EDUCO releases report on the state of education in Bicol

“This is EDUCO’s gift to children this children’s month of November,” announced Country Director Imelda Abalos. Today, EDUCO Philippines, a global NGO working in Bicol with the Department of Education, released a report which enumerates the major factors that affect Bicolano children’s learning and development. Some of the highlights of the report are as follows:

Results show that poverty is still the top reason hindering access to education. Thirty-six (36%) of Bicolanos are poor. According to the report, while education is basically free in the Philippines, poor families cannot send their children to schools without ‘baon’ or transport expenses to high schools that are often only in town centers, far from where farmers till land or fisherfolks catch fish.

Poverty is inter-related to the high incidence of child labor in the Region. The report cites data from the Philippine Statistics Agency indicating that 10.4% (218,400) of Bicolano children are child laborers.

The report also mentions that Bicol was short in classrooms to which the Department of Education Assistant Regional Director Tito Eco clarified that this data might no longer be updated. There might be a discrepancy because DepEd Bicol has already allotted all resources necessary to eliminate classroom shortages. Of course, whether construction has already begun on the ground, could probably be where the discrepancy on information is.

In terms of quality, the report acknowledges reforms in improving the curricula in education, like the Mother Tongue-Based education or K-12 and enumerated the challenges of implementing them in Bicol. The report identified gaps such as the “Bikol-Naga” being the only language used for teaching and learning materials for Bicol. The report also revealed that the number of high schools is unable to accommodate the number of elementary graduates in K-12.

Another gap shed light into by the report was the preparation of children to enter primary school through early childhood education. The mandate of putting up child development centers (daycare) is lodged in local governments units with support from the Social Welfare Department and the National ECCD Council, not DepEd. DepEd does not require children to have gone through early childhood care and development (ECCD) before enrolling to Grade 1.

Children without ECCD who often come from poor families cannot read or write which already puts them at a disadvantage in primary school compared to others who did. When this is the case, they are more likely to eventually drop out. Mayor Joan Lorenzano-Aquende of Castilla, Sorsogon highlighted how a local government unit can invest and run ECCD on the ground.

“It is turning out to be worthwhile to invest in education,” said Mayor Aquende. While most local chief executives are tempted to invest in short-term, visible projects like infrastructure, Castilla reached out to the private sector, National ECCD Council, and the academe to set up child development centers, train workers/teachers, and provide nutrition and health services in all its 64 barangays.

Mayor Aquende reiterated the need to institutionalize such programs, noting that Castilla is working on an ordinance to keep a steady increase of funding for ECCD and other programs for children in the municipality, as its own local economy grows. “If you lift up families, you lift up the whole community—an electorate like that can elect great leaders.”

In response to the issues identified by the report, DepEd Bicol through ARD Eco shared its plans and its vision for Education in Bicol, citing among others the planned expansion of Alternative Learning Systems to reach out to out of school children through an “Oplan Balik Eskwela.” DepEd also will definitely address the accessibility of high school and improve reading programs to ensure the quality of education in Bicol. They will likewise be investing in modernity, digitizing administrative processes like grading and lesson plans so that these will be easier for teachers.

Way Forward Solution: Partnership

EDUCO and DepEd both agree that a critical part of ensuring the kind of education that includes every child, fulfills their rights and responsibilities, and truly sets Bicolano children for a life of dignity and full potential is collaboration. “Public-private partnerships are at the core of DepEd’s mandate, especially in reaching schools that are in very remote areas,” says ARD Eco.

As evidenced by experiences of communities like Castilla, education is funded, implemented, and sustained by stakeholders when everyone is involved. Meanwhile, DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela has raised Php 1.7 billion worth of repairs and constructions for 2018 alone, a program that fosters community volunteerism.

Through this report, EDUCO hopes to have a closer collaborative relationship with DepEd in ensuring children’s rights to education in Bicol in the coming years.

EDUCO is an international development NGO, working in education and the protection of children, which runs projects in 15 countries which involve the participation of 500,000 children and 150,000 adults.