Australia adds A$541-M more for basic education reforms in conflict areas

Bob McMullan, Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, said in a press statement released Wednesday (April 9) that the assistance will focus on improving various basic education programs across the country, especially in areas affected by conflicts in Mindanao.

He said it will help the national government "ensure public schools reach and maintain higher standards of basic education and increase young Filipinos' access to education."

The Australian government is a lead international donor in basic education programs in the country, among them the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM), and has been taking part in discussions on reform of the education sector.

McMullan said the fresh grant assistance, which will run until 2011, will be released through a World Bank trust fund in support government's basic education reforms.

He said it will fund the construction of teaching and learning resource centers across the country, including classrooms and teaching materials in disadvantaged elementary schools in Mindanao.

"Australian education development assistance to the Philippines is focused on improved
schooling in the Southern Philippines, a region that has suffered due to conflict," McMullan noted.

The Australian government has provided around Aus$570 million in development assistance to the Philippines during the past decade.

Under the new Australia-Philippines Development Assistance Strategy, Australia will provide more than Aus$100 million to the Philippines until the end of the year.

The BEAM program, which was initially implemented in two stages from January 2002 until to December 2006, covers Region XI (Southern Mindanao), Region XII (Southwestern Mindanao) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The program, which has already established more than 120 learning centers in Mindanao, primarily aims to improve the quality and access to basic education in the island and eventually contribute to the attainment of peace and development, its briefer cited.

The program covers four components: human resource development, materials development, increasing access and project management, monitoring and evaluation.

The Philippines' contribution to the program is managed by the Department of Education's Educational Development Projects Implementation Task Force while the government of Australia's through the Australian managing contractor Sinclair Knight Merz. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)