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Commentary

Thank you, Ms Letty

/ 01:06 AM January 02, 2016

Over a decade ago, Eggie Apostol, chair of the Foundation for Worldwide People Power, held a series of discussions with noted academics, education executives, business leaders and social scientists to see why the positive social and civic values that should have flourished after Edsa 1 had not taken root in our youth. They all said that the declining quality of our schools and the curriculums that they live by was a key reason for the weakened social fabric.

Reforming an education system toward quality and excellence is such an extremely complex undertaking that former education secretary Edilberto de Jesus once remarked that it should not be left to government alone. Reflecting this sentiment, the ensuing discussions evolved into a development strategy calling for private sector-led education stakeholder support at the community level to move the reform initiatives forward. We called this emerging people power-inspired movement “The Education Revolution.”

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To sound the call as clearly and as broadly as possible, Eggie Apostol turned to her dearest friend, Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The story of Eggie and Letty as journalists fighting against tyranny and oppression is the stuff of legend, but I’ll leave its telling to their “coworkers” at LJM Garments.

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I believe, however, that I speak for all education stakeholders here today when I say that Ms Letty helped changed the Philippine education landscape considerably when she made sure that media would lead an informed, popular conversation on meaningful education reform.

Letty’s efforts, on her own and through the Inquirer, have yielded significant results. When the Eggie Apostol Foundation launched The Education Revolution in 2002, private sector efforts were mostly focused on raising funds to buy textbooks and build better classrooms and buildings.

Today, the general public understands education cycles and learning strategies. In fact, education stakeholders—especially parents and students—now routinely demand inclusion in the development of relevant education policies at every stage of learning.

Media organizations, particularly the Inquirer, have played a great part in encouraging such progressive thought by linking us to continuing global discussions on the matter.

Take for instance the thematic consultation on making education a post-2015 global development agenda. This lively exchange of ideas has been taking place since 2010 among 194 countries, including ours.

Unesco director general Irina Bokova set the tone by saying that “education is a right that transforms lives when it is accessible to all, relevant and underpinned by core shared values. Because quality education is the most influential force for alleviating poverty, improving health and livelihoods, increasing prosperity and shaping more inclusive, sustainable and peaceful societies, it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that it is at the center of the post-2015 development agenda.”

The Unesco report on the thematic global consultation for a post-2015 development agenda raises several major points. For instance, it says, “The lack of political will to invest in education has been raised as a key concern.”

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The 2015 Education For All Global Monitoring Report puts this in context by saying that “For every child in low and lower middle income countries to benefit from an expanded basic education of good quality by 2030, there is an annual external funding gap of $22 billion. This is equivalent to just 4.5 days of military spending.” (Emphasis supplied)

The Thematic Consultations Report also says, “In many countries children leave school without having developed literacy and numeracy or other relevant skills. As a result, millions of children and youth are unable to advance to higher levels of education or to move on to gainful employment. Too many young people and adults, particularly women, are unable to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes they need for today’s rapidly changing technologies and world of work.”

The report points out that “The challenge for the post-2015 agenda is to reach a balance between meeting the right to basic education and the need to invest in higher levels of education for equality and for sustainable and inclusive growth.

“Given the dramatic shifts in the labor market and the influence of new technologies, the need to develop higher-order skills, including digital skills, is undeniable. It was noted, however, that a cautious approach in advocating for new curriculum areas should be taken in contexts where basic literacy and numeracy skills are lacking. Acquiring such basic skills for all remains a necessity, and has a profound effect on labor market participation and unemployment.”

The consultations noted that a major challenge in education and training was to establish better links with employment opportunities and employability. One recurring theme was that education systems are failing to equip children, particularly the youth, with the relevant skills and competencies for securing decent work.

See how far you’ve gotten us, Ms Letty?

During the Marcos dictatorship, you risked everything just so we could imagine and hope for a life of freedom and decency. Today, Philippine education reform advocates have the means and opportunity to share our views with the entire world because of you.

You have done a great service to the Filipino people many times over, Ms Letty.

Thank you, sincerely.

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines.

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TAGS: Commentary, Letty, Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, Memories of Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, opinion
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