The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), along with representatives from the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC) and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), met for a pivotal discourse with DepEd ARMM last July 10, 2017, in the Manila Marriot Hotel, Pasay City.

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Fr. Joel E. Tabora, CEAP President, introduced the objectives of the assembly by presenting the following questions: 1) How can CEAP schools help ARMM today? It is especially important now in light of the situation in Marawi. 2) How can CEAP now contribute to the upgrading of our teachers in the ARMM (future, present teachers and administrators)? 3) would it be possible to explore the establishment of Private-Public partnership in the creation of a normal college for the ARMM? And 4) Can the assembly somehow help in the training of Muslims on the religious level, where Muslims would respect the constitutional provision on freedom of religion?

According to Atty. Laisa M. Alamia, ARMM is practically 70% Department of Education, and so 70% the entire budget of the regional government, is allotted to DepEd ARMM. She explains that unfortunately, the region is afflicted by the culture of mediocrity, corruption (especially within the administrative government,) and lack of integrity. They have acquired more than two decades worth of non-satisfactory graduates, who failed the entrance examination in universities outside the region. The students are disheartened to say the least, which breeds a defeatist attitude.

DepEd ARMM is struggling even with the basics. A case in point would be the struggle with implementing the CESO-CECE (Career Executive Service Examination Process) that requires at least a third level accreditation from teachers and administrators. The teachers do not even know the basics of English or at least enough technical knowledge of it to participate in advocating for the law or the more widespread engagements of their schools. Therefore teachers do not have specializations or degrees to empower their credentials.

Currently DepEd ARMM has 30,000 teachers; 9 school divisions (Marawi, Lamitan, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Maguindanao 1&2, and Lanao del Sur 1&2); 2,000 schools For 25 years before Sec. Magno’s term in 2011, there as been a faulty recruitment system for teachers. In 2012, for the first time in 24 years, the DepEd professionalized the recruitment process by adopting a three-pronged model of the CSE (Civil Service Exam); complete with 1) a psychological test and interview, 2) a written examination, and 3) a demonstration and/or research presentation.

Right now, trainings remain effective only for the short term. BEAM-ARMM (Basic Education Assistance for Muslim Mindanao) trained 13,000 teachers, but without follow-up data on impact analysis for the learners. There are no evaluation tools on these trainings.

For the most part, the children are the most potential recruits for radicalization. This is the case for post-conflict areas, and this is the case for Marawi. This is part of the reason why Usec. Alzad T. Sattar, takes issue with the purely Arabic traditional Madrasa. He says that in Marawi, the youth is linked to these Arabic traditional Madrasa where they are made to memorize the holy Quran and nothing else in service of their version of education. These traditional Madrasa do not have a unified curriculum, and are dictated only by individual administrators who vary in discipline and culture (i.e. Syrian and Libyan administrators). And so the ARMM has been exploring how we could regulate this traditional program, and advance for a unified curriculum.

Br. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, and Dr. Gina Montalan agree that the assembly is facing a complex problem and one cannot simply claim knowledge on the solution. The assembly must identify the points concretely and find the baseline information, and then include the responsiveness of previous mechanisms in place. They should consider an intervention that is not generic, for re-using previous attempts may end in vain. Mr. Rey Antonio Laguda points out that the intervention is to be done in broad strokes, because this is how we can affect real change.

Overall, the discussion centered on possibilities of assisting the development of teachers and administrators via training and exposure. The nuance of the topic explored the technical implications of such a venture—of defining what the group means when they say training “quality” educators; and of looking to the TNA’s (or Training Needs Analysis) of ARMM to identify specificities such as: Is this about developing their skills technically? Or training within the context of the K-12? Will the training focus on how to integrate values, and if so, will this be any different for the Madrasa, and the like?

So far, there is no clear resolution as to what the CEAP can do for ARMM, but there is a consensus that there is a need for further research that would hopefully lead to a drafting of a proposal that the CEAP can present to its executive board. A subsequent meeting is set for the members of the assembly to be held on August 4, 2017.

[Article submitted by Ms. Jennae Jereza, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines]