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News is both good and bad for education in the Philippines. On the one hand, illiteracy rates are on the rise and has reached 15 million (more on that bellow), but on the other hand organizations in Agoo continue to utilize literacy programs to educate the young and old. Recently the great work being done at Agoo’s Municipal Literacy Coordinating Council is being rewarded by The United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO awarded Agoo's Literacy Coordinating Council with the 2009 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy.

Agoo's Municipal Literacy Coordination Council receives award from UNEESCO

From fishermen to homemakers, from pre-schoolers to dropouts, from teachers to municipal workers - not forgetting the very young, the very old and the marginalized - the entire local population in the Municipality of Agoo in La Union, the Philippines, has the chance to become literate or upgrade their skills thanks to its municipal authority.

city hall

Agoo’s Municipal Literacy Coordinating Council puts the “All” into Education for All with its ambitious Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning Programme which serves the region’s 49 barangays, or villages. After garnering several national literacy awards, the programme has now won one of the awards of the 2009 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy. On one end of the spectrum, a structured literacy and post-literacy programme has considerably reduced the illiteracy in the region. On the other, scholarships are made available for bright children who might not otherwise pursue their studies. In between, income-generating programmes cover everything from welding to therapeutic massage, and include several indigenous crafts.

The holistic vision of the programme is evident in the six learning strands within the Accreditation and Equivalency Sub-Programme, namely communication skills, critical thinking and problem-solving, sustainable use of resources and productivity, self-development, a sense of community and expanding one's world vision. Education and training opportunities also include childcare, hygiene and prevention of infectious diseases. Farmers do capability training, enabling them to increase their yield and income. Teachers and municipal workers are encouraged to upgrade their skills, notably in computer literacy.

Many of the programmes are conducted in the four Community Learning Centres which serve the region. Activities in the summer day-schools for younger children take place “under the mango tree”. Travelling teachers and mobile libraries ensure that the unreached are reached. The leadership of the municipal authorities in identifying potential beneficiaries and in coordinating activities to offer them an education relevant to their needs has been credited as a key factor in raising literacy levels and sustaining lifelong learning in the region.

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The diversity of the programme is mirrored by that of its funding sources. The Municipality of Agoo coordinates the activities of many national agencies and non-governmental organizations: local, provincial and national government agencies provide half of the funding, a dozen NGOs provide a further 25 per cent donors account for 20 per cent and the private sector gives 5 per cent. This variety contributes to the project’s sustainability and was found “exemplary” by the jury for the Literacy prizes.

In providing a sustainable literate environment for all, the Municipality of Agoo is entirely in accordance with the ‘literacy and empowerment’ theme in the calendar of the United Nations Literacy Decade. The key to its ambitious, all-embracing programme is that it does not consider literacy in isolation but as part of continuing education and learning throughout life.

Source UNESCO

Illiterate Filipinos now 15 million, and counting

The number of illiterate Filipinos, which has grown to 15 million in the last 6 years, is expected to further increase as more children stop schooling every year, education specialists said on Tuesday. The unabated stream of dropouts, they said, may prevent the government from fulfilling its international commitment to provide “functional literacy” or adequate education for all Filipinos by 2015.

When the Philippines adopted the United Nations’ Education For All (EFA) in 2006, its initial goal was to make all Filipinos aged 10 to 64 functionally literate. This means bringing to zero the number of functionally illiterate population from the recorded 11 million Filipinos in 2003. Unlike basic literacy, which only requires the ability to read and write, functional literacy includes the ability to cope with the demands of everyday life, like problem solving and communicating. The Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), a survey to determine literacy rate in the Philippines every 5 years, showed that 11 million Filipinos lacks functional literacy, while 4 million Filipinos have no basic literacy.

From around 15 million illiterate Filipinos, the illiteracy rate is expected to increase with the more children unable to go to school, and with those in school dropping out, said Edecio de la Torre, president of the Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-Net). “2010 is a critical year for education. It marks the final stretch of the EFA 2015. Countries will be conducting its end decade-assessment to check the progress they had made. The Philippines will be conducting its own assessment and the picture does not seem to be rosy,” said Raquel Castillo, advocacy officer of Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education(ASPBAE).

In 2008, Department of Education (DepEd) reported that some 2.2 million children aged 6 to12 years, and 3.4 million aged 12-15 years, are not in school. Moreover, a 2003 Asian Development Bank report showed that out of the 100 children who enter grade school, only 65 graduate. After graduation, only 58 return for high school, and only 45 of them finish. To meet the EFA target, the Department of Education has carried out programs like adult education for old people who want to continue their education, and the alternative learning system (ALS).

This month, it launched Project ReaCh (Reaching All Children). This program allows public schools to hold another enrolment in October to accommodate about 5.6 million out-of-school youth. The new students will be provided “flexible alternative modules,” which would help them catch up with their missed lessons.

There is also the DepEd’s Project EASE (Effective and Affordable College Education) and Open High School program, which will not require the presence of students in the classroom, especially those who are working. Instead, they will be provided modules they can study at home. “Despite Philippine basic education being free, we still have a staggering number of school-age children and youth out in the streets who face exploitation in all forms,” Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said in a press statement.

For its part, E-Net launched “10 Days, 10 Voices,” a 10-day campaign that would place education as a center of election debates for the 2010 polls. The event hopes to highlight the situation of education as seen by teachers, parents, child laborers, indigenous people, and other marginalized sectors. Meanwhile, Literacy Coordinating Council head Norma Salcedo and E-Net vice-president Flora Arellano said that an increased education budget would help the DepEd invest in programs that would reach out-of-school youth and adults.

Arellano said that in the past years, the budget for education was only around 12% of the national budget, or 2.36% of the country’s gross domestic product. This is way below international standards, where 20% of the national budget goes to education. “The proposed budget speaks very little about quality, equity, the out-of-school youth, the illiterates, and the un-reached,” Arellano added. For 2010, DepEd proposed for P159 billion budget for basic education, but the alternative budget initiative of E-net and other education advocates suggests P165 billion. Arellano said the additional budget would fund the expansion of DepEd’s ALS program and other drop-out reduction projects.

Source ABS-CBN News