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Last month we were in the Philippines for our Agile Around The World study (after South America we went to Indonesia, Singapore and Australia before heading to the Philippines – more blogs about our time in these locations to follow!!!).

After checking into our hostel in Manila we went to find our next temporary virtual office, aka: coffee shop. Here we met with a fellow ‘virtual office’ colleague’ from Manila to talk about our research. Whilst enjoying our coffee we also came to know more about his life, work and how he earned his BS in Computer Science and Information Technology with Specialization in Systems Software Engineering eleven years ago from Asia Pacific College (APC) in Manila. After he gave us a brief and very enthusiastic explanation of APC, we realised that this college is something unique. Seeing that we were intrigued, he offered to message his contacts at APC to see if they were open for a visit. And that’s how 2 days later we arrived at the APC premises and sat down with Executive Director Rhea-Luz R. Valbuena, and Director for MIT/MIS/MSCS Graduate School and BS Computer Science Ernesto ‘Boogie’ C. Boydon to talk about APC.

We learned that APC was established in 1991 as a non-profit venture between IBM Philippines and the SM Foundation which is an organisation that is committed to supporting and empowering their host communities through education, healthcare, shelter, disaster response, farmers’ training, environmental programs and care for persons with special needs in the Philippines. Their vision: ‘A Philippines where everyone has the opportunity for self-improvement and the environment is sustained for future generations.’ One means to work towards their vision is to provide college and technical-vocational scholarship grants as well as access to primary education.

Nowadays APC is recognised as a Centre of Excellence in IT Education and it has grown from a mere ‘I.T. training centre’ for corporate employees to one of the premier colleges in the Philippines offering Bachelor’s degrees, Master degrees and Senior High School courses.

APC bridges the gap between academic learning and Information Technology industry by;
– Industry guided curricula
– Faculties that consist of professionals and industry practitioners
– Project based learning
– 6-month, full-time internships

APC has an industry guided curriculum, and through continuous feedback loops APC ensures its curriculum and learning materials are up to date with IT industry requirements. APC is envisioned as a learning institution that brings graduates to the job market who fulfil the information technology skills that industry needs. APC works together with 220 industry partners using continuous feedback loops to adapt and improve the curricula to the latest industry technologies, methodologies, tools and requirements. The APC’s advisory board meets regularly to discuss the feedback. They update the curriculum and learning materials to keep up to date with the latest IT industry trends. As a result, new specialisations have been added to the curriculum over the years. One example is the addition of the Cyber Security and Forensics specialisation that was created as an elective but has now evolved into its own specialisation.

Faculties consist of professionals and industry practitioners that are able to impart real world experiences into relevant and effective education. When we were introduced to Ernesto he handed over 3 business cards to us. One for his work at APC, one for the company of which he is CEO and one for the Philippine Computer Society where he is a member of the Board of Trustees (we felt quite inadequate presenting 1 business card 😉).

The college believes that professional competence is best fostered by coupling teaching and hands-on-training. The curriculum is taught using project-based learning. Project-based learning is education that goes beyond the academic realm, classroom and theory. It is practical learning. One project-based learning project we discussed was developing a product using Scrum. As part of the Bachelor’s degree, students are introduced to Scrum, a Scrum team is formed, and a product is built using iterative development. The Scrum team consists of computer science or information technology students who work together for 1 semester. There are times that these computer science/information technology teams include members from different programs (e.g. business, animation, etc) in the case that the project requires specific skills. A semester is 10 weeks and is divided into 5 sprints. During those sprints the Scrum team works closely with Masters in Information Technology (MIT) students who act as Product Owner / project stakeholders to deliver an MVP. Both undergraduate and MIT students are introduced to the values, principles and practices of Scrum. They write user stories, refine a Product Backlog and use Agile engineering practices. Ernesto told us that the students are fully committed to what they are doing and enjoy working together in this way.

Another aspect of hands on training is the 6-month, full-time internships program. Senior students (those in their final year) are assigned to work full time in the industry for a period of 6 consecutive months where they are completely immersed in a real working environment experiencing hands-on training, helping with actual projects and dealing with clients. APC has more than 200 internship industry partners offering senior students an opportunity to work with them.

The industry led curriculum, training by industry professionals, project based learning, and internships all result in companies being able to recruit graduates from APC that meet their needs. It gives students an opportunity to get a degree, be prepared for working life and make themselves highly employable. It looks like this is a win-win situation for all.

Scholarships
Students are granted scholarships, helping young people reach their full potential. APC graduates are high in demand, being known for their passion, adaptability and mindset. The SM Foundation believes that when one family member graduates from college, the graduate can help another sibling to go to school and serve as a key to lift their family out of poverty. A belief that is affirmed by over two decades of scholarship programs.

Other initiatives and achievements
I could go on to write many pages about APC but instead I will bullet point a few of its initiatives and achievements:
– The opening of its own consulting department.
– Tech talks from industry professionals are held regularly at APC for students.
– The career placement office that APC runs that actively helps students find employment.
– The empowerment program for public school teachers, partner schools non-government and government agencies.
– The collaboration program between the training centre of analytics (BI) with the School of Business Management, collaboration with the School of Engineering for the Internet of Things, and collaboration with the School of Multimedia Arts for Animation and Creative Arts.
– In 2017 APC received Autonomous status from the Commission of Higher Education.

A massive thank you to Rhea-Luz R. Valbuena and Ernesto ‘Boogie’ C. Boydon for welcoming us to APC and special thanks to our virtual office colleague for arranging it all 😊. We owe you a coffee!

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