It is often perceived that for many members of indigenous communities, the simple aim of education is to be able to read, write, and count for the practical reason of being able assert their everyday needs without the fear of limitation and discrimination.
Listening more closely, however, to what indigenous peoples (IPs) have been articulating, what is needed is a basic education system that empowers IP communities to exercise their rights to self-determination and cultural integrity. Recognizing this assertion and the mandate to enable "all indigenous children have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality," the Department of Education (DepEd) is strengthening its partnership with IP communities to be able to implement its Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) Program consistent with their specific educational aspirations and vision for their ancestral domain.
Expanding Access to Culture-based Education in IP Communities
A major initiative, in line with DepEd efforts to expand access to basic education services in IP communities, is its identification of priority sites in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs), where relevant and appropriate learning modalities must be made available to learners. One of the key targets of DepEd is that by 2016, 300 priority sites in different parts of the country have been provided basic education access. In Mindanao, a total of 251 new public schools shall be established in school year 2016-2017.
"This is the biggest effort in the history of DepEd to establish schools for IP communities. Hand-in-hand with the IP communities where these schools are situated, we shall build schools where culture is respected and where learners are happy and feel secure. This is not easy and would require, as we say, 'tenacious consistency' on the part of DepEd, but we remain firm in our call and our hope, especially with the IP elders who are guiding us in this effort: Posible!" Mr. Rozanno E. Rufino of DepEd's Indigenous Peoples Education Office (IPsEO) declared.
DepEd is currently hiring 583 new teachers with permanent positions for these new schools in Regions IX, X, XI, XII, and XIII. The teachers shall be trained to implement the IPEd program in the said priority sites.
For the classroom requirements, DepEd has partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the construction of 605 classrooms through its Kalahi-CIDSS National Community-Driven Development Program (KC-NCDDP). DepEd has transferred a budget of P500 million to DSWD for this initiative.
Indigenous Peoples Education Curriculum Framework
In line with DepEd Order No. 62, s. 2011, or "Adopting the National Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) Policy Framework, and the IPEd provision of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, the Department adopted DepEd Order No. 32, s. 2015 ("DO32"), or an "Indigenous Peoples Education Curriculum Framework".
Through DO32, DepEd recognizes the importance of culture in the learning process of IPs. Therefore, drafting the very framework is in consultation with indigenous community elders, leaders, and implementers of community-based IP initiatives to keep the K to 12 Curriculum attuned to the educational, cultural, and social contexts of IP learners. This also allows for the establishment of institutionalized partnership between the IP communities and the schools serving them, and "the meaningful participation of these communities in the recognition of their Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs) and Indigenous Learning Systems (ILS) in the Basic Education Curriculum."
Various DepEd field offices and schools have started the process of working with various IP communities nationwide in curriculum indigenization and the development of indigenized lesson plans.
In her letter to DepEd teachers, school heads, officials and other personnel on the occasion of the National IP Day last August 9, 2016, DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones addressed those who "are now going into more intensive work and deeper engagement on curriculum contextualization and development of culture-based learning resources" and said that the "work is not simple and much more demanding than what is asked of us in our other education programs." She called on them to "remain focused and prove that we are in this with our indigenous communities for the long haul."
DepEd aims to develop at least 500 indigenized lesson plans by end of 2016.
Hiring and Training Teachers for IPEd-Implementing Schools
The Department recognizes the crucial role of teachers who are competent in facilitating the learning process aligned with the objectives of the IPEd Program. As part of the efforts to maintain an inclusive, equitable, and culture-based basic education system, DepEd recently issued DepEd Order No. 50, s. 2016, or "Hiring Guidelines for Teacher I Positions in Schools Implementing Indigenous Peoples Education Effective School Year 2016-2017."
Under DO50, DepEd intends to ensure that the hiring and deployment of teachers for Kindergarten, Elementary, and Junior High Schools implementing IPEd is consistent with the thrust of the K to 12 Basic Education Program to support culture-based education that responds to the IP communities' needs and realities. This complements its effort to train teachers who are already part of the system and currently teaching in schools serving IP learners. To date, a total of 7,767 teachers and school heads nationwide have undergone basic retooling on IPEd.
"Hiring teachers whose hearts and minds are open to the various realities, aspirations, and cultures of their learners is crucial in the education reforms that we continue to pursue, especially in IPEd. It is not only about bringing children to school, but more importantly ensuring that education is culturally rooted and that the elders, culture bearers, and the whole community are actively engaged and empowered in the learning process. This is at the core of the DepEd mission and our shared commitment with IP communities as we journey with them in their struggle for self-determination and their aspirations for their ancestral domain," Rufino explained.
Source: Philippine Information Agency