Speech by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
BEAM-ARMM Alternative Delivery Model Research Forum
Asian Institute of Management
1 September 2015
• His Excellency Major General John Gomes, PSC (ret), Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Philippines
• Secretary John Magno
• Dr Ahmed Chowdhury
• Assistant Secretary Elvin Ivan Uy
Before I continue, I, together with my colleagues at the Australian Embassy, would like to extend our sincere condolences to our friends at the Department of Education for their great loss in the passing of one of their most reform-minded officials in the person of Undersecretary Francis Varela. Undersecretary Varela has been Australia’s close ally and partner at the Department of Education over the past several years. We are one with his family and with DepEd in this difficult time.
A peaceful afternoon!
Good afternoon to all our friends and partners from the Philippine Government; the development community; the private sector and our allies in the education sector, particularly the Department of Education both at the national level and at the autonomous region; and people from academe.
Education is a shared interest of our two countries. The Philippines and Australia have a long-standing partnership in the development of the education sector. This can be traced back in the 1950s during the launch of the Colombo Plan. Filipinos built and enhanced their knowledge and skills as scholars in Australia. Sixty years later, this is still ongoing under the Australia Awards Program. Related to this, the New Colombo Plan which was launched last year, lets Australians study and take internships in partner countries in the region, including in the Philippines. This will encourage two-way flow for learning and relationship-building, complementing the Australia Awards Program.
Moreover, Australia’s presence in the education sector development in the Philippines has become much broader. Through the Basic Education Sector Transformation (BEST) Program, we are supporting the K-12 reform agenda, to improve the quality of education, and assist in the readiness of those graduating from senior high school to engage in work, entrepreneurship or further education.
We do this because education is a critical component of human and economic development.
Critically, we also believe that education has a role to play in promoting sustainable peace. An educated population is better equipped to achieve and nurture peaceful and prosperous communities. This is the reason why, aside from our support to education at the national level, we give support at the sub-national level through the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Program, otherwise known as BEAM-ARMM.
We are very grateful to have dedicated partners for BEAM-ARMM in both the Department of Education (DepEd) Central and DepEd ARMM. I would like to congratulate Secretary John Magno and his team, and BRAC for jointly organising this event today, and successfully gathering everyone in this room. Of course, we are very grateful to all of you for your presence.
The Embassy is fortunate to have a great team of experienced implementing partners for BEAM-ARMM, namely UNICEF, the Bangsamoro Development Agency, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Cardno and BRAC. As my valued colleague, His Excellency Ambassador John Gomes, knows, I have a particular affection and regard for BRAC. For, you see, I began my career in diplomacy with my first posting to Bangladesh – now nearly 40 years ago! And I have an enduring love and respect for that country and its people. My posting, in fact, began with language training in Barisal, the home province of Ambassador Gomes’s new Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms Shahnaz Gazi, who’s here today.
BEAM-ARMM covers a wide range of education interventions. This includes: early childhood care and development, basic education access, training out-of-school youth in vocational and technical skills; improving sanitation and health in schools, and rolling out an alternative delivery model to get as many children learning as is possible. I will defer to my Embassy colleague, Ariel, to speak a bit more about the program and to Nazrul Islam of BRAC to share information about the alternative delivery model component later in the program.
BEAM-ARMM will continue until mid-2017. And I am pleased to let you know that we are at the very early stages of the process of determining how we can continue to support education in the Bangsamoro beyond that time. My team in the Embassy is looking forward to working with stakeholders on how we can best support education needs of the Bangsamoro into the future. We hope to contribute meaningfully to quality education that is accessible, inclusive and supportive of lasting peace.
We also do more than BEAM-ARMM in education in Muslim-Mindanao. Our Human Resource and Organisational Development Facility (HRODF) has been working closely with DepEd ARMM in modernising its workforce and in building organisational capacity through its systems and its people.
We are pleased to have been able to support teachers and education staff from ARMM to study in universities around the Philippines. And we have been able to send ARMM teachers to Australia under the Australia Awards program to study at our world-class universities undertaking Masters Degrees in education policy, administration and pedagogy.
It’s good to know that through these opportunities, teachers are able to bring back new experiences, knowledge and understanding, to share with their students, their colleagues and their communities.
But you may be asking again, why is Australia doing this?
It is to the Philippines’ and Australia’s common national interests to have a peaceful and prosperous region — and peace in the Bangsamoro, and a solid education for its people, are central to this objective. Australia, and I think I can say the international community, is a staunch supporter of the process towards peace in Mindanao.
Australia would like to see peace and stability in Mindanao – to allow development and prosperity to take place in the region. And again, we believe that Education has a core role to play in achieving these endeavours.
We cannot deny that ARMM education outcomes are amongst the lowest in the Philippines. There are many reasons for this, but chief amongst them is that decades of conflict have long denied communities access to a stable and productive education.
Without peace, we continue to engrave this lack of access into communities. The flow-on effects from a lack of education to communities is visible every day. A successful peace process will help children be kids, will help them access school, help them learn and help them develop.
Without education, we continue to deny communities the ability to help young people become more productive, to increase their employment prospects, and contribute to the peace-building process in their communities. We deny them the opportunity to use their education to break the cycles of conflict and of poverty.
Peace and education are mutually reinforcing entities that can be effective tools in combatting the cycle of fragility, conflict and poverty. Peace and education are intertwined and this is why Australia will continue to support both.
The education sector in the Philippines has improved and advanced substantially over the years. Irrefutably though, there are many issues and problems that remain to be confronted and solved. Thanks to all those who have worked and are working tirelessly, and many, selflessly every day, whether in the government or in the private sector.
Australia, as with the different development partners, remains to be your committed partner. We are here to continue assisting in addressing the educational challenges wherever and whenever we can. We hope this forum today contributes to bringing accessible and quality education to more Filipinos.
Good afternoon and Mabuhay!