Ambassador Rod Smith
Visit to Institute for Indigenous People’s Education (IIPE) Center
24 June 2008, 1645H-1745H
IIPE Center, Mabini Extension, Davao City
• A pleasant afternoon to all. I would like to thank you first for giving me the opportunity to be here, and most especially for your warm welcome. Having just arrived in the Philippines last March, I am pleased that the first place I visited in Mindanao is Davao City.
• The Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao or BEAM project, an initiative of the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development, is assisting thousands of Filipino boys and girls in Mindanao so that they can have access to quality basic education.
• I understand among those being assisted by BEAM are thousands of indigenous people’s children in Regions XI and XII – most of whom live within a largely disadvantaged population in remote villages where education facilities are not easily accessible. Some of these school children – from the Matigsalog and Bagobo tribes of Davao – are present here today.
• IP children at the moment are at a disadvantaged situation where they are not able to fully appreciate education in government schools because their indigenous knowledge, culture and practices are not part of the curriculum. Living conditions in their communities also keep them from attending school.
• Like the Philippines, Australia believes that keeping more children in school and improving the quality of their education equip and empower them to be more productive members of their families and communities and also as citizens of their country.
• Australia is a multicultural society and like the Philippines, has an indigenous population. Our indigenous population have cultures which are among the oldest living cultures in the world. And like the Philippines, Australia ensures that these cultures are preserved.
• More than making education accessible to all, BEAM is also working to go beyond and make education relevant to different cultures.
• The different IP communities that BEAM is assisting have their own unique knowledge, systems and practices. For learning to be fully appreciated and achieve maximum impact, BEAM, in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), has developed a culturally-relevant and holistic curriculum and learning materials for indigenous children in elementary and high school.
• I am pleased to note that the Philippines Government has recognised and accepted this IP Education curriculum as part of their strategy for national adoption and roll out.
• I commend the individuals of BEAM, Department of Education, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Mindanao Economic Development Council and NGOs whose partnership has established this Institute for Indigenous Peoples Education Centre which is now contributing significantly to increasing indigenous peoples’ access to quality basic education.
• Australia hopes that Filipino IP children and generations to come, especially in the 125 IP communities that BEAM is assisting, will continue to be proud of their cultural integrity and be high academic achievers alongside non-indigenous children.
• Australian support also include establishing tribal/community learning centres as well as early-childhood education programs, distance learning courses, functional literacy and livelihood classes for parents and out of school youth. Through BEAM’s work, we aim to build the capacity of IP youth, leaders and educators in community-based teaching and folk literature and in documenting their indigenous knowledge.
• In closing, the Australian Government looks forward to more fruitful and productive endeavors with the partners, and hope that the Australian people’s contribution will go a long way in building a better future for Filipino children.
• Thank you and good afternoon!