A key driver of growth
By Juan Miguel Luz
FOR SCHOOLS in Mindanao, Manila is too far away to be responsive to local situations. Concerns are likely to get lost in the competition for attention in the Department of Education (DepEd).
Local School Boards (LSB) are the key to making local decisions that meet local needs. LSBs were created by the Local Government Code to help fund public school needs through the Special Education Fund. But LSBs can do much more than that.
The Davao City LSB is a case in point. More than just funding shortfalls, it has focused on interventions that, in my view, provide system-wide solutions for the entire system.
Over the past nine years, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who sees education as a key driver of growth, and councilor Mabel Sunga Acosta, who has managed the city’s education agenda as chair of the committee on education, have led the Davao City LSB.
Three very able superintendents have co-chaired the LSB in that period: Dr. Susana Estigoy (now regional director for Southern Mindanao), Dr. Gloria Labor (who retired mid-2007) and Dr. Helen Paguican. Other members include the city treasurer, the president of the Sangguniang Kabataan, the president of the city federation of Parents-Teachers Associations, the representative of teachers’ organizations and the representative of non-academic personnel of public schools.
Davao City has a significant Muslim population, both indigenous (Kalagan and Sama) and from across Mindanao (Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Badjao), a sizeable indigenous Lumad populace and migrants from the Visayas and Luzon. As the largest city in Mindanao, Davao City has 286 public elementary and 69 public high schools with over 250,000 students and 6,671 teachers (SY 2009-2010). Because of the city’s ethno-linguistic diversity, it is one of the most complex school systems in the country.
Over the past two years, the Davao City LSB has worked with an annual budget of P177 million (2008) and P204 million (2009) to fund:
Salaries of locally funded public school teachers (123 elementary and 178 secondary) to help fill the teacher shortage;
School health and nutrition, including bio-intensive gardens in 50 elementary schools for school feeding;
School-building construction and furniture;
Workbooks, materials and supplies;
Payment of water and electricity for public schools;
These expenditures are common for LSBs nationwide. However, the Davao City LSB has pioneered in four specific areas where the potential of LSBs can best be realized.
First, it has become the venue for reviewing school and teacher performance. To succeed, these reviews have to be fair and critical. The Davao City LSB has taken politics out of teacher appointments and promotions by subjecting these to a multi-stakeholder process.
Second, in late 2002, Acosta (in her first term) brought to the attention of DepEd the issue of teacher payroll as a teacher welfare concern. With salaries paid by central office checks, she argued that because of the distance, local teachers found it very difficult to deal with the DepEd central office regarding salary discrepancies like underpayment and over-deduction. The LSB solution: regional payroll servicing.
In 2004, Region XI was the first region to decentralize teacher payroll. All teacher payroll was subsequently decentralized to regional offices nationwide by 2005.
Third, in early 2005, Davao City became one of the first three cities to set up a Library Hub to provide public schools more access to books as a way to bring up the low reading rates of elementary pupils. This was a partnership between Dole Asia, a private company that provided the seed fund, the city government which helped with the venue (an old warehouse near city hall), and DepEd. Today, over 200 Library Hubs have been set up nationwide.
The most innovative program of the Davao City LSB, however, has been its support for Madaris education as far back as 2001, even before the DepEd moved on this. An ALIVE (Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education) curriculum was developed with the DepEd to help Muslim Filipino children acquire a deeper appreciation of their culture as well as give them better learning opportunities in English, science and math.
Today, the Davao City LSB supports ALIVE in 30 public elementary schools and funds an ALIVE coordinator who supervises 104 asatidz (learned teachers) who handle the two subjects.
Finally, under the management of Acosta and Paguican, the LSB has set up a Davao City School Board Data Bank System that tracks school-by-school performance, a GIS-based school location map (to locate high schools and feeder elementary schools and match this with schooling indicators) and a joint program with the Institute of Indigenous People’s Education (IIPE) to provide a more responsive education experience for the city’s Lumad population.
Muslims, Christians and Lumads converge in Mindanao. Peace and stability in that region rests on the people’s ability to live in harmony. Local School Boards know the local situation best and are critical to building this peace through better education. Davao City, through Duterte and Acosta, has built a strong Local School Board over the past decade that could serve as a model for other cities.