The country’s educational system has taken on a truly local and cultural “flavor” with the strengthening by the government of the Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) program.
This concept, introduced in 2011, has been an effective instrument in luring indigenous youth back to schools. It allowed members of indigenous communities to come together and help craft a program of instruction that is consistent with the beliefs, culture and ways of life of a particular group.
The Department of Education (DepEd) started its partnership with indigenous communities and civic groups in 2000 in its bid to establish an effective, responsive and contextualized education for indigenous peoples (IPs). This gave birth to the IPEd, whose implementation has been such a success that the department has reported a rise in the enrolment of schoolchildren in various regions where IPs reside.
Perhaps part of this success can be attributed to the further enhancement of the kinder to grade 12 program (K-to-12) to make the program of instruction and the learning module more applicable and responsive to the educational needs of IPs, be they Manobos or Higaonons, Blaans or Tibolis in the South or the Ibalois, Isnegs or Ifugaos in the far North.
Based on DepEd records, enrolment in Region 10 where the Higaonons, Manobos, Kamiguins, Tigwahanons, Talaandigs, Subanens, and other indigenous peoples live had increased by almost 100 percent from 2013 to 2016 because of the implementation of an enhanced IPEd in elementary and high school.
The jump has been attributed to the willingness, and emerging sense of pride, of indigenous peoples to admit to their ethnicity.
Other regions that have seen the positive outcome of the IPEd had taken steps to improve the program and turn it into a resounding success in their areas too. Just recently, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) launched its own Regional IPEd Roadmap for 2016-2022, an improved version of its IPEd Roadmap for 2011-2016.
Under this enhanced program, the region decided to boost the training of program supervisors and district supervisors in areas where all students are members of indigenous groups.
In addition to that, the DepEd-CAR partnered with leaders and elders of indigenous groups in the formulation of cultural standards that will be part of the Learning Resources Management and Development System (LRMDS) and used to assess the cultural accuracy and suitability of learning materials.
When the leaders and elders of IPs have a hand in the crafting of learning materials and instructions, the success of an educational program is guaranteed. Just like in peace negotiations, participatory discussions and a broad exchange of ideas and proposals are necessary.
With the DepEd’s willingness to enlist the help of members of IPs in its bid to improve education for various groups and tribes, there is no reason for IPEd to falter or fail. This scheme is the key to the education of all youths, regardless of their ethnicity.
(The author is the Principal 2 of Iluro National High School in Rizal, Cagayan)