The realities and challenges of globalization necessitated ASEAN to forward a more internationally recognized system of higher education that hopes to entail a more potent instrument to combat extreme poverty, food shortages, environmental degradation, human rights violations, and sustainable development hurdles which permeate its member states.

It is central that a strategic and powerful cooperation in the region for the advancement and internalization of education will be integrated in the fulfillment of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint. A fundamental element in the ASCC Blueprint is the progress of “the well-being and livelihood of the peoples of ASEAN by providing them with equitable access to human development opportunities by promoting and investing in education and lifelong learning, human resource training and capacity building…“(ASEAN Secretariat, 2009, p. 2)1)ASEAN Secretariat. (2009). ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.asean.org/wp-content/uploads/archive/5187-19.pdf . It is urgent for the betterment of the ASEAN community to appreciate and recognize the guarantee of quality education. The development of human resources is reliant on the propagation of knowledge, robustness of student mobility, and regulation of degree compatibility.

It has not been long since Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Jr. has authorized the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (K to 12). A momentous educational achievement, this indicates the outlook of the government to bring the country into line with the international standards of education. The Philippines was the last in Asia and was one of only three in the world—the other two being Angola and Djibouti—with a 10-year pre-university primary instruction. The implementation of 13 years of basic education will bestow students with a more substantial basic foundation that will allow them to compete in a more regional and global sense.

(Villanueva, 2009)2) Villanueva, Paolo. (Photographer). (2009). Noynoy Aquino [Online image]. Retrieved February 27, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/bNh2gp In 2013, President Benigno Aquino, Jr. has authorized the Enhanced Basic Education Act (K to 12). This shows the disposition of the government to align the country with international education standards.

There is also a noticeable increase in the number of public and private higher education institutions (HEIs). At publicly financed HEIs, the volume of students increased as evidenced by the higher size of enrolments. Furthermore, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the leading agency that vigorously maneuvers the internationalization of higher education programs in the country, has also included more HEIs in the ASEAN University Network (AUN) to bolster networking with HEIs from other ASEAN states. CHED has also continued to conduct student exchanges by participating in ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) Program. The shifting of the academic calendar for some universities hopes to encourage smoother student and faculty mobility between these universities and their regional equivalents.

The recent years saw the rise in the enrollment in public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines. Some universities, which include the University of the Philippines as photographed above, have changed their respective academic calendars to abide by international standards.

The recent years saw the rise in the enrollment in public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines. Some universities, which include the University of the Philippines as photographed above, have changed their respective academic calendars to abide by international standards.

The Philippines has become a destination for learners of English as a second language. In the results of 2013 Business English Index which measures business English proficiency, Philippines, among all the countries in the world, attained the highest median score3)Pearson English Business Solutions. (2014). Heightened Urgency for Business English in an Increasingly Global Workforce A look at the 2013 Business English Index & Globalization of English Report. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://static.globalenglish.com/files/reports/Business_English_Index_2013.pdf . Philippines has become a prime source of English education for its Asian neighbors. Thousands of students from all over the world flock to the country because of its low tuition rates and reasonable cost of living.

Education and Indigenous Peoples

According to Amnesty International, there are 370 million indigenous peoples in the world that are clustered to 5000 various groups. Seventy percent are in Asia. In the Philippines, indigenous peoples make up an estimated 17 million of the country’s population. The United Nations reports that majority of these peoples are situated in Northern Luzon and in Mindanao and some spread out in Visayas.

Although a concrete and universal definition of “indigenous” is uncertain, there is an understanding that indigenous people differ from the dominant groups in society in that they possess “a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories4)Cobo, J. M. (1983). Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations. Final report submitted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. José Martínez Cobo, UN-Document E/CN. 4 Sub.” . They have a distinctive social, economic, and political system and carry with them a firmness to preserve their culture and conserve their ancestral environments.

However, indigenous peoples face multifarious problems. They are often displaced from their lands, are relegated as second-class members of society, and are alienated from the spread of capitalism. These unpleasant realities continue to exist. These distressing actualities can be majorly attributed to the deprivation of access to quality education for indigenous communities.

The design of education programs must weigh up the special needs of these communities. Indigenous students cannot thrive well in mainstream education methods that do not take into account indigenous culture. Therefore, due to the diversity of indigenous peoples, a system that assumes universality will not only be ill-fitting but also be disastrous for them. A tailored model that promotes human rights, gender sensitivity, and especially “indigenous perspectives, innovations and practices in an environment that replicates traditional ways of learning5)United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (2009). Quality Education for Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/QualityEducationForIndigenousPeoples.aspx” (qtd. in United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, para. 4) might have utility in the proliferation of a competitive indigenous education. The United Nations Inter-Agency Support Group emphasizes that the “most effective way…is to work in a community-based, bottom-up manner to ensure that infrastructure, pedagogical materials and curricula meet the sometimes unique needs of indigenous teachers, learners and their communities” (United Nations Inter-Agency Support Group, p. 2)6)United Nations Inter-Agency Support Group. (2014). Education and Indigenous Peoples: Priorities for Inclusive Education. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.un.org/en/ga/president/68/pdf/wcip/IASG%20Thematic%20Paper_%20Education%20-%20rev1.pdf .
Education of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines

