Divino L. Cantal, Jr., Trinity University of Asia

When the Teacher Becomes the Student

Divino L. Cantal, Jr.

“At 34, I’m the oldest in my class,” Dino Cantal says, describing his experience as a graduate student at Hong Kong Baptist University. Mr. Cantal is more accustomed to being the instructor, as a member of the Faculty of Media and Communications at Trinity University of Asia. With the support of the United Board and the Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education (CHED), he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in international journalism, and taking a fresh look at teaching and learning from the student’s point of view.

“I can’t help but compare my classmates to my students in the Philippines,” Mr. Cantal noted. “They have a lot of similarities, such as their increasing dependence on technology and the way social media informs them about issues.” As an educator, he wants to link students’ enthusiasm and their fresh ideas to sound training in journalism. “Despite the proliferation of new technologies that seem to make anyone a journalist,” he said, “my students still think it is a noble profession. No one except the real trained journalists would devote such time and effort to sharing with the public what they ought to know.”

At HKBU, that type of training can be both challenging and rewarding. A course in multimedia journalism is an example. “The professor, who is a photojournalist for a European website, pushed me to my limits,” Mr. Cantal recalled. “But at the end of the semester, I realized that I learned a lot from him, from creating a photo story to an audio slideshow to a video story. I got depressed with his criticism but I celebrated with his praise. These are the same things I want my students to experience.”

Dino Cantal, center, with international classmates at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Expanding economies in Asia often tempt faculty to leave teaching and pursue better financial opportunities. Mr. Cantal views his career differently, as TUA’s core values of excellence, integrity, social responsibility, teamwork, and innovation make his work rewarding. “These values are evident in the way the teachers teach, the administrators govern, and the students learn,” he said, and they also find a place in his classroom. “Take the course I am teaching as an example – Development Communication. It allows students to become socially responsible by using the knowledge they learn to foster development in the partner communities.”

Mr. Cantal was initially hesitant to apply to the Faculty Scholarship Program, as his father was ill. His family and colleagues persuaded him to pursue this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” and Mr. Cantal is now grateful that he took their advice. “This scholarship allowed me to learn new things, to learn from the cultures of other countries,” he said. That’s an irresistible combination for a student, a teacher, or a journalist.

The Philippines is transitioning from a K-10 system to K-12, part of a major education reform. This transition period has temporarily lessened the need for faculty in colleges and universities, as they wait for new classes of freshmen to arrive. These gap years create an opportunity for some faculty to pursue advanced degrees. The United Board is grateful to CHED and to Florante and Nora Quiocho for their generous support, which is enabling Mr. Cantal and other faculty from United Board network institutions in the Philippines to further their education.