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Quality education: the key to peace

/ 10:45 PM July 15, 2011

The Department of Education is currently guided by a 10-point basic education agenda that revolves around a 12-year Basic Education Cycle. Said agenda likewise outlines programs that reflect Education for All’s inclusive reform goals, such as Universal Primary Education (UPE), Madaris Education, Technical Vocational High School, Every Child a Reader by Grade 1, Science and Math proficiency, the Government Assistance to Private Education (GASTPE), and a Medium of Instruction based on the mother tongue. Furthermore, the DepEd works closely with local government units (LGUs) and the private sector to develop and implement programs that promote quality education at the community level.

It is important to emphasize that the Education for All’s overarching theme is “Education is a human right and a catalyst for development.” Here in the Philippines, education is the key to Peace.

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In a country where providing food for and ensuring the safety of one’s family take precedence over buying books and meeting learning goals, it is completely understandable that effectively addressing the challenges to quality education—especially in conflict- affected areas—is a task that demands unflinching resolve.

Making quality education a reality in all schools is a goal that we should continuously strive for, in our homes, in our communities, in our country. However, the path toward achieving this reality is fraught with obstacles and challenges that have so far stymied the reform efforts of every administration ever elected since Ramon Magsaysay.

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For instance, this school year about 22 million pupils and students have enrolled from pre-school to high school. To meet the problems that such huge numbers bring, Education Secretary Armin Luistro has reached out to the private sector for help in building more classrooms.

The private sector has been quick to respond through organizations such as Philippine Business for Social Progress, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the League of Corporate Foundations, as well as other private corporations and groups. The DepEd has likewise engaged LGUs as primary partners in classroom construction, hiring locally funded teachers and conducting school-based feeding programs. Secretary Luistro recently reported that a 50-50 cost sharing scenario has been implemented in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Albay, Dipolog City, Iligan City and Ligao City.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the National Development Support Command (Nadescom), is currently implementing PEACE, which stands for Poverty alleviation, Education, Alliance building, Community Empowerment and cultural preservation. The AFP envisions PEACE as its comprehensive national and community development effort. Following the lead of the DepEd, PEACE recently focused its efforts on the construction of school buildings in Bohol and Oriental Mindoro, with more buildings to go up in Lanao del Norte, Cagayan, Isabela, Leyte, South Cotabato, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Compostella Valley, Pampanga and Batangas.

Most notably, the AFP Nadescom has a learning initiative where a group of soldiers, pre-selected for teaching aptitude, will be trained to provide the DepEd with teaching support in conflict-affected areas. They will be trained in Alternative Learning methods and systems.

Likewise, Secretary Ging Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has initiated “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” or Pamana, a program that uses a convergence framework to bring development in conflict-affected areas by mobilizing support from various sectors. Pamana successfully engaged the private sector in supporting conflict-affected areas for education and disaster management. Its strategy consists of closing the gap in all issues affecting the condition of peace in the country.

However, sustainable development, especially for education, continues to be elusive in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Net primary and secondary enrollment rates are 14 and 33 percentage points lower than the national rates. The next two years will prove to be a critical period for socio-economic reform in this conflict-ridden region. A successful Pamana initiative in ARMM might well become the foundation for how an educated citizenry, starting with the youth, can be a bridge toward peace and conflict resolution.

These alliances and convergence of efforts that bring the elements of peace and nation-building together are essential in developing and integrating education reform efforts not only in conflict-affected areas but throughout the whole country. Secretary Deles says that “the peace process is sustained by hope and it is necessary to find shared solutions that will last.”

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Knowledge and understanding are still the greatest power that one can achieve to have, and through cooperation and convergence in education we can bring the power of knowledge and the promise of hope back to Filipinos.

Education is indeed the key to peace and progress, because a well-educated citizenry is the most important resource of any country. With limited access to education, the vision of a progressive and conflict-free Philippines could very well take several generations to achieve, if at all.

Ching Jorge ([email protected]) is the vice president of Bato Balani Foundation, lead convenor of Young Public Servants, and a trustee of the International Center for Innovation Transformation and Excellence in Governance.

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