Australia rolls out new 9-year education program in ARMM with P3.6-billion donation

DAVAO CITY—The Australian government is implementing this year another education program in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for children in their early grade levels to upgrade the learning competencies of schoolchildren in the region.

A fresh P3.6 billion was infused to the Education Pathways to Peace in Mindanao (Pathways), a program funded by the Australian government, coming after it successfully implemented two previous programs, the 10-year Basic Education Assistance in Mindanao project launched in 2002 and the Basic Education Assistance for Muslim Mindanao implemented from 2012 to 2017.

Pathways is a nine-year program designed to improve the delivery of basic education and contribute to peace-building in the ARMM, the program communication dispatch said.

Education Secretary Rasol Mitmug Jr. of the ARMM said Pathways would work on improving the science, math and English language, the core areas of competencies the program would like to strengthen among children enrolled in kindergarten and grades 1 to 3.

“The emphasis is on the K to 3 levels, noting the significance of quality basic education as the foundation for lifelong learning. We believe if we equip our grade-schoolers, they’ll be better prepared for intermediate, secondary and tertiary education, as well as technical and vocational training,” he said.

Pathways would be tested first in some schools and classrooms, as it also tests the result of its training of teachers, the approaches and methodologies to apply. It would be scaled up to all the schools after the piloting of the program.

He said Pathways would support the Philippine government’s effort to strengthen its core education services “with a focus on institutional strengthening; curriculum, learning and delivery; teacher management and teaching quality; and policy, planning and data management.”

“With support from Pathways, DepEd [Department of Education]-ARMM will be investing heavily in evidence-based programs and approaches in our effort to improve the delivery of basic education in this part of the country,” he said.

Pathways was launched here in March last year by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop MP, together with Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia of the National Economic Development Authority, Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and ARMM Regional Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia.

Mat Kimberley, Australian Embassy deputy head of mission and who attended the launching of the program here, said Pathways would build on the gains of Australia’s previous programs in the ARMM, as it would also “closely engage education stakeholders, and promote innovation in education.”

“Australia is committed to our partnership with the Philippines, a seven-decade-long bilateral relationship that has gone from strength to strength. Australia remains the Philippines’s largest development partner in the education sector,” he said.

The program communication said Pathways would be implemented by a consortium of “Palladium, a global leader in the design, development, and delivery of positive impact; the Australian Council for Educational Research, a world leader in educational measurement and support for educational improvement in developing countries; and Orient Integrated Development Consultants Inc. (OIDCI), a Philippines-based community development organization with over 30 years of experience in governance and institutional development.

The communication dispatch said the OIDCI “has extensive experience in Mindanao, including with Bangsamoro communities.”