Sara Duterte urges ASEAN leaders to 'act now' to resolve education issues

Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2023 08:02 PM

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte presents during the Basic Education Report 2023 in January 2023. ABS-CBN News/File
Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte presents during the Basic Education Report 2023 in January 2023. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Vice President and Education Sec. Sara Duterte opened the 52nd Southeast Asian Ministers Education Organization (SEAMEO) Council Conference held at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong on Wednesday.

The Philippines is currently the SEAMEO Council Vice President, with Singapore serving as the Council President.

At the February 9 plenary session, the Philippines, represented by Duterte, will be formally elected as the SEAMEO Council President, and will lead the council from 2023 to 2025.

During the opening ceremony, Duterte said Southeast Asian countries remain committed to deliver quality education, amid challenges brought by the pandemic.

"In all of these, one thing is clear: we need to act now. We cannot afford to waste more time. As education leaders, we cannot allow ASEAN children to miss out on the beauty and benefits of learning, and the wonders of being able to use it positively to impact the ASEAN and the world," she said.

Quoting a UNICEF study which found "more than half of the 10-year-olds in low and middle income countries were unable to read or comprehend a simple story even before the pandemic", Duterte acknowledged that "learning poverty has worsened."

Learning poverty is the inability to read and comprehend basic text by the age of 10.

"We recently launched our 'MATATAG' agenda. Matatag is the Filipino word for resilience... The MATATAG agenda acts as the roadmap of the Department (of Education) as we develop and prepare initiatives, as we support the Southeast Asian education sector," she said.

"Under the MATATAG agenda are four key components: making the curriculum relevant to produce job-ready, active and responsible citizens, taking steps to accelerate the delivery of basic education facilities and provision of services, taking good care of learners by promoting learner well-being, inclusive education and a positive learning environment, and giving support for teachers to teach better," she added.

The official also called on other sectors to help the education sector, citing the "changing times".

"As the SEAMEO Council convenes today, I urge everyone to embrace the spirit of bayanihan, keeping in mind who is at the heart of the work that we do: our ASEAN learners," Duterte said.

She also asked attendees to "value education as a shared duty".

The Philippines' last leadership of SEAMEO Council was under the term of former DepEd Sec. Bro. Armin Luistro in 2010. 

This year's SEAMEO Council Presidency comes after its recent chairmanship of the ASEAN Education Sector from 2020 to 2021. 

Education as region's top of mind

The SEAMEO's vision lies in "enhancing regional understanding and cooperation in education, science, and culture for a better quality of life Southeast Asia."

It has seven priority areas from 2015 to 2035, including early childhood care and education, addressing barriers to inclusion, ensuring resiliency in the face of emergencies, promoting technical and vocational education and training, revitalizing teacher education, promoting harmonization in higher education and research, and adopting a 21st century curriculum.

According to the media briefer, this year's SEAMEO Council Conference theme is "Transformation through Learning Exchange: Building Resilient Systems as a Region". The conference has three key components - in-camera session, which is a closed meeting among member countries; and plenary sessions, which is open to all participants and delegates.

Another component is the Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers (SDEM), where the 6th SDEM will be adopted. This will focus in the theme "Prioritizing Foundational Learning and Lifelong Learning: Investing in Literacy, Numeracy, and STEM Education in the Digital Era".

The Philippines also led the development of the Declaration on the Digital Transformation of Education Systems in ASEAN.

The briefer said Philippines has 3 SEAMEO Regional Centers, including Regional Center of Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO INNOTECH) led by former DepEd chief Dr. Leonor Briones; Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) led by Dr. Glenn Gregorio; and Regional Center for Public Health, Hospital Administration, Environmental and Occupational Health (SEAMEO TROPMED).

The conference will be held from Feb. 8 to 10 at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong to be attended by education ministers, deputy ministers, heads of delegation of member countries, among others.