Gov’t urged to ensure IP access to culture-based education

Published October 24, 2020, 12:05 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A group is calling on the government to ensure that Indigenous Peoples learners will have access to a culture-based education as the country celebrates the National Indigenous Peoples Month this October.

E-Net Philippines, in partnership with ChildFund, held a webinar entitled: “Advancing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to a Sustainable, Quality, and Culture-based Education” last Friday.

The webinar was attended by representatives from different ethnic groups such as Dumagat or Agta of north Quezon, Kankanaey-Igorot tribe of North Luzon, Aeta in Zambales, and Ubo, Teduray, Tboli, and Manobo tribes of Mindanao.

E-Net Philippines, a network of 130 partners and organization that advocate for education reforms, asked the Department of Education (DepEd) and the national government for “higher budget allocation” for the implementation of programs under the National Indigenous Peoples Education (NIPED) to help ensure that no one will be left behind, including the marginalized IP learners, in education. 

“We call on all stakeholders to work together in advancing the rights of our Indigenous Peoples,” E-Net president Prof. Flora Arellano said. 

This, she explained, can be done by providing for the establishment of community learning centers (CLCs) in 100-identified IP communities without access to government schools.

“Consequently, hire, train and deploy IP teachers to teach in these IP community schools,” she added. 

Citing a report it received, E-Net Philippines said that around 5,500 Lumad IP learners were “unable to enroll” this school year due to the pandemic and the lack of access to gadgets, electricity, and Internet.

Some alleged that they received modules that were not “appropriate to their situation” as well as to the culture of their sector.

Maria Lourie Victor from the DepEd IP Education Office explained that the agency is closely monitoring the data on enrollment and non-enrollment in public schools of indigenous learners from the IP communities. 

“We think that modular learning is still the best mode of education during this time of pandemic, given IP communities are very remote and online classes are difficult for them,” Victor said. 

Victor explained that there have been inroads in the DepEd’s National Indigenous Peoples’ Education (NIPED) program since 2017. “We have been able to serve 121,250 IP learners and around 2,177 teachers were hired and trained in culture-based education and most of them are members of the indigenous communities,” she said. 

However, Victor admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic derailed DepEd’s IP programs. “We are studying how to better reach our IP learners this school year as education for all should not be hampered even by a pandemic,” she added.

Bae Jennifer “Limpayen” Sibug-las, Commissioner for Central Mindanao of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), bared the current state of education for IP learners.

She shared basic and culture-based education is important to the 41 percent of IP communities, aged 0- to 14-years- old while continuing educational opportunities should be extended towards the 56 percent of IPs that are 15 to 64-years-old.

For Sibug-las, one of the best ways to help IP communities is by “providing more schools” which would translate to a higher number of learners with access to education.