DepEd: Reaching the last mile

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Photo by Russel Palma

Photo by Russel Palma

THE success of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-to-12) program, a scheme which adds two more years of basic education in a bid to upgrade the country’s educational system to world standards, will ensure that all school-aged children across the country are given equal opportunity to quality and accessible education.

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A high-ranking official of the Department of Education (DepEd) said that aside from preparing the Senior High School (SHS) program which will be rolled out nationwide in 2016, the Education department also makes sure that “no learner will be left behind” as it is simultaneously working on other “last mile” efforts.

Education Assistant Secretary for Planning Jesus Mateo noted that DepEd’s programs such as the K-to-12 Senior High School and programs for hard-to-reach learners like Pedals and Paddles Project, the Kariton Klasrum, LightEd PH, and the Abot-Alam Program need partnerships and linkages, citing the vital role of private sector and other stakeholders in institutionalizing educational reforms and ensuring the continued delivery of quality basic education to Filipino learners.

“Basically, all the projects of the department benefit everybody. Like for instance, we have partnerships with the private sector for our K-to-12 program,” Mateo said. “All programs of DepEd are geared towards what we called programs “with the heart” wherein many people will benefit from it.”

The Pedals and Paddles Project aims to ease the travel time of students through the distribution of boats and bicycles in communities that need them most. It is a partnership campaign between DepEd, Bike for the Philippines, and Yellow Boat of Hope.

“Through this project, we hope to help children who live in remote villages where transportation remains a challenge. We give bicycles to children who have to hike a long way to attend school, and boats to children who cross a river to reach their school,” Mateo said.

“We want to ensure that they attend school and perform well,” the DepEd official added.

The Education department has also replicated the Kariton Klasrum (pushcart classroom) of CNN Hero awardee Efren Peñaflorida Jr., that aims to provide street children, out-of-school children and school drop-outs aged 5 to 14 access to basic education.

“A total of 1, 606 street children are enrolled under the Kariton Klasrum. It’s like a bridging program wherein children aged 5 to 14 are encouraged to participate in the learning experience anywhere in the streets,” Mateo said.

Mateo added that the goal of the program, which is part of the Alternative Delivery Modes program of DepEd, is to send street children back to mainstream or regular schools.

The DepEd also has the LightEd PH program that aims to provide schools alternative source of energy. LightEd PH is a campaign that hopes to engage partners in expanding access to electricity and technology to 1,101,501 learners enrolled in over 5,000 schools that are still unenergized through conventional and alternative sources of energy.

“Thus far, at least 102 schools have been energized through the effort of Meralco Foundation and Global Peace Foundation,” Mateo said.

“Aside from that, we also have a “One Child, One Lamp” campaign wherein a total of 461 schools have energized,” the DepEd official added.

According to Mateo, the Education department is also implementing the Abot Alam program, which aims to reach out to out-of-school youth and enrol them in different programs and opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship.

The out-of-school youth identified during the mapping will be offered opportunities for education through the Alternative Learning System of DepEd and its partners, skills training and employment through Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and partner companies, and entrepreneurship opportunities.

“Through the Abot-Alam Program, out-of-school youth aged 15 to 30 will have to choose whether they want to continue their education or proceed to traditional competencies for them to work,” Mateo said.

“So far, a total of 776,000 learners out of the 2.6 million learners who have been mapped out by DepEd are now enrolled in this program,” he added.

He cited a study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) which showed that the number of out-of-school youths has declined.

“In 2008, there were 2.9 million out-of-school youths that made up 11.7 percent of the entire population. But in 2013, this decreased to 1.2 million or 5.2 percent,” he explained.

“The number of out-of-school youths has dropped because of various programs of the Education department like the Kindergarten Act, and other last mile efforts,” Mateo said.

He added that the gap between rich and poor, based on PIDS study, has also diminished in terms of attendance.

“Because of the feeding program, the gap between rich and poor has been narrowed down. We can also credit substantial reduction of out of school children on various investment programs of the government,” he said.

“Those programs that I mentioned are complementary programs to our K-to-12 reform. Our Kindergarten pupils, I suppose, would eventually go to Grade level and then Senior High School. That’s why we have alternative programs like our “last mile” to make sure that our children during early years should continue their education,” Mateo said.

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