Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP110706 Launch of the Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples’ and Muslim Education (PRIME)

Launch of the Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples’ and Muslim Education (PRIME)
Welcome Remarks of Ambassador Rod Smith
6 July 2011

It is an honour to be here today at the Department of Education to witness with Secretary Luistro, the formal launching of DepED’s PRIME Program – the Philippines Response to Indigenous and Muslim Education. Australia is proud to be the program’s inaugural donor supporter.

I congratulate Secretary Luistro and DepED for recognizing and taking action to address the particular needs of indigenous and Muslim learners – many of whom are amongst the most disadvantaged of Filipino children in their access to a quality education.

PRIME is a program to tackle educational disadvantage, shown in high drop-out rates, poor participation rates, low completion rates and test achievement scores. Education indicators for Muslim and indigenous children are particularly concerning. Although good data is limited, there is evidence that perhaps 50 per cent of indigenous children and 30 per cent of Muslim children do not complete elementary school.

Applying the Philippine Government’s basic education reforms and improvements to all Filipino children, including those from indigenous and Muslim communities, will be essential to the Philippines reaching its goal of Education for All, and the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education. This is why PRIME is important.

PRIME is the latest example of Australia’s strong and longstanding partnership with DepED to improve access to and the quality of basic education in the Philippines. This partnership is a significant one: - over half of Australia’s aid budget to the Philippines goes to the education sector.

Our ongoing association means that we can continue to build on the successes and learn from our current and our past education sector support. In particular experiences of two major programs; -the BEAM (Basic Education Assistance to Mindanao) program and the STRIVE (Strengthening Implementation of Visayas Education) program have taught us much.

Innovations supported by the Australian aid program have improved the access of Filipino Muslim and indigenous children to a responsive and culturally-appropriate education. Under our ALIVE program, Arabic language and Islamic Values Education classes have been organized in 936 public schools across the country, benefiting some 54,000 Muslim students. 185 schools in Mindanao are now implementing a curriculum that is benefiting over 34,000 Indigenous children. Australian aid has also supported the introduction of school based management that has helped improve the quality of education by allowing the school community to make its own decisions.

Australia is proud to be a founding partner for PRIME as DepED now seeks to scale up and expand structures, processes and mechanisms to improve indigenous and Muslim education across an initial nine target Regions in the country.

PRIME will help DepED focus on the specific needs of Muslim and Indigenous communities. It will do this through the development of learning materials, training of teachers and adaptations to the curriculum to make teaching and learning culturally sensitive and relevant to children from diverse backgrounds.

Australia, as a multicultural nation with a rich Indigenous heritage itself, has some experience of the challenges involved in bringing a quality education to all children-whatever their ethnic, cultural or religious background. For us, it is meaningful that the launch of PRIME today falls during what we call NAIDOC Week – an annual event in which we celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; Australia’s own Indigenous peoples.

In this vein also, the PRIME program does more than just focus on the problems that we see challenging many Indigenous and Muslim children. Importantly it celebrates and harnesses the vibrant culture, knowledge and achievements that are there within communities. Working together, we can find sustainable solutions to achieving a quality education for ALL Filipino children.

Maraming salamat po at Mabuhay.