As the government overhauled the education system to adhere to international standards that are perpetuated by ASEAN, the Department of Education (DepEd) adopted the Indigenous Peoples Education Curriculum Framework which enunciates “guidance to schools and other education programs as they engage with indigenous communities in contextualizing the K to 12 Curriculum” (Republic of the Philippines Department of Education, 2015, para. 1)7)Republic of the Philippines Department of Education. (2015 August 11). DepEd issues IPEd Curriculum Framework. Retrieved February 27, 2016 from http://www.deped.gov.ph/press-releases/deped-issues-iped-curriculum-framework . This DepEd order, which is the result of numerous consultations with elders, leaders, and initiators of community-based indigenous learning, recognizes the right that indigenous peoples have for a culturally sensitive and responsive education. This will serve more than a million indigenous students in public schools and in community and civil society organization-managed schools.

These indigenous children are Aetas that live in Silanguin Cove, San Antonio, Zambales. Since they live far off from the mainland, they do not have immediate access to basic education. There are millions of indigenous children who suffer the same fate as these children do. It is to be hoped that the government will extend its services for indigenous peoples that dwell in far flung places.

These indigenous children are Aetas that live in Silanguin Cove, San Antonio, Zambales. Since they live far off from the mainland, they do not have immediate access to basic education. There are millions of indigenous children who suffer the same fate as these children do. It is to be hoped that the government will extend its services for indigenous peoples that dwell in far flung places.

The curriculum is tailored on the distinctive attributes of indigenous communities8)See Republic of the Philippines Department of Education (fn. 6) : 1) the ancestral domain; 2) the worldview of the community; 3) indigenous cultural institutions. Additionally, the framework takes into account the vernacular languages of the learners with the implementation of Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE). This approach allows the reinforcement and supplementation of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs) and Indigenous Learning Systems (ILS). According to DepEd, the curriculum ultimately seeks to enable “indigenous learners to be future culture-bearers, capable of exercising their right to self-determination as they interact with other cultures” (Republic of the Philippines Department of Education, 2015, para. 3)9)See Republic of the Philippines Department of Education (fn. 6) .
The IPEd curriculum framework takes off from the ethics of “inclusion, participation, and empowerment as provided by DepEd’s IPEd [National Indigenous Peoples Education] Policy Framework…and is consistent with the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which specify the right of IPs to ‘establish and control their educational systems and institutions’” (Republic of the Philippines Department of Education, 2015, para. 7)10)See Republic of the Philippines Department of Education (fn. 6) .

The government further fortifies its commitment to indigenous education by promulgating the Guidelines on the Conduct of Activities and Use of Materials Involving Aspects of Indigenous Peoples Culture which outlines courses of action in relation to respecting the culture of indigenous peoples. Aside from that, DepEd has also intensified its recognition to private educational institutions that serve learners from indigenous communities.
A Brighter Future for Everyone

Indigenous peoples in the Philippines continue to struggle breaking prejudices and stereotypes that are assigned to those of different cultures and geographical spaces. However, it might be best to keep an optimistic outlook for their future. Hopefully, in the years to come, the government will persevere in supporting an appropriate education for indigenous learners.

To strengthen the education of millions of indigenous peoples in the Philippines will be vital for the country, especially in the context of the ASEAN Integration. An education curriculum that is anchored on Filipino culture will be crucial in maintaining the indigenous identities to prevent the erosion of local stories, beliefs and traditions. A competitive model that allows for these peoples to participate in a broader scope will be beneficial not only for the indigenous communities themselves but also for the entire country as nurturing of their abilities and capabilities will contribute to the overall development of the Philippines.

 

By Lea Salen Peralta, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines

 

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References   [ + ]

1. ASEAN Secretariat. (2009). ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.asean.org/wp-content/uploads/archive/5187-19.pdf
2. Villanueva, Paolo. (Photographer). (2009). Noynoy Aquino [Online image]. Retrieved February 27, 2016 from https://flic.kr/p/bNh2gp
3. Pearson English Business Solutions. (2014). Heightened Urgency for Business English in an Increasingly Global Workforce A look at the 2013 Business English Index & Globalization of English Report. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://static.globalenglish.com/files/reports/Business_English_Index_2013.pdf
4. Cobo, J. M. (1983). Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations. Final report submitted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. José Martínez Cobo, UN-Document E/CN. 4 Sub.
5. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (2009). Quality Education for Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/QualityEducationForIndigenousPeoples.aspx
6. United Nations Inter-Agency Support Group. (2014). Education and Indigenous Peoples: Priorities for Inclusive Education. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.un.org/en/ga/president/68/pdf/wcip/IASG%20Thematic%20Paper_%20Education%20-%20rev1.pdf
7. Republic of the Philippines Department of Education. (2015 August 11). DepEd issues IPEd Curriculum Framework. Retrieved February 27, 2016 from http://www.deped.gov.ph/press-releases/deped-issues-iped-curriculum-framework
8, 9, 10. See Republic of the Philippines Department of Education (fn. 6)