Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP150514: Remarks at the Brigada Eskwela (National Schools Maintenance Week) 2015

Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
at “Brigada Eskwela" (National Schools Maintenance Week) 2015
Cuneta Elementary School, Park Avenue, Barangay 79, Pasay City
14 May 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen

Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

Today, I am very proud to mark the Embassy’s sixth year of participation to this annual tradition of Brigada Eskwela here at Cuneta Elementary School in Pasay City and my fourth year participating as Ambassador. This is something I look forward to every year.

We look forward to this every summer. Today and over the coming week, over 90 Australian Embassy staff with their families and aid program implementing partners will roll up their sleeves to wash and paint walls, and tidy things up as our way of helping prepare five schools in Pasay, Taguig and Pateros.

Australia started participating in Brigada Eskwela in 2010 and, since then, we have supported over 60 schools in Metro Manila. We have also assisted another 60 schools in Mindanao.

It is always fun to help schools get ready for the new school year. Brigada Eskwela allows us to work side by side with local communities and volunteers. More importantly, it allows us to demonstrate how much we in the Australian Embassy and I, as Ambassador, value our relationship with DepEd in action.

Education has always been a priority for Australia in its Philippines aid program, founded on a collaborative partnership with the Department of Education – and it is a personal passion of mine. And now, as we work with DepEd to support them as they roll out K to 12 – that partnership could never be more important.

With increasing globalisation, and the emergence of global benchmarks and economic integration, we live in a competitive world. As a parent or as an educator, I bet you worry about Filipino children’s future and their chances of success in this new environment. Do not worry, as that is what K to 12 seeks to address. K to 12 will allow young Filipinos to have increased opportunities to obtain a level of education that will prepare them for work or for tertiary education. That will enable them to meet the standards required internationally for recognition of qualifications, and give them a better chance to participate actively in trade and economic growth within the Asia-Pacific region. In effect, the country will have a better prepared and more productive workforce on which to build its future.

To help in the transition to K to 12, Australia provides a broad range of support to DepEd: in areas such as enhancing the capacity of teachers to teach better in the classrooms, creating more productive learning environments for children, building additional classrooms, and supporting education leaders and principals make better decisions. We also assist in curriculum development with DepEd. Furthermore, we partner with the academe and the private sector to improve teacher quality and increase the pool of high quality teachers in the public schools. We try to help DepEd in these things –which, I must say, and I’m confident you will agree with me, are very serious concerns faced by your country as you expand your education system to 12 years.

And, on this occasion, we are here to work with you to clean up your school grounds and paint your classroom walls, perhaps less serious than reforming the curriculum, but we chose to be partners with you in this as well. This is as close as we can get.

With this year’s Brigada theme calling for solidarity and group effort, our participation is to show that Australia is here to “maki-tayo” or stand with you.

I am reminded that Brigada Eskwela is a concrete manifestation of the Filipino “bayanihan” spirit. Did you know that we Australians have a version of bayanihan too? We call it “mateship”.

You hear us say “good day, mate” or “hello mate” all the time, and perhaps you have wondered what “mate” really means. Perhaps you have assumed that it means “friend”.

Well, mate could mean friend, but in truth, “mateship” has no precise meaning as it can only be shown through actions. Like your bayanihan, “mateship” involves relying on each other to reach a common goal. It can be understood through mutual helpfulness or a shared experience. It is equality, generosity and fellowship.

The Philippines and Australia have been great mates in education, with more than half a century of partnership starting on the day the first Filipino scholar arrived in the 1950s on Australian shores under the Colombo Plan.

Since then, a lot has changed but I reiterate that Australia is still your mate in education. You do not stand alone in reforming education for the future of the Filipino children. And we will be your “ka-bayanihan” in helping to ensure your schools are happy and are safe environments in which your kids are proud to learn this year and the years to come.

Thank you and good day to everyone.