Looking forward by looking back: Dr. Bersales on the future of education and cultural preservation

Dr. Jose Eleazar Bersales, a full professor at the University of San Carlos, is about to end his visiting professorship in Japan. 

Known for his archaeological adventures in Cebu, Dr. Bersales, also fondly called Jobers, was contracted as a full-time faculty with the rank of Professor at the Institute of Laser Engineering (ILE) in Osaka University-Suita Campus under the Matrix Co-Creation Promotion Center (MCCPC) starting March 15, 2023. 

As the first-ever professor to be hired directly under the MCCPC, Dr. Bersales is currently part of a research team that studies how laser spectroscopy can be used in analyzing ancient materials such as ceramics, wood, and glass. 

Teacher training and professional development 

As a visiting professor, Dr. Jobers is given the opportunity to supervise students from the Graduate School of Humanities at Osaka University. He also conducts lectures to students as well as to fellow ILE faculty members. 

When asked about the similarities and differences in teacher training and professional development, he emphasized that Philippine universities can learn a lot from Japan. 

Within a week of his arrival, he was given his own email, and web profile page, as well as links to online in-service courses. The courses were required for membership in a national network for research and development, linking researchers to external government funding agencies.

“This was a series of e-learning courses with examinations afterward concerning teaching, research management, research ethics, financial management of research projects, and even preventing sexual and power harassment,” he added. 

Ceramic analysis and use of laser spectroscopy 

Dr. Bersales is very active in the cultural heritage community in the Philippines. Aside from serving as USC Museum Director, he also heads the National Committee on Museums (NCOM), one of the 17 national committees of the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCAA), the country’s equivalent of a Ministry of Culture. 

His works revolve around understanding the past applying his knowledge in archaeology, heritage resource management, and museum curation.

Bersales (left) and Prof. Miyabara of the Graduate School of Humanities at the Tokoname Tounomori Ceramics Museum in Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture.

When he is not in the laser lab or writing a scholarly paper while in Japan, Jobers spends time visiting museums to do benchmarking. “I’ve been to quite a number of different museums and I’d like to share their best practices when I’m back home—not just at the USC Museum but with other museums in the country,” he shared. 

As a social historian and archaeologist, he is keenly interested in ceramic analysis and the use of laser spectroscopy. In fact, prior to arriving in Japan and with permission from the NCAA, he already prepared Japanese and Chinese porcelain shards excavated in Cebu for use in spectroscopic analysis.  

Prof. Sarukura (right) conferring with graduate students working on the spectroscopic analysis of excavated ceramics from Cebu.

His work at Osaka University will not end, however, with his return to Cebu. “Together with my colleagues here, Dr. Nobuhiko Sarukura and Dr. Gyo Miyabara, I plan to continue the research work we started here once I get back to USC.” He also mentioned his plans to seek funding in Japan so he can work on future projects on ceramic analysis and archaeology. 

Bersales (center) at the office of Prof. Sarukura (left), together with Prof. Miyabara (right).

Future of Philippine education 

It is no secret that as a first-world country, Japan is miles ahead in terms of research, development, and education. However, it is not too late for the Philippines. 

“The future of Philippine education relies much on how far the government wants to keep pace or even go beyond the level of accomplishment of its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of research output and international inter-university collaboration,” Dr. Bersales points out. 

“As for the University of San Carlos, being noticed by international ranking agencies such as Quacquarelli Symonds is a good sign that USC is on its way. However, there’s still a lot to do. We need to tap our alumni and friends of USC to help propel the University further, not just as a teaching university, but as one with state-of-the-art research in all fields while contributing to the betterment of Cebu and the rest of the country.” 

With no massive government subsidy for research in sight for now, the University has in fact been seeking out other sources to fund quality research, starting with its naming rights program under the R.I.S.E. Project. 

“This is going to be challenging given the state of the world economy,” Bersales cautions but adds that hope springs eternal, and so “USC, as well as other Philippine universities, must keep going. We have so much to lose if we don’t.”

by Syrine Gladys Podadera

This entry was posted in Events and Updates, Research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.