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Saturday, August 25, 2007

DepEd pushes madrasah program

Here's a positive news on Education in Mindanao...

DepEd pushes "madrasah" program

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Last updated 06:03pm (Mla time) 08/24/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Education (DepEd) is stepping up its efforts to provide high-quality education in Muslim public schools through the madrasah program.

The program, which includes the implementation of a Muslim-friendly school curriculum, will require at least P2 billion in the next four years, according to a DepEd report furnished the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The Libyan government has pledged at least P200 million worth of textbooks for the DepEd initiative.

Madrasah, the Arabic word for school, aims to "positively contribute to the ongoing peace process, make the public education system more intensive and seek to improve the quality of life of Muslim school children through education," Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said.

The program is part of the department's ambitious Muslim Basic Education Road Map "in line with the government's Medium-Term Development Plan and its peace agreement with the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front."

"This is the department's modest yet significant contribution to the peace-building efforts by government and non-government agencies," Lapus said.

Lapus said the department recognizes the critical role of education in peace-building. "The school is where minds are formed and values are enhanced."

Three years ago, the DepEd started implementing a Muslim-friendly curriculum in selected public schools serving Muslim communities in Metro Manila.

In addition to Filipino, English, mathematics, science and makabayan, (nationalism) the Arabic language and Islamic values have been added to the elementary school curriculum.

According to Manaros Boransing, DepEd Undersecretary for Muslim Affairs, "this is to prove the sincerity of the department in providing free, quality education to all public school children regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation."

The DepEd also plans to put up what it calls "Fund for Assistance to Muslim Education" or FAME. The project will require at least P500 million in seed money from the government.

The initiative, another component of the seven-point road map for upgrading basic education of Muslim Filipinos, will be created "by an Act of Congress," said Boransing.

FAME is similar to the existing Fund for Assistance to Private Education or FAPE.

Under the program, the government will solicit "matching donations" from Malaysia and Brunei, its "partners in Southeast Asia for improving the quality of Muslim education in the country."

Other road map components are: upgrading secular education in elementary and secondary schools serving Muslims; development of livelihood-skills education for Muslim out-of-school youth; provision of quality education for Muslim pre-school children; improvement of the health and nutritional status of Muslim students, especially those in public elementary schools; and development of a special alternative learning system Muslim out-of-school youth and adults.

This year, the DepEd has allocated P100 million for the alternative learning system for out-of-school youth, said Boransing. "They are the product of extreme poverty and the continuing armed conflict in Mindanao. Their problems are the most urgent."

The program's main objectives are "to be able to positively contribute to the peace process between the government and our Muslim brothers and improve the quality of their life through education," he said.

Compared to the whole of Mindanao, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM registers the highest incidence of poor families and malnutrition, as well as maternal and child mortality rates.

A Congressional Planning and Budget Department report disclosed that the region has a "very low percentage of students in primary and secondary schools."

"Certainly, the region has the lowest level of human development in the country... More than 60 percent of the children younger than seven and up to 16 years old live in poor households," the report said.

Boransing said that the conflict in Mindanao has driven Muslims to other parts of the country where Muslim children have no access to the state-run education system.

According to him, the alternative learning program will first target Muslim out of school children in urban areas because in five to 10 years, they may become part of the peace and order problem.

The Libyan government has pledged at least P200 million worth of textbooks, all to be supplied by local publishers.

In 2004, DepEd Order No. 51 formally integrated the madrasah into the mainstream education system.

The DepEd currently has 459 public schools nationwide implementing the madrasah program, "excluding those in the ARMM," which is supposedly autonomous, said Boransing.

Like many of the other public schools, Muslim schools have apparently failed to deliver quality education "because of insufficient or irrelevant textbooks and instructional materials, lack of academically qualified teachers and lack of funds," said a DepEd report in the early 1990s (titled Making Education Work: An Agenda for Reform).

Boransing said "it's only during the Arroyo administration where the DepEd came up with an Islamic-friendly school curriculum for local Muslims. For public schools, we now have Arabic language and values education being taught alongside English, Filipino, Science and Makabayan subjects. For Muslim private schools, the Koran and two other Islamic religion subjects have been added. So they are now similar to Christian schools."

The DepEd started implementing these initiatives in school year 2005-2006.

The department has proposed to Congress a P260 million budget for this year's alternative learning and madrasah program "but we're only given P100 million."

"But we're working within the department that certain items will be realigned so we can get the budget we asked for. For 2008, we're asking for P520 million. For 2009, it's P700 million and for 2010, P967 million," Boransing added.