One hundred days after the change of administration, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday iterated that its commitment to intensify efforts to provide quality, accessible, inclusive, and liberating basic public education for all Filipino learners.
"The role of education in improving and uplifting the living standards of disadvantaged groups in the Philippines is not lost in the administration's agenda, in fact, it is the focal point of every reform and continuity that we have been carrying out in our first 100 days," DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones stated.
In a report recently issued by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the body stated its concern over the need to strengthen the country's public education sector by increasing the education budget; improving access to quality education for all, particularly the indigenous peoples, children with disabilities, and rural poor; and closer regulation of private schools.
With a 32-percent increase in the 2017 proposed P567.56 billion budget for education, the current administration is determined to push the budget allocation closer to the international standard of six percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Such increment to the public education fund has also driven the administration to strengthen its financial management by establishing reforms that ensure availability and delivery of learning resources in both formal and non-formal education.
Aside from the traditional financing provided by the national budget, DepEd aims to further augment its capacity to enhance facilities and human resources by strengthening its partnerships with local government units (LGUs), development partners, and other stakeholders to support all learners, specifically those who are disadvantaged and underserved.
Joint initiatives between DepEd and non-government and civil society organizations are also indicative of strengthened partnerships. One significant push is the implementation of Abot-Alam Program that aims to map out-of-school youths (OSYs) ages 15 to 30, either unemployed or have not completed basic or higher education, and match them to appropriate program interventions.
This kind of partnership also enabled DepEd to ensure learners in disadvantaged areas with access to schools. Through Pedals and Paddles program, learners from far-flung areas are provided with 35,374 bicycles and 1,216 boats, while Kariton Klasrum (Classroom Cart) provided street children, out-of-school children, and school dropouts with access to basic education.
The Department continues to establish projects and programs geared toward the realization and full development of a fully realized Filipino, including learners with disabilities. In 2015, 263,809 learners with special and various exceptionalities have been served through the Special Education (SPED) program.
The creation of the Special Curricular Programs and Student Inclusion allows the development of an Inclusive Education Framework (IEF), which will determine the basic education requirements and improve the planning and monitoring of related programs to better serve children with special needs, especially learners with hearing impairment.
Furthermore, in keeping with the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) policy, DepEd implements the Mother Tongue Curriculum Guide which highlights Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the mother tongue of learners with special needs.
To aid educators in effective teaching-learning process, teachers are provided with relevant training. Bolstering this measure, the Department implements a classroom-level language mapping, through DepEd Order No. 55, series 2016, which includes sign language for deaf learners. The results of which will be used across governance levels, from planning and policy development to capacity building of teachers.
Marginalized learners, especially those from remote rural areas, are the primary focus of DepEd's enhancement and expansion of the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Comprised of Basic Literacy Program (BLP) and Accreditation and Equivalency Program (A&E), the non-formal education program is a viable option to formal basic education for out-of-school youths (OSYs) and adults, and school dropouts.
DepEd also continues to implement Alternative Learning Modes (ADMs) that bring quality formal education to working learners, learners living far from school, and learners at risk of dropping out. Meanwhile, the Department is vigorously strengthening its multi-grade program to complete elementary schools and accommodate learners in sparsely populated, isolated, and far-flung areas.
To enable all indigenous children have access to and complete free and compulsory quality primary education, DepEd continues to strengthen the enabling conditions for culture-based education through its National Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) program. Key target of the Department are to provide basic education access to 300 priority IP areas before the end of 2016, and to construct a total of 251 new public schools in the school year 2016-2017.
Through continuous capacity building for teaching and non-teaching personnel, contextualization of the curriculum, development of culturally appropriate learning resources, and increase in budget allocation and education infrastructure, the Department strives to ensure that IP learners are well included in the fold of the country's enhanced quality basic education.
Briones also emphasized that basic education through the private sector must not be seen as a hindrance to providing quality basic education for Filipino learners. As of 2015, there are 16,428 private schools out of the 63,167 elementary and secondary schools in the Philippines. For the Education chief, these private institutions actually provide options to the needs and career goals of learners and their families.
Through the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) and the Senior High School (SHS) Voucher Program, the government provides financial assistance for learners who wish to pursue high school education in private schools. The program, in turn, also assists in decongesting class sizes and strengthens the thrust that education for all is the shared responsibility of all sectors.
While DepEd supports the delivery of basic education through private institutions, it also sets standards that govern the establishment of private schools. Through the DepEd Order No. 88, series 2010, the Department issued a manual of regulations for private schools in basic education that also covers the process of applying to establish a school and the sanctions for those that fail to sustain the appointed guidelines.
Education for All
"Engaging the participation of every sector is ensuring the delivery of quality basic education for every Filipino learner. We intend to review and fortify every possible partnership to ensure that at the end of the day, our learners are enabled to move past the limits of their background and to move toward a life of competence and opportunities," the Education chief concluded.
Source: Philippine Information Agency