Being able to go to Israel and stay in Ramat Rachel Hotel in the outskirts of Jerusalem for an 18-day International Training Course on ICT in Education was one of the greatest blessings in my life. Israel is the Holy Land for Christians like me while for the Israeli Jews, Israel is their Promised Land, the land promised to them by God Himself from the earliest times of human history.
Participating in an international training in Israel is a rare opportunity that one should not throw away. And so, after learning that I was accepted for an International Training on ICT in Education under the MASHAV International Development Cooperation of the state of Israel last December 21, 2017, I sought every means to be able to attend the said training in a land I’ve never been to but has been my dreamed of place to go to.
Our 18 days of training under the MASHAV Ofri International Educational Training Center from January 16 to February 2, 2017 in Jerusalem gave us, participants from different countries and four continents, priceless learning and precious experiences. The 18 days were both a training course and a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The days were filled with lectures, workshops, professional visits to schools and educational training centers, and group tasks. We managed, however, to visit some holy places in Jerusalem at the end of the day or during the Shabat or day dedicated for rest and worship of God, which is religiously observed by the Israeli Jews starting on Friday afternoon at 5 pm up to Saturday 7 pm.
The training course on ICT in Education gave us a vast amount of knowledge we need to review, look back to, and process in order to really gain from them and share them to others. Fortunately, the MASHAV Aharon Ofri Educational Training Center gave each of us copies of the lectures from the speakers and the professional visits as well as materials from the workshops and group works we did during the training.
The International Training on ICT in Education first oriented the participants with an overview of the Israeli history and society. We learned about what the Jewish people have gone through and how they have striven to become a progressive state from being a start-up nation. We learned about Israel being a welfare state and that education from primary to high school is free since education for all is in the interest of the state. We, the participants, marveled at this and were even more impressed with the progressive educational system, innovative pedagogies, humanistic and democratic approach to teaching and learning, and the advanced use of ICT tools in the classrooms and schools.
The training course also made us see (for us who were not really using or maximizing the uses of these) the wonderful uses and potentials of educational applications for the classroom such as the Google apps – google docs, google forms, google calendar, google earth, google classroom; the use of gaming like kahoot to enliven classes and the wise use of online education resources such as those listed in www.simlek12.com, and other digital platforms for teaching and learning such as edmodo and moodle.
We learned of the advanced application of computer knowledge and skills in the schools we visited in Israel with the subsidized provision of laptop for every student and the fast internet connection in every school.
We realized the necessity of developing 21st century skills such as being creative, communicative, collaborative, having critical thinking, among both teachers and students, and being ICT literate. We saw and learned of the innovative pedagogies and effective educational system for primary and secondary schools in Israel and how Israel as a start-up nation strives to do things in the most efficient and innovative manner. One evidence of efficiency of the Israeli way of doing things is the ubiquitous use of solar panels in every building or home for energy use.
We learned that Israel, relatively a young nation since its establishment in 1948, strove for advancement in innovations in making things, ICT application in the classrooms, and in different fields such as science and technology and agriculture. We witnessed the advances made in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics in Israel and wished that our own countries would be as progressive and as efficient as the Israelis in every sphere of life and society.
Israel is encouraging its students to make things that can solve problems through 3D printing, robotics, and the offering of courses on medical sciences, science and technology, arts and design, horticulture, mathematics, along with other subjects to develop innovative thinking and doing.
Women are considered equal with men in Israel; they are encouraged to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics which used to be the domain of men.
Aside from the gains in knowledge and skills from the training course, the intercultural communication experiences were very valuable. Getting to know and mingling with people from four different continents were among the precious experiences we had in our 18 days of training in Israel.
I was able to meet, talk to, eat with, and work with people from other parts of Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe – from African countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Ghana; from Latin American countries such as Colombia, Peru, and Costa Rica; from Eastern European countries like Urkraine and Georgia; and from other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. From the other group training on Technology and Vocational Training, I was able to meet a man from Nepal by the name of Pradip; participants from Seychelles; and a lady from Myanmar. The intercultural experiences were so rich, filled with precious learning about the cultures, ways, and contexts of people from these different countries.
The pilgrimage we managed to squeeze in our tight schedule was awe-inspiring. Walking through the Old City was a rare experience: it was an experience of the very rich historical, religious, and multicultural blend of the Middle Eastern cultures of Jewish, Arab, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian worlds.
I and my co-participants prayed inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and some of my co-participants were able to go the Mount of Olives while I worked on a group blog and mingled with Filipinos working in Israel as Catholic religious workers, caregivers, traders, and chefs. Gratefully, we were treated by MASHAV Ofri Center to a pilgrimage in the holy sites around the Sea of Galilee like the Church of the Mount of Beatitudes, the Church of the Primacy of Peter, Capernaum, and the Jordan River where some of us renewed their baptismal vows.
The training course was full-packed with very rich knowledge we hope to disseminate and use for the good of our countries through our final projects. We not only gained from the course but also came to have a deeper tie with Israel and sympathize with the Jewish people who have suffered much from barbaric invasions and the Holocaust yet have risen to advances through innate wit, determination, the spirituality of tikun olan (which means “healing the world”), and innovativeness to move forward, live peaceably with others, and have an efficiently working society.
We physically left Israel but the learning and experiences we gained from the 18-day training course and pilgrimage will forever be treasured in our minds and hearts.