[11 October 2017] Recipients of the Synergeia Seal of Good Education Governance say collaboration among various stakeholders is critical in enhancing the basic education of Filipino children.
In 2016, six out of 10 students in the municipality of Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, the country’s southernmost province, either struggled to read or could not read at all. This year, the proportion of non-readers and frustrated readers to the student population is down to about 40%.
Bongao Mayor Jimuel Que said improvements were slowly but steadily being achieved, thanks to the collaboration of various stakeholders.
“Change doesn’t come in an instant, so you really have to go tirelessly at it. With the help of Synergeia Foundation and the local school board, our town started a Saturday reading program which was eventually incorporated in daily classes. We allot 30 minutes to an hour to the reading program. The USAID (United States Agency for International Development) sent us books, while Synergeia sent teachers from Ateneo de Zamboanga to enhance the way we taught our kids,” Que said.
Recognition for outstanding LGUs
Because of improvements in the delivery of basic education in the municipality, Bongao recently received a Seal of Good Education Governance from Synergeia. Established in 2002, Synergeia is a coalition of individuals and organizations working closely with about 400 local government units (LGUs) to enhance the basic education of Filipino children.
Bongao is one of 24 cities and municipalities that received the inaugural seal, which also comes with a technology incentive package from PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications. The other recipients are Alimodan, Iloilo; Argao, Cebu; Bacnotan, La Union; Balamban, Cebu; Cabatuan, Iloilo; Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental; Concepcion, Iloilo; Dalaguete, Cebu; Dao, Capiz; Datu Paglas, Maguindanao; Diadi, Nueva Vizcaya; Diffun, Quirino; Ivisan, Capiz; Lambunao, Iloilo; Miagao, Iloilo; Mina, Iloilo; North Upi, Maguindanao; Santol, La Union; Simunul, Tawi-Tawi ; Solano, Nueva Vizcaya; Valenzuela, Metro Manila; Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya; and Tuba, Benguet.
"We did not base our assessment of LGUs on the size of their budget or the number of their projects, but on the outcomes of their efforts. We looked at their National Achievement Test (NAT) scores, cohort survival rates (the percentage of first graders who go on to complete sixth grade), and other measurable indicators,” said Synergeia chief executive officer Milwida Guevara.
Education as everyone’s business
Argao, Cebu Mayor Stanley Caminero said improving basic education required the collaboration of various stakeholders. “We used to have an exclusivist perspective: Education was the concern only of the Department of Education (DepEd). That is where we initiated a change. We tried to reawaken the sense of commitment of major stakeholders. The local government is trying to have a deeper involvement.”
DepEd Assistant Secretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said education was indeed a shared responsibility. “Everyone needs to pitch in – LGUs, the national government, the business sector, parents.”
Argao’s cohort survival rate improved from 69% in the academic year 2013-2014 to 75% in 2016-2017. Its average NAT score also increased from 74.23% in 2012-2013 to 78.05% in 2014-2015.
The case of Santol, La Union also underscores the importance of having LGU officials who make children’s education a priority in their governance agenda.
“We always meet with teachers and principals to see what the problems are. When they told us that they lacked classrooms, we had the old municipal building converted into class areas. We also give school supplies to students at the start of each academic year,” said Santol Mayor Magno Wailan.
The municipality’s cohort survival rate significantly improved from 52% to 81%, while its NAT score rose from 68.63% to 71.21%.
Technology to enhance learning
The mayors are hopeful that their tech incentive package from PLDT and Smart would improve learning in their communities. Among the incentives, to be given based on the LGUs’ respective needs, are a satellite-based communications solution and the Smart School-in-a-Bag. This contains a solar panel to serve schools without electricity, mobile devices, curriculum-based educational content, teacher training, monitoring, and evaluation.
PLDT and Smart’s support for Synergeia and LGUs is aligned with their overall efforts to enhance learning among Filipinos using technology tools and digital educational content.
“Tawi-Tawi is in the outskirts of the country. Technology would really help fast-track the flow of information,” said Que.
Meanwhile, Caminero said, “An internet connection would enhance research and facilitate reporting and documentation. We’re very happy to get the Synergeia Seal of Good Education Governance. It reinforces our commitment and passion to do even better in the years to come.”
“Advancements are usually found in cities, not in faraway areas like Santol. But now, we can catch up. We just have to persevere,” Wailan said.