COTABATO CITY—Education minister Mohagher Iqbal underscored Wednesday some of the education sector’s plans in addressing the challenges amidst the new normal.
“Admittedly, the pandemic has slowed down our operations and crusade for long-term reforms since I took my oath as your Education Minister in 2019,” Iqbal said during the 3rd series of “Online Kapihan: Accountable child-based reporting in the new normal”.
Accordingly, solutions to the existing problems are further laid out in the Bangsamoro Education Code and highlight the advocacy of “No Bangsamoro Child Shall Be Left Behind.” [Related story: Minister Iqbal files Bangsamoro Education Code]
Iqbal shared that for instance, the ministry will apply innovative, context-based, and inclusive policies or mechanisms across the four (4) subsectors on various areas to strengthen the Bangsamoro education system.
These include (1) Development of relevant and appropriate curriculum and competency standards; (2) Effective use of learning assessment mechanisms; (3) The hiring of qualified teachers through a merit-based and legal process; (4) Support to the professional development of MBHTE personnel; (5) Use of quality textbooks and learning materials; and (6) standards for school infrastructure, management, and quality assurance, among others.
“We will engage with other education stakeholders, from the regional government down to the local government units, to ensure support for implementing the regional and division educational programs and the school improvement plans,” Iqbal added.
Going back to face-to-face setting
Iqbal said the Ministry of Basic Higher and Technical Education’s (MBHTE) services, projects, and interventions were vastly hampered since the unprecedented emergence of the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) in the country for exactly a year now.
He said the suspension of face-to-face interaction had realigned the education sector’s implementation of the Education Continuity Plan (ECP) for SY 2020-2021 to provide services for learners amid challenging situations.
“MBHTE has tirelessly worked to craft policies and implement programs that respond to the ‘new normal’. These also included dealing with other various issues that have unjustly affected the Bangsamoro education sector for the past two or three decades,” Iqbal said.
Despite these challenges faced by the interim government, Iqbal ensured that providing essential services to the Bangsamoro education community, children and young people alike, remain as a key priority of the ministry.
Meanwhile, Mr. Andrew Morris, Chief of Mindanao Field Office – UNICEF, who also acted as 2nd speaker of the forum tackled the idea of going back to school as the Covid-19 pandemic eases.
He discussed “Safe return to school: An urgent priority to secure the future of every child in the Bangsamoro region,” wherein he explained that in BARMM alone, a total of 890,985 enrolled children were forced to end schooling earlier than the regular school year due to the imposed lockdown as of March 2020.
Morris said that considering the issues on connectivity to the internet and mobile network in the region, including the lack of laptops and tablets in the area, online learning modality introduced in other regions in the Philippines is not a feasible option for child learners in BARMM.
“There is a growing concern on the sustainability of the home-based learning modality since not all families can provide the necessary and appropriate parental guidance and support to their children,” he said.
Meanwhile, for schools that are able to open, Morris said the UNICEF is doing their part to ensure the safe return of students to schools.
“Together, we’re supporting governments to adopt flexible approaches, provide sufficient resources for teachers to be adequately protected and supported, and make sure that learning remains safe for all students,” he said.
He also added closing schools should come as last resort, however, the idea could be considered in areas with cluster cases. (Bangsamoro Information Office)