Australia vows continued support for ‘declining’ RP education

By PIA LEE-BRAGO – The Australian government will continue to support Philippine education to help arrest the decline in the quality of the local education system and low student achievement rate. First Secretary Deo Mwesigye of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) said the local education system’s performance has been declining and it is vital that the system be strengthened with Australia’s support.

“The education standard in the Philippines is declining and it is characterized by a low achievement rate. Proficiency in English and language is declining, putting at risk Philippine competitiveness in the world market,” Mwesigye said.

The Australia government is among the Philippines’ top aid donors, with at almost A$570 million in aid in the last decade alone.

For 2007-2008, Australia ’s aid program in the Philippines has grown to A$100.6 million (P3.96 billion) from 2006-2007’s A$70 million (P2.7 billion).

AusAID said the education standards in the Philippines, historically, were above regional averages and Philippine workers were recognized for their skill levels in national and international markets.

It pointed that the resulting lack of investment in public education is eroding the competitiveness of the economy and exacerbating poverty.

AusAID said the ratio of pupils to teachers is high and growing, and student participation and retention rates are low and falling.

“The poor are disproportionately affected, further reducing their opportunities to escape from poverty. Over three-quarters of heads of poor households have no more than elementary education,” AusAID said.

Australia acknowledged the priority and additional budget funds given by the Philippine government to improve education that is a comprehensive agenda to get more children into school for longer and quality education.

The World Bank has also initiated a loan program for education that builds on earlier assistance to strengthen government accounting, procurement and budget systems.

Mwesigye said Australia will significantly increase its assistance to basic education in the Philippines over the next five years through a national and sub-national program of support.

“Our support is for improving education and the implementation of education reform agenda,” he added.

Australia’s support will provide additional resources for the education sector and back these with enhanced sectoral expertise and policy engagement.

The Australian government’s resources will be focused on improving the governance of education through school-based management accountable to local school communities, and better functioning systems for managing government finances and supporting teachers and schools.

Subnational programs in Mindanao and the Visayas will focus on the educational achievements of students by providing learning materials and training for teachers and by refurbishing and constructing school facilities.

Australia will also increase support for education of Muslim children in government and Islamic schools.

The Australian government provided A$39.2 million for the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) project, which runs from 2002 to 2008 and is implemented in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).

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