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PIA Press Release

ARMM grade-schoolers get boost with AusAID, USAID reading program

Davao City (17 June) -- While the Department of Education (DepEd) has already institutionalized its Every Child A Reader Program (ECARP) in public primary schools throughout the country, grade-schoolers from the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) get added boost with the tandem of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) on the ARMM Beginning Reading Pilot Program.

This joint project launched in 2007 complements with DepEd's ECARP and aims to lessen the number of non-reader grade-school pupils in ARMM.

It can be recalled that in 2003, ARMM posted the country's lowest functional literacy rate at 62.9% and the lowest basic literacy rate at only 65.5%.

Functional literacy is a term used to describe reading and writing skills that are adequate to cope with the demand of everyday life.

In a press conference conducted by the Mindanao Information Network for Development and Peace (MINDPeace) recently held here at the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), Joe Agarano, Program Director of the Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills 2 (EQuALLS) said that " Mindanao faces various challenges in terms of education".

"This aside from the fact that Mindanao holds seven out of the ten poorest provinces in the country", said Dr. Ian D'arcy Walsh, Project Director of the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM).

BEAM and EQuALLS both agreed that education programs such as theirs cuts across efforts to reduce poverty and promote social development in Mindanao. EQuALLS has earlier reported an increase of 85% on the level of reading skills among the program's beneficiaries in ARMM.

While both EQuALLS and BEAM are closely working on this project, Ina Aquino, Formal Education Specialist of the EQuALLS, noted the synergy of teachers, regional DepEd administrators and parent associations on this endeavor.

"BEAM has developed learning guides for teachers while EQuALLS started the training for multi-grade instructions", said Aquino while she pointed out the overwhelming support of school teachers and administrators in ARMM to the project.

Aquino added that EQuALLS will continue to coordinate with BEAM as well as with the AusAID in ensuring the sustainability of the project.

She also underscored that what the BEAM and EQUALLS have shown is an example of how donor programs can work together so that resources are maximized and are not wasted.

Launched in 2004, EQuALLS is a five-year, $30.1 million initiative that combines the efforts of USAID partners from government, civil society, and the corporate sector to increase community-based formal and non-formal learning opportunities especially in conflict-affected areas; to improve instructional capacity in Reading, English, Math and Science; and to integrate the out-of-school youth (OSY) into a peaceful and productive economy with the provision of livelihood programs among others.

On the other hand, BEAM is a joint project funded by the AUD $ 36 million grant from AusAID and the Government of the Philippines which aims to improve the quality of and the access to basic education in Southern and Central Mindanao. Just recently, BEAM concluded its operations in Regions 11 and 12, but will continue its operations in the ARMM in the next six months.

The two programs are members of MINDPeace, an advocacy group of communicators from donor-funded programs and projects in Mindanao. Convened by MEDCo, MINDPeace other members are the Act for Peace Programme, Asian Development Bank (ADB), the ARMM Social Fund Project (ASFP), Community and Family Services International (CFSI), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), German Technical Cooperation-Poverty Reduction and Conflict Transformation Mindanao Project (GTZ- PRCTMP), Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM), Local Governance Support Program in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (LGSPA), the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP), Save the Children Philippines and the United Nations Population Fund-Southern Philippines Office (UNFPA- SPO). (MEDCo-PIA XI) [top]

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