BY DONNA BELLA R. ILAGA
When leaders and officials of the countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meet in a series of events this year that will lead to the holding of the 50th Asean summit in November, pressing issues involving security, economy, education and cultural ties will be at the fore, as they should.
Topping the agenda is the drawing of a final binding code of conduct on the South China Sea, a process that has taken years.
The series of meetings will no doubt lead to the forging of several security, economic and cultural agreements aimed at breathing life to the summit’s theme “Partnering for change, engaging the world.”
We in the education sector are hopeful that the gathering of Asean leaders will also lead to the crafting and implementation of agreements or partnerships that will not only enhance education in the region but give more opportunities to the Filipino youth to further their reach and knowledge. This will also jive with President Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to promote Asean as a model global player and a leader in regionalism “with the interest of the people at its core.”
The Philippines has made big strides in education, the greatest of which was the implementation of the K-to-12 program that revolutionized the sector. Though still in its infancy, K-to-12 provides Filipino children the key to formal education from kindergarten to senior high school. Although the program covers only 12 years of basic education, graduating senior high school students are also given the necessary training on technical-vocation skills that may land them jobs that will allow them to earn money for their college education if they so wish.
The Department of Education is laying a strong foundation for the benefit of the Filipino youth through K-to-12 and the Alternative Learning System. ALS allows children or adults who do not have access to formal education to finish their studies in a manner that will fit their situations, which means that they can study anywhere and anytime. Under the program, children can enroll in basic literacy and adults can pursue their schooling via the Continuing Education Program- Accreditation and Equivalency.
These two education programs allows the government to deliver on its mandate to “support a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society, and encourages non-formal, informal and indigenous learning systems as well as self-learning, independent and out-of-school study programs particularly those that respond to community needs.”
K-to-12 was the result of the government’s desire to make education universal and to provide Filipinos the same quality of education enjoyed by their counterparts in other Asean nations so that they will not be left behind.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones was right when she said that education should be accessible, relevant, and liberating. Education does liberate people from ignorance and poverty.
The government, in pursuing reforms making education available to all, is in the right track. The challenge now is how to improve the systems and programs in place to enable young Filipinos to reach higher heights, not just in the country but beyond Philippine borders.
Forging educational partnerships and agreements with other Asean members can help meet this challenge, especially if such agreements will lead to the grant of scholarships that will allow Filipino students to improve their knowledge overseas.
Education, after all, is one of the keys to the progress and development of Asean countries. Pacts or agreements that aim to enhance education and improve sociaties in the region will benefit everyone.
(The author is Teacher 3 at the Baua National High School in Gonzaga, Cagayan)