OpinionsEnvironment ConnectionResearch & extension in academe

Research & extension in academe

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The triple functions of teaching, research, and extension are generally understood to describe the academic program of higher educational institutions in the Philippines.

The Commission on Higher Education has accepted this concept. Every other year, the Commission awards colleges and universities that excel in research or extension. The year 2010 was the year for the recognition of higher education institutions with outstanding extension programs. The awards for that year were given on March 30, 2011.

However, the concept of academic extension is misunderstood by many universities in the country. Many leaders of these institutions, including their presidents, do not understand what academic extension is. Many think that any community service done by the staff of a college or university is academic extension. This thinking is seriously flawed, and must be corrected.

The Commission on Higher Education awarding ceremony finally clarified the concept of extension. My friend, Dr. Ruperto S. Sangalang, of Cavite State University, and Dr. Carmencita D. Padilla of the University of the Philippines (Manila) both explained that academic extension and research are twin and inseparable concepts. A simple way to see the relationship is to say that extension is the application or use of the research findings of an academic institution.

In other words, for an institution to be credited for extension, it must conduct research that generates new findings that can be extended to the world outside the walls of an academic institution.

In this sense, research and extension are inseparable twins. This must be so, otherwise, how can one distinguish academic institutions charged with the responsibility of generating new knowledge from government agencies that perform services to the community?

Dr. Sangalang traced the historical origin of academic extension in the Philippines to the land-grant colleges and universities of the United States and transplanted in the Philippines through the University of the Philippines at Los Baños in the form of agricultural extension. UP does research in agriculture, and the results are used in its extension program to increase yields of crops and thus improve the quality of life of the people.

Dr. Padilla explained that the medical research of UP Manila generated information and data that were used in improving government policy (law) on human health.

Thus, it is clear that extension is the process of using or applying research findings for the benefit of humankind in various ways. The knowledge or technologies developed through the research of the faculty in academic institutions are the materials to be “extended” to the outside communities, not just anything that someone happens to come up with.

Our research on the environment, particularly on marine reserves, is yet another example that illustrates the practical use of research findings in influencing the theory and practice of conservation. This research has implications on curricular matters, livelihoods of coastal populations, income generation, and biodiversity conservation.

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