Catherine P. Vistro-Yu
The 8th South-East Asian Conference on Mathematics Education (SEACME-8) was recently held from 30 May to 4 June 1999, at the Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines, with the theme "Mathematics for the 21st Century". It was the second time that the Philippines hosted SEACME. The first time was when the first SEACME was held in 1978.
As expected, more than 500 local and foreign participants came. Conference activities included 5 plenary sessions, 65 short paper and major paper presentations, 12 workshop sessions, 12 roundtable discussion sessions, and 8 country reports. There were also a few social and cultural activities such as the welcome cocktails, a conference dinner, and a conference tour. Invited plenary speakers included Jin Akiyama, Alan Bishop, Sol Garfunkel, who was replaced by Jerry Becker because he was taken ill on the week before the conference, Lee Peng Yee, and Siriporn Thipkong.
Lee Peng Yee (Singapore), in his opening keynote presentation, identified three important milestones in mathematics education in the 20th century: the rise and partial fall of abstract mathematics, the reform in schools with regard to curriculum and instruction, and the invasion of technology. Jerry Becker (U.S.A.) proposed that teachers end all standard instruction in mathematics and, instead, gradually establish a learning atmosphere that will foster creativity in mathematics, in the hope that students, through their significant experiences, will learn mathematics intelligently and in a more exciting way. Jin Akiyama (Japan), together with colleagues Yoichi Hirano and Toshinori Sakai, showed the different mathematical models that they use to teach concepts such as the Pythagorean Theorem, area and volume formulas, quadratic and cubic equations, conic sections and other standard mathematical concepts in a non-standard way. Siriporn Thipkong (Thailand) discussed results of a study on two students' ability in solving linear equations with one variable in different models, giving the participants a glimpse of the kind or research being done in her country. To close the conference, Alan Bishop (Australia) aptly shared his beliefs about the need to make mathematics education available to as many learners as possible. According to him, democratization of mathematics through education in the 21st century should be a goal of all schools.
SEACME, an activity of the Southeast Asian Mathematical Society (SEAMS), serves as a venue for mathematics educators in the Southeast Asian region to discuss problems and issues that directly affect their countries. One of the most relevant issues, for example, was the recently concluded Third International Mathematics and Science Study, particularly for the Philippines who did not perform very well in the study. Thus, the organizers of SEACME-8, the Philippine Council of Mathematics Teacher Educators (MATHTED), Inc., with the help of its 12-member International Advisory Committee, made sure that the paper presentations and workshops were relevant, timely, and useful to the Southeast Asian countries.
For this reason, a good variety of topics filled up the scientific
program. These included cultural studies, use of technology in teaching
mathematics, learning of geometry in elementary mathematics,
problem solving and motivational techniques. Paper presenters,
likewise, came from varied backgrounds and localities, from the northern
to southern regions of the Philippines and from countries as far
as Europe and the United States. UNESCO, through its Jakarta
Office, gave financial grants that enabled representatives from Indonesia,
Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia to participate
actively in the conference. The participation of colleagues from
New Zealand, Australia, Japan, England, U.S.A., Germany, and United Kingdom
added to the prestige of the conference. An almost
permanent activity of SEACME is the Country Reports, which at SEACME-8
were given by official representatives of each of the following Southeast
Asian countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It is through these country reports that fellow mathematics educators in
the region get a chance to update themselves of the other
countries? developments in mathematics education. For those who
wish to read more on the paper presentations, you may inquire about copies
of the SEACME-8 Technical Papers from the Secretariat
at the following address:
Ateneo de Manila University
P.O. Box 154 Manila 0917
Although there were glitches, a few no-shows among speakers, and some unmet expectations, SEACME-8 as a whole was a success. For one, the Philippine participants professed to have learned so much from the presentations. Because of this, many were extremely grateful for the opportunity to host SEACME once again. It gave many of our teachers a chance to participate in a distinguished international conference at an affordable cost. Through SEACME-8, we, Filipinos, realized once more that there is so much to learn from our Southeast Asian colleagues, although, we have yet to see the fruits of this conference in our schools. Indeed, like the first SEACME, SEACME-8 brought to fore our many unfinished tasks and responsibilities in uplifting the status of mathematics teaching and education in the Philippines. Foreign colleagues, likewise, expressed enjoyment and satisfaction in the conference activities and constantly complimented the local organizers "for a job well done". The evidence of the success of this conference can also be seen in the amount of networking among participants and potential linkages between institutions that arose from the conference. Old-time colleagues renewed their professional relationships while new friendships and acquaintances came about.
In the end, almost everyone was euphoric. Enthusiasm and interest heightened much to the delight of both the Philippine organizers and the Singaporean delegates, who are the organizers for the next SEACME. There were high hopes that in three years' time, at SEACME-9, there will be much improvement in the state of mathematics education in Southeast Asia.