DepEd opens first senior high K-12 curriculum for IPs in South Cotabato

LAKE SEBU, South Cotabato (MindaNews/19 May) — The Department of Education (DepEd) formally launched here on Tuesday the country’s first-ever senior high school curriculum for indigenous peoples (IPs) under the flagship K to 12 education program.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro personally led the unveiling of the pioneering education curriculum, which is mainly based on the centuries-old culture and traditions of the province’s T’boli tribe.

“This is a senior high school curriculum that is distinct to our T’bolis. It carries their values, dreams and aspirations, both as individuals and a community,” he said during its launching at the Lake Sebu National High School here.

Luistro said the specialized curriculum was developed by DepEd in partnership with the Davao City-based Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU), specifically through its School of Education and Department of Anthropology.

He said they earlier commissioned experts from ADDU to develop a culturally-sensitive senior high school curriculum for T’boli students here and other areas of the province.

The development process involved a series of studies, consultations and immersions with T’boli tribal elders and community residents, he said.

“It was quite a long process. ADDU experts had to go down to the communities and interact with tribal elders and residents to properly understand the T’boli culture, their way of life and other aspects,” he said.

Luistro said the T’boli senior high school curriculum, which will be implemented starting June or a year ahead of the K to 12 program’s full implementation, primarily focuses on the development of specialized skills for students on agriculture and eco-tourism.

Lake Sebu and T’boli towns, which host the tribe’s communities, are mainly agricultural areas.

The two municipalities host world-class natural eco-tourism attractions like mountain lakes, waterfalls, underground rivers, caves and other resources.

In a statement, ADDU said the initiative sought to “address the important aspect of an inclusive education, specifically one that empowers indigenous peoples and other vulnerable communities.”

“This is the first of its kind in the whole Philippines, for it is crafted according to the needs and aspirations of the indigenous peoples, with a curriculum that is not only anchored on the educational framework of the K to 12 law, but one that is strongly grounded in the culture, history, arts and heritage of the T’boli tribe,” it said.

In developing the program, ADDU’s Department of Anthropology initially conducted late last year an ethnographic research. It was granted by the T’boli tribal community with a Free Prior and Informed Consent for the conduct of the study.

The result of the research was later used by its School of Education in creating a curriculum that is “sensitive to the contextual way of life, the environment, and the common aspirations of the T’boli tribe.”

The completed curriculum was presented last month in a gathering of T’boli tribal leaders, parents, students, teachers and other local stakeholders here.

Luistro said the T’boli senior high school curriculum will serve as model or template for similar programs for other tribal or IP communities in the country.

“We’re targeting to also craft specialized curriculum later on for the other remaining IP communities,” he said.

Luistro said the completion of the special senior high school curriculum for the T’boli’s is an important step towards the Filipino society’s “search for its soul.”

“I think most of us are searching for that Filipino soul. We are a nation in search of who we are,” he said.

“To tell you the truth, my hunch is, until we’re able to turn to the roots of our indigenous peoples, we will never be able to find our soul,” Luistro said.

Meantime, Luistro dedicated the specialized curriculum to the late T’boli “National Living Treasure” Lang Dulay.

Lang Dulay, who is considered a T’boli cultural icon, died last April 30 at the age of 91 at her home in Barangay Lamdalag here.

“This also embodies her dreams and aspirations for her tribe. She will be our inspiration as we challenge ourselves to continue with her living traditions,” he said.

Lang Dulay was known for her contributions in the preservation of the T’boli culture through the tribe’s famed T’nalak fabric.

In 1998, she was conferred with the National Living Treasure (Manlilikha ng Bayan) award by the NCCA for her efforts in promoting the T’boli culture and for her fine craftsmanship as a T’nalak “dreamweaver. (MindaNews)