Empowering Minds: Joji Ilagan’s Mission to Transform Education in Mindanao and Beyond

Bringing the Australian calibre of Technical and Vocational Educatioand 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.

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. 

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.

After three decades, her five institutions became the Joji Ilagan International Schools Network.

The Grit to Go Global

To make her schools internationally recognised, 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 network of schools received Australian Certification. Subsequently, her faculty members also received accreditation.

“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,” Joji said.

Her schools also gained the recognition and respect of the industry and the business community. Over 20,000 students, mostly from Mindanao, have trained in her schools and are now able to build their careers and support their families. One of them is Chef Reyhan William Teo – one of Davao City’s up-and-coming chefs – who opened Vines by Garden Café, a growing Thai restaurant chain in Davao City.

Anything is possible

Joji believes that the key to her success is her ability 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.


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.