Mabuhay ang mga Gurong Pilipino
AUSSIE DIPLOMACY MATTERS - Steven J. Robinson (The Philippine Star) - October 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Before becoming a diplomat I trained as a high school teacher. Although I turned to work in foreign relations, I learned first-hand the role that good teachers can play in shaping young lives for the better. So I’m always interested to see how education can help improve the prospects of young people and their society at large.

Recently, I was invited by Teach for the Philippines to be a guest teacher at Navotas National High School. I had a wonderful morning teaching a bright class of Grade 10 students about cultural diversity, one of the many values that Australia and the Philippines share.

I gain a lot of energy when I visit schools around this country; from national high schools like the one in Navotas, to the rustic elementary school in Maguindanao, where I celebrated Brigada Eskwela with the Bangsamoro Education Minister, Mohagher Iqbal, in May.

Like the Philippines, Australia recognises the importance of education in nation building. This is why support for education is central to our development partnership. A strong education system lays a foundation for inclusive economic growth. And it contributes to peace and stability.

The Australian embassy in the Philippines has worked closely with the Department of Education for over 30 years to improve both access to education and the quality of teaching. I’m delighted to see that the Philippines has made impressive gains over the last several years. Today, almost 95 percent of children are enrolled in elementary school and over 75 percent in secondary school.  DepEd’s focus has rightly shifted to improving both the quality of education and of teachers. And Australia stands right behind that effort.

The global evidence is clear. Investing in teachers is the single most effective way to lift learning outcomes. But improving classroom teaching is a challenging task, which has to begin by attracting the best and brightest people to become teachers. This is something Australia has supported through campaigns, scholarships and mentoring with our partners Teach for the Philippines and Philippine Business for Education. Together we have inspired both top high school graduates and professionals from other career tracks to join the teaching profession – and provided almost a thousand teaching scholarships to help inject talent into the public school system.

To improve quality, teachers also need opportunities for continuing professional development. Australia has provided specialised technical assistance to DepEd over many years, particularly through the Research Center for Teacher Quality, to develop professional standards for teaching, and to tailor training and mentoring programs to help teachers meet these high standards.

We’re also supporting teachers and students in the Bangsamoro, where education has been disrupted by decades of conflict.

Through our Education Pathways to Peace program, we are helping the new Bangsamoro government expand learning opportunities into remote and conflict-affected barangays which currently have no schools. And we are helping to ensure that the education system caters to the needs of learners from all the ethnic, linguistic and religious communities of the BARMM.

Teachers are community leaders. They play a critical role in bringing communities together, and help to foster peace and inclusion; not only in the Bangsamoro but also across the country. Ensuring that teachers are supported and nurtured helps them to support and nurture their learners and their communities.

Like all professions, teaching is not without its challenges. But I am optimistic that with the talent and drive that I have seen in Filipino teachers, and the commitment of the Department of Education, the Bangsamoro Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education, and civil society and business leaders across the country, we can continue to raise the bar. Australia shares the vision of providing a quality education to all Filipinos. And it is something that we will continue to enthusiastically support. Happy World Teachers’ Day and Mabuhay ang mga Gurong Pilipino!

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(Steven J. Robinson AO is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines. Follow him on Twitter @AusAmbPH)

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