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Commentary
ReImagining Philippine Education

By Ching Jorge
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:51:00 03/04/2011

Filed Under: Education, People power

THE RECENTLY concluded ?ReImagine?Pilipinas Bukas? forum brought together artists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, politicians and youth leaders in a three-day event that was an exercise in re-imagining the Philippines 25 years from now.

It was also an opportunity to look back and see the strengths and weaknesses of our nation given the 25th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution. How far have we gone and where do we want to go? What is our vision for our country and how do we achieve that vision? How do we take part in making that vision a reality?

Again, the answer lies in each and every one of us and the way by which we can empower our communities?and our society in its entirety?to actively take part in creating and bringing to life a ReImagined Philippines.

When the participants were asked to identify three issues that the country needed to focus on, the majority answer of course was quality education that was accessible and affordable for all Filipinos.

One common solution envisioned by the participants is for individuals to get involved in more programs that aim to fully engage the community and the local governments. Specifically this establishes mechanisms that would enable the community to actively and consistently participate in crafting policies and making recommendations to raise the standards for quality education. In effect, the vision of the participants is the building of education communities.

This scenario made itself very evident during Synergeia Foundation?s National Educators Summit where government leaders from different LGUs nationwide gathered to share best practices and challenges in improving education in their respective communities.

Of particular interest was the case of Upi, Maguindanao, which shared strategies in reinventing their Local School Board. To start the process of generating sustained community support, the local government convened an education summit where concerned members of the community and education stakeholders discussed and aired their views on Upi?s schools, teachers and the education system as a whole. To no one?s surprise, the perceived stumbling blocks that the Upi community needed to hurdle toward quality education included inadequate education funds, a lack of instructional materials, poor academic performance and low participation in education governance. The next step was to transform Upi?s school board?s character from a static, administrative entity into a progressive, empowered school board.

The participants said that they drew a lot of inspiration from Naga City?s transformation of their own school board, under former Mayor and now Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. A key feature of the Naga school board?s transformation involved the inclusion of community representatives from the women?s sector, religious sector, business sector, private schools and their people?s council. From the traditional role of budgeting and performing administrative functions, the transformed school board expanded to capacity building, performance measurement, resource mobilization and policymaking. They also made sure to include a home tutoring program for parents. This is truly an example of an empowered community working together to improve their schools.

By getting the LGUs together to share best practices in education through Synergeia Foundation, excellent programs are now being implemented from one city to another.

The Association of Foundations? Leadership for Nation Building, also a three-day workshop, comes at a critical time when individuals and organizations are looking within themselves for citizenship renewal. The role of an empowered civil society, as manifested by a vigorous NGO community, is a vital component to push reforms and make the voice of the people heard.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of enabling our leaders through programs such as ReImagine Pilipinas and Leadership for Nation Building.

Programs like these underscore the supreme necessity of discussions to articulate and clarify and redefine social goals and objectives. Moreover, activities like ReImagine Pilipinas also serve to rekindle and renew the passion and commitment toward a heightened sense of citizenship.

We now have to bring back this passion and the reforms closer to the people along with a vision and defined goals and enable all members of society to contribute to making this vision a reality.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution, where democracy was restored to the people by the people, we must remember that that same power remains within each and every one of us. That collectively, with the same vision and the same goals, we will be able to gain back the rights of every Filipino: the right to quality education, the right to due justice and the full benefit of the law, the right to a society free from corruption and political oppression. When we focus our efforts on building better communities and when we empower our citizens with knowledge that is gained from quality education, we provide opportunities and open doors to progress. Through quality education we can rise again.

Ching Jorge is the vice president of Bato Balani Foundation, lead convenor of Young Public Servants, and an associate fellow of the Asia Society. E-mail chingjorge@gmail.com



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