AMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 13 January) — The target beneficiaries are the Bangsamoro children and youth. The term “Bangsamoro” is an umbrella term for the 14 ethno-linguistics groups in Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. The Bangsamoro are primarily Islamized ethno-linguistic groups: Bajaw, Bangingi, Iranun, Jama Mapun, Kagan, Kalibogan, Maguindanaon, Meranaw, Molbog, Palawani, Yakan, Sama, Sangil and Tausug.
The Muslim communities in the Philippines can be classified as follows:
- Core Moro Areas – Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
- Traditional Moro Areas outside ARMM – Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), Region 11 (Davao), Region 12 (Central Mindanao) and Region 4B (MIMAROPA).
- Migrant Moro Communities in Caraga, Luzon and the Visayas.
- Converts/Reverts, Balik-Islam
The madrasah system was the education system in Bangsamoro even prior to the coming of the American public school system. The continuing government support to the public school system and the dissolution of the sultanate governments in Sulu, Maguindanao and Lanao contributed to the marginalization of the madrasah until it became what is today mostly weekend madrasah.
The recognition, integration and institutionalization of the traditional madrasah system became a key agenda of the Moro liberation movement and the peace processes. In the GRP-MNLF Peace Process of 1996, madrasah education was a key component. It was articulated in the Mindanao Natin Agenda and Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (2004-2010) under President Gloria Arroyo. In DepEd-ARMM, the position of Undersecretary for Muslim Affairs was created to provide policy and program leadership. It was during the leadership of Dr Manaros Boransing that the Roadmap for Madrasah Education Program (MEP) was developed.
The Roadmap is a 7-point agenda:
- Development and institutionalization of Madrasah education resulting in two curricular offerings: The Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) Program in public schools offered to children of Islamic background; and the Private Madrasah Program that recognizes traditional madaris (plural of madrasah) based on their adoption of DepEd-prescribed secular curriculum together with Islamic Studies and Arabic Language subjects.
- Upgrading quality secular basic Education – formal elementary and secondary schools serving Muslim children.
- Developing and implementing an Alternative Learning System for Filipino Muslims’ out-of-school youth.
- Developing and implementing appropriate livelihood skills Education and Training for present day students of Private Madaris, and out-of-school youth.
- Supporting government efforts to provide quality Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) programs for Filipino Muslim pre-school children. Under this program DepEd was able to develop ALIVE kindergarten that is consistent with the UNICEF ECCD standards.
- Creation of a Special Fund for Assistance to Muslim Education (FAME) by an act of Congress or through an Executive Order. Private madaris recognized by government are provided subsidy to implement the national curriculum and support the secular subject teachers.
- Improvement of the health and nutritional status of Filipino Muslim learners particularly in the public elementary schools.
The Roadmap remains as it is under the term of President Noynoy Aquino and under the current leadership, there is now a need to update and improve the program to be consistent with the policy challenge posed by K to 12 and Inclusive Education structure under the DepEd’s Rationalization Program.
Previously, the MEP was under the shadow of the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA). There was an effort to complement both policies. Examples of complementation are as follows:
- This includes integration of the ALIVE Program in the School Improvement Plan (SIP) where this program is offered. For the DepEd-recognized madaris to develop their own Madrasah Improvement Plan (MIP) that echoes the SIP standards in the public school.
- Influence the LGU through the Local School Board (LSB) to support the ALIVE Program in their locality particularly in providing additional compensation for contractual teachers.
- Develop program standards and processes while recognizing regional peculiarities through the Regional Operations Manual (ROM).
- The standards for ALIVE teachers will follow the spirit of the National Competency-Based Teacher Standards (NCBTS), while simultaneously responding to the unique challenges of the MEP, such as the need for Qualifying Examination (QE) to insure nation-wide recruitment is based on minimum language proficiency and subject matter mastery. Passing the teacher licensure examination will be required for ALIVE teachers to be permanent in the service.
- A rolling multi-year projection of new teacher hires largely based on the DepEd’s EBEIS and LIS to track Muslim children in public schools nd ensure they have access to the ALIVE Program; and using the PSA Muslim demographics data to track school-age children who are still not in school.
- The two-year Accelerated Teacher Education Program (ATEP) I is a quick fix strategy and should gradually be phased out as DepEd working with CHED, PRC’s Board of Professional Teachers and selected SUCs bring in the long-term strategy of developing Islamic Studies and Arabic Language as specialization in teacher education programs.
- DepEd has already created promotion pathways for permanent ALIVE teachers.
Gains were possible as there was an Undersecretary for Muslim Affairs at DepEd CO marshalling the implementation of the MEP. Given the new organizational structure within DepEd, all the more, there is a need for this office to be filled in to serve as conductor for the different MEP components that are no spread across several bureaus.
Indeed it is long overdue to have the MEP Roadmap, which was developed two administrations ago, updated. Now is the time to ride on the 2016-20122 medium-term development plan of the government. The MEP has to respond to the policy challenges brought about by the K to 12 and the Inclusive Education under the Rationalization Plan (RatPlan) structure.
On MEP and K to 12 complementation, opportunities abound: On MTB-MLE, what is its implication to the Arabic component of the ALIVE and Private Madrasah programs? On EsP, what is its implication to the Islamic Values component?
On MEP and Inclusive Education complementation: Where are the Muslim children in public schools who do not have access to ALIVE Program yet? How do we respond to the challenge posed by Muslim children with disability? How about out of school Muslim children and youth?
DepEd’s perennial challenges on access, quality and governance also impact and echoes in the MEP.
- On Education Access: DepEd is already offering ALIVE Kindergarten and Elementary and had also recognized the UNICEF-developed ECCD Tahderiyyah Program. The remaining challenge is expanding access to Muslim children in public schools not yet covered by these offerings. Now on its 12th year, DepEd has also produced about five to six batches of elementary ALIVE graduates. There is now need for DepEd to expand the ALIVE and Private Madrasah offerings in junior and senior high schools.
- On Education Quality: DepEd has arsenal of capacity-building programs such as QE, LEaP, ALEP, APO, ATEM and ROM. While the number of permanent ALIVE teachers is increasing, the bulk remains with the contractual teachers. DepEd has already updated the LEaP program. Programs like the ALEP, APO and ATEP have not been offered for the last six years.
- On Education Governance: While the ALIVE and Private Madrasah enrollees have now reached the 300,000 mark, the number of permanent teachers is still small. There are ALIVE teachers who have passed the LET but have not been awarded permanent items yet. School heads with ALIVE Program in their schools have not been trained on the program operations, and provided cultural and language immersion.
MEP manifests an inclusive government. The programs within inform that government tries to provide space and opportunity for Filipinos of Islamic background. This will be a continuing dialogue between government and the Muslim communities. Therefore, MEP has to be able to respond to changing socio-cultural, education and political environment. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an insider-mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue).