Why education should be a community concern

By Mario Deriquito
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:29:00 03/25/2011

THE BACK-TO-BACK community education summits held in Tiwi and Ligao City in Albay last March 16 and 18 show why education should be a community concern and what communities can do to help address basic education challenges in their localities.

The Tiwi and Ligao summits were convened by their respective local governments and the Department of Education. Each summit brought together close to 200 participants from the youth and students, barangay officials, parents, teachers and school heads, officials of higher education institutions, the religious sector, NGOs and peoples’ organizations, tribal leaders, the business sector, local journalists and of course the LGU and the DepEd.

In both summits, the participants came to a consensus that they face the four-headed challenge of getting all of their school-age children to school, keeping the children in school until they graduate, providing the children with quality education, and doing something about the out-of-school children and youth who have already been left behind. In different ways, all sectors are affected by this four-headed education challenge, and they can do something about the situation as a community.

These education summits are just the first step in what promises to be an exciting process for Tiwi and Ligao City. Smaller core groups are set to go through a team-building and visioning workshop, to be followed by a planning exercise to translate the vision into action. But even this early, many ideas have already come up for possible projects that the communities could undertake.

In both Tiwi and Ligao City, the LGUs and the barangay leaders have agreed to implement a program where the latter would ensure that every child of school age in their respective barangays is actually going to school. The barangay leaders acknowledged that they would be the ideal group to handle this kind of monitoring and they were even willing to pass the needed ordinances to carry out this task.

Another idea was for the locally based university or college to help the DepEd develop and implement an effective, needs-based training program for principals and teachers. A third idea was for the local business sector to provide manpower and technical assistance to the DepEd, especially in the area of training school heads on managerial skills. The list of creative possibilities was long.

The education summits are part of Ayala Foundation’s newest education initiative called “Enabling Education Communities.” In the course of implementing education programs over the years—bringing computers and the Internet to public high schools through GILAS and disseminating Math, Science and English video materials through a mobile technology-enabled teaching tool under Text2Teach—Ayala Foundation saw the critical role local communities play in making such programs work.

Ayala Foundation thought of creating a program around the idea of engaging local communities to work together on the education challenges they face on the local level.

The process starts with a participative exercise in identifying problems and needs, where stakeholders are encouraged to “own” these problems together and not just simply analyze local issues. Particular details vary from place to place, but the process focuses on looking at the performance of the children and the capacity of the schools and their leaders and teachers to improve such performance. The process highlights the need to promote the value of responsible and engaged citizenship among the public school children, and the need to improve the capacity of the locality, especially the schools, in promoting concern for the environment and good citizenship.

Stakeholders will also be helped to appreciate the value of data in making accurate assessments, to look at root causes rather than just the symptoms of problems, to identify the different people affected by the problem and those who can help address such problems.

The problems and issues will then be shared to a bigger constituency. To do this, the LGU, together with the local DepEd, will convene an education summit where representatives from the various stakeholder groups will be invited.

The summit naturally evolves into the formation of a smaller multi-stakeholder core group tasked with formulating a vision and a plan of action. A team-building exercise that draws on Ayala Foundation’s 12-year experience in implementing the Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC) and its five-year experience implementing a similar program for young Christian, Muslim and lumad leaders in Mindanao will hopefully create a stronger bond among the stakeholders. The team-building and visioning workshop will include inputs in Philippine history and heritage from the Ayala Museum and the Filipinas Heritage Library in order to enhance the participants’ appreciation of their being Filipino.

The entire process aims to produce a one-year plan consisting of a few focused interventions with measurable results aimed at helping the multi-stakeholder group achieve quick victories.

With this project, Ayala Foundation hopes to help build collaborative and effective local constituencies for education. Hopefully, these constituencies will continue, even beyond the project’s life, to harness the power of local multi-sectoral cooperation to make quality education a reality for all.

Mario A. Deriquito is senior director of Ayala Foundation Inc.

(Direct link to article: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20110325-327655/Why-education-should-be-a-community-concern)

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