UNESCO chief commends PH education reforms

Published by rudy Date posted on April 12, 2011

UNESCO’S Irina Bokova believes that quality education can be acheived through adequate and capable teachers.

MANILA, Philippines — Education, they say, is the great equalizer.

The United Nations (UN) certainly believes in same thing, as it included the attainment of universal primary education as one of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG). And as the 2015 deadline for the achievement of these MDGs draws nearer, there is certainly more pressure on the Philippine government to do more.

This was stressed even further by the recent visit of Irina Bokova, the newly-appointed director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Bokova was in the country for a four-day visit that included a meeting with President Aquino and Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro; a visit to the Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and receiving an honoris causa from the Philippine Normal University.

Bokova was also awarded the University of Santo Tomas’ (UST) Golden Cross Award during her stay. The Golden Cross Award is given by UST to persons who excel in the promotion of the arts, humanities and the sciences, or those who have distinguished themselves by their commitment to the service of humankind.

“This is my first official visit to the Philippines. We do work with the Philippines in education and the protection of biodiversity, water management. We are promoting the protection and preservation of historic and national sites that the Philippines has on the World Heritage List,” she shared during her meeting with the Philippine press at UST.

K-12 commended
Bokova revealed that achieving primary education for all was not a problem unique to the Philippines, but is something that countries all over the world are currently grappling with.

“Achieving primary education for all is considered one of the most important goals of the international community. Our Global Monitoring Report shows that the children are marginalized in education for two different reasons. One of them is poverty. Sometimes it is because they are an ethnic minority, they don’t speak the language, sometimes they are disabled children,” she says.

As such, Bokova praised the country for increasing the budget for education, as well as taking steps towards adopting the K-12 program that most of the world already applies to its educational system.

“It’s an effort of the government that I commend. It’s a political commitment on behalf of the government on education,” she says. “This extension should not be viewed either-or. I think measures for poverty alleviation should continue alongside this extension.”

Bokova stressed that poverty alleviation was an important factor in achieving the MDG of universal primary education, and that a good program would also cut off school drop outs, which she says was becoming the new focus of UNESCO’s education agenda.

“Financial programs in school, feeding programs, medical programs, have an incredibly positive impact. Brazil has a ‘Bolsa de Familia’ program that supports families for sending their kids to school,” she says. “We are also working towards education with sustainability. Equally important is that children complete school.”

Pushing tech-voc and RH
Bokova also expressed her support for instruction in the mother language, as well as pushing for technical and vocational training as a means of poverty alleviation.

“We promote strongly primary education for indigenous peoples, we promote education in the mother tongue with the language of the minority. We’ve seen in other parts of the world this type of education getting incredibly good results,” she shares. “Secondary education is getting more important nowadays for the inclusion of young people in overcoming poverty. We can see that technical and vocational training for young people is very important for overcoming poverty.”

And while Bokova was also supportive of teaching reproductive health in school, she did leave a little leeway with regards as to when the appropriate time is to teach it to children.

“Education is important from the point of view of making choices, health concerns, and we do believe that on the whole that education and maternal care is interconnected. The more educated a person is, the more child mortality goes down,” she says. “But it is still very important to respect cultural diversity as we work on maternal health issues. I think every society and every country finds their own way.”

Lastly, Bokova aired a call for the government to ensure that the country’s children not only have an education, but a quality one.

“We at UNESCO have developed a more holistic view on education and I believe that the problem of the quality of education is probably the number one. You have to look at teachers. Do you have sufficient teachers? Are you training the teachers? Do the teachers have a dignified position in society? Is there access to new technology for teachers’ training?” she ends. –RONALD S. LIM, Manila Bulletin

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