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A 'Heart Smart' Leadership

Posted: 2015-06-26


"Ano ba'ng kailangan sa isang leader? (What do we need in a leader?)

"If you know how to analyze, you can see the different perspectives; you can see the big picture and be systematic [about it]. Asking the right question is half of the solution."

These were the words of Dr. Christopher Bernido to the pioneer cohort of the Future Bridging Leaders Program1, young leaders aged 19-26 who have recently began their journey to co-creating change with their communities. He and his wife, Dr. Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido, received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2010 for introducing a revolutionary way of teaching science and non-science subjects among the students of the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) in the remote area of Jagna, Bohol.2

For Dr. C. Bernido, having the ability to analyze issues is critical for the leaders of today. It allows for a greater understanding of the problem as a result of careful thought in relating various view points, which paves way for the discovery of a more comprehensive approach in formulating and applying solutions.


The Bernidos are two of the few Filipino physicists in the world. They earned their doctorate degree in Physics from the State University of New York, then went on to teach and pursue research at the University of the Philippines where they received many accolades and earned much respect from their colleagues in the physics community.   

In 1999, the two scientists decided to move to Jagna, Bohol, a 4th class municipality. The decision was prompted by a special request from the owner of CVIF, Dr. C. Bernido’s aging mother – for them to take charge of the old, struggling high school. 

With nothing much to work with, the easier decision was to close down the school, but the couple’s desire to contribute to the improvement of the state of education in the Philippines compelled them to accept the daunting challenge. 

With much hope in his voice, Dr. C. Bernido addressed the youth leaders – “Give everyone a fighting chance. Change can happen in any area.” 



The Bernidos began the task in the best way they know how – by looking at the numbers. 

They started reviewing the students’ performance indicators and checked the statistics on how the CVIF students were performing in school and in national aptitude exams.

Dr. M. Carpio-Bernido shares, “We just use mind power. Our habit of thought is to go back to ‘first principles’.” She explained that physics has instilled in them the discipline of being target-oriented; thus, from the beginning, the Bernidos use the numbers to analyze the education issue at CVIF and to determine the path that could lead them to achieve their intended results – higher student performance. 

Dr. C. Bernido echoed this statement in his advice to the youth fellows – “Let the numbers tell the story.” 


The Bernidos see that the state of education in the country is a tough and complex problem to address since it deals with a fluid environment and a changing landscape, conditions that inevitably cause different generations to have different perspectives on the matter. Determined to make the dream of providing better education, especially to students at the CVIF, the Bernidos introduced the Dynamic Learning Program (DLP), a learning framework which applies a synthesis of classical and modern pedagogical theories adapted to foster the highest level of learning, creativity, and productivity for a wide spectrum of learners. The design of the DLP gives more room for contextualized learning approaches such that whoever adopts the DLP has the opportunity to integrate new and existing content in the curriculum. 

Further, they shared that DLP promotes a learning approach which the Bernidos call “heart smart.” It stands by the idea of keeping school work “in school,” giving the children essentially no homework recognizing that they need time for rest and play especially during weekends. Otherwise, when the student is too tired or ill-prepared, his/her capacity to learn is compromised.


The program also reinforces the mastery of subject fundamentals, and influences the students to having a more positive perspective on getting low scores in a test, so long as the student remains honest. 

With this method, the CVIF has successfully achieved remarkable results through a cost-effective strategy – time and energy well-spent. In Bohol, the implementation of the DLP in 162 public high schools resulted in an increase in the students’ National Achievement Test (NAT) results from an average of 57.58% in 2011 to 64.35% in 2014. As the children became more engaged in student-driven activities, drop-out rates also decreased from 4.56% in 2011 to 2.85% in 2014.4 The DLP was also adapted by 19 secondary schools in Basilan. As declared by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Education Secretary Jamar Kulayan, their students’ NAT results also increased by 14%.5

The numbers astounded fellow educators all over the country and this stirred in them the desire to visit the school and study the DLP framework. Gaining national and global recognition since its successful innovation of the education system in CVIF, over two hundred private high schools all over the country have adapted the design, fostering better student involvement and performance in the schools. 

As the session came to a close, the Bernidos imparted encouraging words to help our young leaders remain steadfast in their advocacies. 

The numbers have indeed shown that they have succeeded in reinventing the education system to cater to the needs of the learners today; however, looking deeper into the story of their success, Dr. C. Bernido shares an important lesson he has learned: “Do not be afraid to throw away your solution if it is wrong. It takes humility to implement the best ideas and solutions.”


Drs. Christopher and Ma. Victoria Carpio Bernido with Prof. Milagros Lagrosa and Prof. Manuel De Vera of the Asian Institute of Management and the 26 youth Fellows of the Future Bridging Leaders Program (FBLP).





1 The Future Bridging Leaders Program (FBLP) is a 12-month youth leadership development program of the AIM TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership (AIMTEC). It includes collaborative workshops tackling the three core processes of Bridging Leadership, and intensive personal leadership coaching and mentoring. 26 Fellows, aged 19-26, were chosen based on their leadership track record and distinct ownership of social issues. Throughout the program, the Fellows will work on concrete change projects to address identified gaps in their communities. 

2 Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. (n.d.) Bernido, Christopher. Retrieved from

3 The CVIF-Dynamic Learning Program is a framework for teaching that develops a child to become an independent learner to significantly improve his or her academic performance despite the multiple socioeconomic constraints (lack of books, qualified teachers, classrooms, equipment) plaguing the country’s educational system. Using the prescribed curriculum of the Department of Education, a high school student develops to his or her fullest potential even without any homework, with academic days only four (4) times a week & an equivalent to only one (1) period a week contact time with the teacher. The program is currently being implemented in more than 200 public and private high schools in Bohol and Basilan provinces, and Cagayan De Oro and Lamitan Cities. [Dynamic Learning Program. (n.d.) In Facebook [Facebook Page]. Retrieved from]

5 Bernido, C. & Carpio-Bernido, M. (2015). Achieving World-class Targets with Economy of Cost, Time and Energy: The CVIF Dynamic Learning Program [PowerPoint slides]. 

6 Regalado, E. (2015, January 29). ARMM moves to improve high school students performance. The Philippine Star. Retrieved from


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