippines was trying to meet these. Teachers are, of course, an important part of this conversation. In this regard, creating career tracks for teachers is imperative. Philippines is introducing specialized Bachelors in education programs (for e.g. B.Ed. for physical education, B.Ed. for Mathematics). This allows somebody studying say, biology to decide later that they want to be a teacher and not enter the medical field. The two years that the student spent learning content does not go to waste and they can enter the education track. Such an ingenious introduction! Further, Philippines recently made the move from K-10 to K-12. This means that the first Filipino K-12 teacher will be graduating in 2024. Mr. Fermin, recognized that the country must employ a number of band-aid solutions before the change completely kicks-in.
I was completely amazed by this presentation. Not only because Philippines’ progress in teacher education is exemplary but also that the speaker was incredibly engaging and broke down the content so that it was easily relatable. His account was filled with humor, anecdotes and inspiration. All this, when he wasn’t even in the session program! Granted he must have given the same presentation dozens of times but there aren’t many people who can launch into a thirty minute presentation without prior notice. I hope to captivate an audience the same way some day!
The second and third days, while no less of a learning experience, were dampened by, well, let’s just say unavoidable personal circumstances. On the second day I had to make a quick trip home and back (that’s 40 minutes one way). Thankfully, my partner intern covered the room while I was gone. On the third day I became unwell and had to rest in the conference HQ. However, I was back on my feet by the evening and helped the team pack up the publications, standees and other materials.
With this the three days of learning, networking and buffet meals came to a close. The conference team congratulated each other on a job well done and celebrated with group photos.
Thank you, APEID! I appreciate the opportunity!