The Department of Education (DepEd) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Tuesday launched a project in the Philippines seeking to enhance reading, mathematical, and socio-emotional skills of learners in Bicol and Western Visayas regions.

Targeting two million learners in the two regions, the project, dubbed “Advancing Basic Education (ABC+)”, aims to improve the basic life skills of children in the early childhood education through Grade 3 and support DepEd’s priorities to ensure access to quality education for children in the areas of greatest need.

It will be implemented for five years, from July 2019 to June 2024, in schools located in Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

In his speech, DepEd Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs, External Partnerships, and Project Management Tonisito Umali said the law mandates that the state should promote and protect the right of every Filipino citizen to quality education and to take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.

“Provision of lifelong learning is a collective responsibility and the community and other stakeholders must make sure that our children will grow up responsible. As for DepEd, to achieve its goals, it maximizes public-private partnerships,” Umali said.

“Despite the fact that the education sector receives the highest budget, DepEd still needs to address critical gaps and needs not funded by the budget, and this is where development partners like the USAID come in,” he added.

Meanwhile, US charg√© d’affaires John Law said the project signifies the continued commitment of the US government to quality basic education for the benefit of all Filipinos.

“Education is critical for democracy, for development of individuals and the country as a whole, and it is the foundation of a globally competitive economy, and with better access to education, citizens can make well-informed choices and have better options,” Law said.

Stressing that quality education is something that has to be done and redone every day, Law said the Philippines and the US still have a lot of work to do.

“Students who go to school still need to learn life skills for their future and career’s success. The many dialects in the Philippines make teaching, reading and basic literacy an extraordinary task, and we need to invest further in the youth so they will gain the skills they need,” he added.

DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction, Diosdado San Antonio, lauded the project and thanked the US government’s support to the country’s education.

“This project, approximately PHP2 billion, is designed to boost DepEd’s systems in teachers’ professional development, materials development, and managing public funds for basic education. It will also capacitate teachers and administrators at the regional and local levels as the materials are provided in target regions to ensure target development,” San Antonio said.

Alberto Fenix Jr, director of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Human Resources Development Foundation, said the national network of business associations, chambers, enterprises, and schools is ‘fully supportive of the project because it will prepare the Filipino children for the world of work’.

“We express our solidarity and support to this project, and we respond positively to the call to the private sector to get involved and assist in its implementation,” Fenix added. (PNA)