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“No student should be left behind” – EDCOM 2 visits BARMM to tackle education challenges


“Ang pag unlad ng isang bansa, hindi magiging kumpleto kung mayroon tayong isang rehiyon, isang probinsya, isang LGU, na maiiwanan,” says Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM 2) Co-Chairperson Senator Win Gatchalian during the Commission’s 2-day consultative visit in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). 

To fulfill its mandate to study, analyze, and make recommendations to the national government on necessary reforms to improve the education system, the EDCOM 2 conducted its first visit to the Bangsamoro for a comprehensive education consultation, from July 8 to 9, 2024. 

The Commission met with BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Al-Hajj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim, Basic, Higher, and Technical Education Minister Mohagher M. Iqbal, Health Minister Dr. Kadil Sinolinding, Jr., Member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament MP Eddie Ali, Cotabato City Mayor Mohammad Ali “Bruce” Matabalao, and the Director-Generals from the MBHTE. 

During the dialogue, EDCOM II  aligned with BARMM and its Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE) on its priorities in education, with the aim of delivering a balanced, inclusive, and quality education that will reflect the history and aspirations of the Bangsamoro, and contextualize its priorities in support of strengthening BARMM’s sub-education system. This direction of EDCOM 2 also aligns with RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to give communities stronger autonomy in building their sub-education system within the national system. 

“Our national education system needs massive reforms. We cannot do business as usual. That is the reason why we are also looking at the entire system, including the system in our lone autonomous region in the Philippines. We recognize that the BARMM operates under the subsystem in education. However, we also recognize that in order for the entire Philippine education to improve, all regions including subsystems, and all provinces including different systems should be looked at and analyzed,” explained Senator Gatchalian. 

Sustainable, contextualized solutions

Just like the other regions, BARMM presents unique and serious challenges in both access and quality education. According to the 2019 Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey, BARMM had the lowest basic literacy rate at 83.2%. 

“To achieve our goal of having one Bangsamoro professional in every family and no Bangsamoro student left behind, we therefore need all hands on board. I hope that by coming together today, we can identify comprehensive approaches to addressing the systemic and structural issues facing the education sector and work toward reforming the education system at large in the BARMM”, says Chief Minister Ebrahim in his opening statement. 

MBHTE Minister Mohagher Iqbal also echoed the need for a contextualized approach to address education concerns in BARMM. “The journey to improve education in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a challenging yet essential endeavor. Strong collaboration between the national government and the Bangsamoro government is the only way to effectively address critical priority areas. These include contextualizing our curriculum to reflect the unique cultural and historical background of the Bangsamoro, comprehensive teacher development programs, effective school-based management, and the provision of adequate school facilities and learning materials,” says Minister Iqbal.

FGDs with TEIs, school community

The newly formed EDCOM 2 BARMM standing committee members, Engr Addie Unsi, President of Mindanao Center for Integrated Lifelong Learning Inc. and Civil Society Strengthening Specialist of The Asia Foundation; ABC + Chief of Party Ms Ina Aquino; and Dr. Ma. Arsenia C. Gomez, Director of the Research Management Office of the Philippine Normal University Manila also joined the visit and facilitated discussions with members of the school community. 

During the 2 day activity, the Commission met with Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) and exchanged insights on the challenges and needs in pre-service education, collaboration and support for TEIs, and quality of the curriculum. While there are existing seminars and workshops, the TEIs expressed the need for a more extensive training and support that aligns with the DepEd curriculum, highlighting the need for clarifying the relationship between the DepEd and the MBHTE.

This was reiterated in the discussion with school principals, with many sharing the need for improved coordination, as well as technical assistance in matters such as teacher training, school infrastructure, and curriculum development.

Since its establishment, the Commission has been conducting consultations in different areas of the country. “We look forward to working closely with BARMM to better understand the education challenges faced by the Bangsamoro, and to jointly strategize on how it could be addressed. We also look forward to learning from their best practices, for example, in reducing stunting in such a short period of time,” said EDCOM 2 Executive Director Karol Mark Yee. 

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