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Mental abacus prospers in the Philippines
The writer is from the Ministry of culture development
Mental abacus has a history of nearly 40 years in the Philippines. Since the International Abacus Mathematics Association was founded in June 1973 in Tokyo, Japan, its branches have been set up subsequently in other countries.In order to promote cultural and academic exchanges, strengthen people-to-people diplomacy, and promote international cooperation, International Conferences on Abacus are held every year by a branch. In 1975, the association opened abacus classes in the Philippines . These classes have attracted many local Chinese. Chinese education has also been noted by the Philippines’ Ministry of Education . In August 1978, the Fourth International Conference on Abacus was organized by the Philippine branch. Abacus calculation was widely embraced by the Filipinos. At that time, many Philippine Chinese went to Taiwan Normal Universities, and brought the abacus calculation, a traditional skill for effective calculation, back to their Chinese schools. The Philippine academy of Sakya was one of the Chinese schools that promoted abacus. But for various reasons, especially the spread of computers, abacus education in the Philippines cooled down, like in many other countries.
Fortunately, in some old shops elder businessman are still using abacus with the account. In the old abacus is the enthusiasm and happiness of learning abacus when they were young. In recent years, Philippine Chinese community directs attention to abacus learning again in its effort of changing children’s embarrassment of using fingers when they do math. They began to invite abacus teachers from Taiwan during summer vacations to give two-months trainings. Abacus has been noted by the public again. However, since there are only summer classes and Taiwan teachers, children’s learning opportunity is limited. This has become a concern of many parents and students.
Many children that learnt abacus in the past are now parents, and even grandparents. They know that abacus and mental arithmetic can effectively promote childhood mathematics ability and comprehensive competence. Due to the lack of suitable ways to develop math skills for local kids, many parents are worried and dissatisfied with their children’s math. They sent children to their hometown Fujian for summer schools. But it is difficult to last due to many difficulties during studying abroad. Summer school is only a temporary resort, and abacus learning is a long, cumulative process. As summer classes end, the kids would have to wait until next year to continue learning. At that time they would have forgotten the previous knowledge about abacus, which is a really sad situation.
The current president of the Philippines Shenmo Education Cai Longrui was outstanding among many abacus students. He ever represented the Philippine academy of Sakya to compete in the National Math Contest, and gained excellent results because of his good abacus and mental arithmetic skills. This has not only earned honor for his school, but also foreshadowed his future commitment to the Shenmo Education.
In the second half of 2011, Philippines Shenmo branch was established in China Town, Manila. When parents learned about the establishment of the abacus school, they sent their children and grandchildren there and informed their friends and relatives of this good news.
In recent years, with both Chinese academia’s efforts and study on mental abacus worldwide, mental abacus has been noted again by the public. In 2013 abacus successfully applied for the intangible cultural heritage, making this ancient culture show its charm again. At the same year, the Philippines branch not only continued its training course, but also carried out training of local teachers and established cooperation plan with some Chinese schools and local schools in 2014. In the coming year, with the support of the headquarters, the Philippines branch will participate in various educational seminars and public activities, and cooperate with the National University so as to expand the scope of teaching. We will regard abacus course as a pilot course for the teaching professionals, carry out pilot teaching that combines abacus course with Grade One and Two in local elementary schools, and adopt other proper methods so as to promote abacus in the Philippines.