Hope Antone, United Board

Taking a Holistic Approach to Education

As the United Board’s Director, Faculty Development Programs, Hope Antone develops strategies and oversees programs for faculty enhancement in whole person education. In this interview, she shares her perspective on whole person education in her native country, the Philippines.  

Is there a receptive environment for whole person education in the Philippines?
Faith-based higher education institutions in the Philippines seem to have a natural understanding of whole person education. I felt this connection when I was an undergraduate at Silliman University. We didn’t use the term “whole person education,” but there was an emphasis on the total development of the person. Silliman was always trying to create a sense of belonging – in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, in service activities, on retreats, even in activities like ice breakers. All this creates a sense of team spirit that goes beyond academics, and helps to shape the total person.

Have recent education reforms in the Philippines enhanced conditions for whole person education?
Yes – these reforms really have emphasized the need for teachers to take a holistic approach to education. Outcomes-based education starts with identifying the goals you are trying to achieve, and then deciding on the teaching approach and activities needed to reach those outcomes. There is a strong focus on interdisciplinary teaching, and helping students see connections between disciplines, both inside and outside the classroom. The reforms can help faculty and students see that education is not just books but community, not just receiving but sharing information, not just research but research connected to service. Similar reforms are taking place in other Southeast Asian countries.

The Whole Person Education Academy has been an avenue for educators in the Philippines to share their experience with faculty from other Southeast Asian countries.

Are there ways for Filipino educators to share their experience of whole person education with other countries?
In 2015, a small seminary in Myanmar asked the United Board for help with a pedagogical workshop for their teachers. I contacted the Ateneo Teacher Center at Ateneo de Manila University about their teacher training curriculum, and two of their faculty served as resource persons at the Myanmar workshop. I was impressed with how they integrate spiritual and ethical development into teaching. That gave me a model of how the United Board could promote its vision for whole person education through a Whole Person Education Academy. The United Board began collaborating with Ateneo, and we held the Whole Person Education Academy for Southeast Asian faculty in 2017 and 2018, with a harvest reunion in 2019.

Now, with COVID-19, whole person education is much more challenging. How do you promote interaction, dialogue, and exchange when you can’t be together with your students? Faculty want to know how they can bring whole person education into online teaching, and I hope educators in the Philippines can share their experience with this.

What are some of your aspirations for the future?
I want to see more institutions in Asia take steps to institutionalize whole person education. By this I mean an institution will be grounded in the philosophy of whole person education and make faculty development for whole person education a part of their strategic plan. I think educators in the Philippines can help colleges and universities in other countries develop their approach to whole person education.

I also hope we can think more about interconnectedness. How can we connect with creation, with the natural environment? How can we design projects that have an impact on issues of health or climate change? I hope we can take up these questions as part of whole person education, so that we are not promoting interdisciplinary study for its own sake, but for the sake of addressing problems.