Changing lives through quality tech-voc education

Joji Ilagan-Bian knew from the age of 18 that one day she would build her own school. Born and raised in Mindanao, Joji saw the challenges of having limited access to opportunities. This motivated her to drive innovative education solutions in her home region. Her vision was to create a training institution for young people in her hometown – an institution that would equip them with the knowledge and skills that they could use in a wide range of settings. “I would like to empower our youth, make them financially independent as early as possible,” she said.

Joji at work-1800.jpgBringing the Australian calibre of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to Mindanao

In 2007, Joji participated in an Australia Awards Short Course on Enterprise-based Development and Management of Technical-Vocational Education Schools. She joined fifteen others representing the entire Mindanao including the now Bangsamoro region. Upon her return, she applied the Australian model of technical-vocational course design and implementation in her institution and imparted her knowledge to several school owners and operators in Mindanao.

Using Australia as a benchmark, she was able to build five government-accredited international schools that offer senior high school, college and diploma level courses, and national competency level certificates across the fields of business tourism, hospitality, and management. Her vision was to create schools that were small, exclusive, and trained student to be responsible for their own learning. This approach allowed her students to develop a level of excellence at par with international standards. After three decades, her five institutions became the Joji Ilagan International Schools Network.



joji ilagan-1800.jpgThe Grit to Go Global

Joji’s ability to forge links and alliances has enabled her schools to become recognised internationally. She initiated a partnership with Technical and Further Education, New South Wales (TAFE NSW) – the leading provider of vocational education and training in Australia. After a series of training courses led by TAFE NSW, presentations to the Department of Education, and discussions regarding changes to their curricula, Joji’s school received Australian Certification. Subsequently, her faculty members also received accreditation.

The Australian certification resulted in tremendous opportunities for students. “Our students’ Australian-certified education gave them a higher level of confidence in themselves knowing that the quality of training they received was anchored to an international standard. This Australian certificate brought the world closer to them,” she said. Her schools also gained the recognition and respect of the industry and the business community.



Everything is possible

Joji believes that the key to her success was to see beyond the four walls of the classroom. For her, there are no limits. She still dreams that her schools will continue to expand to cater to students in the Visayas region. She is also working on international partnerships with Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia to offer Australian Certification to students from those countries.


Today, she is one of the most successful and celebrated women of Davao for her exemplary contributions in the TVET sector of Mindanao. Driven by her passion to change lives through education, she continues to empower young people through quality education in Mindanao and across the world.

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Ms. Joji Ilagan-Bian was the 2019 Philippines Australia Alumni of the Year, for her significant contribution to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector of Mindanao. She founded the MinTVET, a network of TVET schools in Mindanao, and has established foundations and schools in Davao City, including the first international school in Mindanao, that allows students to earn globally recognised certifications.



Learn more about the Australian Alumni Excellence