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Australia is proud to support Filipino teachers

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Steven J. Robinson (The Philippine Star) - October 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Having been Ambassador to the Philippines for almost two years now, I have had the privilege of visiting 13 of the country’s 18 regions. On all my travels around this beautiful country, I try to visit schools and speak with teachers. Having trained as a teacher earlier in my career, and having engaged with teachers across the globe as a diplomat, I understand the vital role they play in building cohesive and prosperous societies. The Philippines is no exception.

I have been deeply impressed by the commitment and determination of Filipino teachers to deliver quality education despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19. To take one recent example, Ronald Carpio, an educator from a remote fishing village in Basilan, has mobilized his entire community to ensure that children can continue to learn. He went house to house to encourage parents to re-enrol their children, printed work sheets for his students and made plans to support parents with home-based learning. And there are countless examples of teachers like Ronald across the country.

Teachers will play a critical role in the country’s recovery from the pandemic. They support the health and wellbeing of children as well as their learning – and they help protect the most vulnerable. Education also builds skills for economic recovery, and will determine the quality of the future workforce.

It is crucial for national productivity that students quickly catch up on their learning after months of school closure. I commend DepEd on the extensive preparations it has made for the opening of classes on Oct. 5, which falls, fittingly, on World Teachers’ Day.

The ability of teachers to provide quality education during this pandemic will be critical to the Philippines’ future. The shift to remote learning has accelerated the use of education technology – and this is a good thing. But no technology comes close to a teacher’s ability to nurture children’s social and emotional development. Nor could any computer program replace a teacher’s ability to motivate, inspire and encourage learners.

I am proud of the support Australia is providing to Filipino teachers at this difficult time, building on our 30-year education partnership. Together with DepEd, we are helping teachers prepare for the new school year. Across the country, we are enhancing the capability of more than 3,000 teachers to promote COVID-19-safe hygiene practices. We have also supported the development of 31 teacher training packages to aid remote learning, including for students with disabilities.

In the Bangsamoro, where needs are particularly acute, we are helping the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education to prepare public school teachers for remote delivery. We have also supported the recruitment and training of para-teachers in 93 newly established learning centers in remote communities that previously had no schools. And we are working with the Ministry to support the mental health and wellbeing of thousands of teachers through radio broadcasts and counselling sessions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to underscore the importance of parent’s and communities’ active involvement in their children’s education. Responsibility for learning does not rest solely with teachers, but as teacher Ronald in Basilan has shown, it can be a productive partnership with parents and communities. This is why Australia is helping teachers work with parents to assist children’s learning. As many children are spending more time on screens, Australia is supporting training for teachers on child online safety, to support them in their role as guardians and to raise awareness of online risks to children.

In the spirit of bayanihan, Australia stands with the Philippines in not only supporting but celebrating the resilience and dedication of Filipino teachers. Happy World Teachers’ Day and Mabuhay ang mga Gurong Pilipino!

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The author is the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines. Follow him on Twitter @AusAmbPH

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