Taking on from PGMA policy imperatives on the peace process and the identification of madrasah education as contributory to the attainment of peace and development, DepEd adopted its Muslim education roadmap in 2003-04, developed and implemented the ALIVE and SMC commencing in 2005 and issuances of orders and memoranda to realize the provisions of its roadmap.

Also in this period, DepEd articulated its reform agenda through the BESRA. Being perceived as two different policies, there is a need to clarify the larger BESRA with the niche focus of the roadmap as well as attempt to articulate complementation and divergence between these imperatives.   

1. Muslim Basic Education Roadmap
This DepEd’s roadmap is a statement of focused interventions in line with the President’s Mindanao Natin Agenda, The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (2004-2010) and the relevant educational provisions of the GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement.

The Roadmap’s focused interventions or components is about (1) developing and institutionalizing Madrasah education – ALIVE Program in the public schools and SMC in the private Madaris; Upgrading quality secular basic Education - formal elementary and secondary schools serving Muslim children; Developing and implementing an Alternative Learning System for Filipino Muslims out-of-school youth; Developing and implementing appropriate livelihood skills Education and Training for present day students of Private Madaris, and out-of-school youth; Supporting government efforts to provide quality Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) programs for Filipino Muslim pre-school children; Creating a Special Fund for Assistance to Muslim Education (FAME) by an act of Congress or through an Executive Order; And improving of the health and nutritional status of Filipino Muslim learners particularly in the public elementary schools. 

Ideally, the DepEd’s Muslim Education program shares in the key reform thrusts that public schools with significant Muslim population have access to the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) program, the implementation of the ALIVE program integrated in the SIP, there is an ALIVE teacher competency framework aligned with the existing national framework, these ALIVE teachers are enabled to enhance their contribution to learning outcomes, increasing social support, the private and DepEd-recognized madaris complementing the role of public education and a desired institutional change in both public schools and private Madaris to better support BESRA and the government’s Muslim Education program.

The relationship between BESRA and this Roadmap is obvious. KRTs 1 to 5 will directly impact on the upgrade of the quality of secular basic education in Muslim communities. The programs for pre-school and out-of-school youth complement with KRT 4. The support to private madaris is in line with the spirit of KRT 1 to 5.

2. Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA)
BESRA is arguably the most popular acronym in the public education sector these days. The Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) is a package of policy reforms seeking to systematically improve critical regulatory, institutional, structural, financial, cultural, physical and informational conditions affecting basic education provision, access and delivery on the ground. These policy reforms are expected to create critical changes necessary to further accelerate, broaden, deepen and sustain the improved education effort.

The BESRA seeks to create a basic education sector that is capable of attaining the country’s Education for All (EFA) objectives by the year 2015. In summary, the four (4) objectives of BESRA are universal adult functional literacy, universal school participation and elimination of drop-outs and repetition in first three grades, universal completion of the full cycle of basic education schooling with satisfactory achievement levels by all at every grade or year, and total community commitment to attainment of basic education competencies for all.

In order for the basic education sector to achieve the desired educational outcomes, the BESRA focuses on specific policy actions under the five key reform thrusts (KRT) of getting all schools to continuously improve; enabling teachers to further enhance their contribution to learning outcomes; increasing social support to attainment of desired learning outcomes; improving impact on outcomes from complementary early childhood education, alternative learning systems and private sector participation, and; changing institutional culture of DepED to better support these key reform thrusts. In short, these five key reform thrusts of BESRA are about schools, teachers, social support to learning, complementary interventions, and DepED’s institutional culture.

In the BESRA document, every key reform thrust is expounded in terms of its importance and how progress may be objectively determined and evaluated. To realize the five (5) core key reform thrusts, DepEd organized technical working group (TWGs) across the hierarchy. The eight (8) TWGs are: School-based Management; Teacher Education and Development; Quality Assurance and Accountability; Monitoring and Evaluation; Resource Mobilization and Management; National Learning Strategies; Alternative Learning Systems and Indigenous People’s and Muslim Education.

With the BESRA and the Roadmap existing side by side, the urgent clarification is the deliberate interaction between five (5) BESRA key reform thrusts with the focused interventions of the Roadmap. At the outset, the BESRA and the Roadmap should be viewed in terms of their coherence and complementation. It is only when viewed in this manner that the Roadmap makes sense under BESRA, and BESRA truly relevant as an overall reform framework.

An initial discussion of complementation in details is provided in the Annex. This is from the discussion with DepEd ALIVE coordinators in Regions XI and XII. 

3. Relevant DepEd Orders and Memoranda

  • DepEd Order 51 (s. 2004) point to global commitment to Education for All (EFA) to mean inclusion of all forms of educational delivery systems and children should have access to quality education irrespective of their cultural or religious backgrounds[1]; Islamic education as a legitimate and rightful aspiration of the Muslims in the country[2]; and in the interest of national unity as provided in the 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement[3], Madrasah education is declared a vital component of the national education system[4] and recognized the significant role of madaris in providing access to education especially in hard to reach communities[5].
Islamic education is viewed an education that is meaningful, relevant and culture-sensitive for Muslim children[6]. Recognizing that there is differences in curricular offering among the madaris and their offering do not necessarily conform with the Philippine curricula as well as the absence of the teaching of Arabic and Islamic values in the public schools, two curricula were developed and adopted:
    • Arabic language and Islamic values education for Muslim children in the public schools.
    • Standard Madrasah Curriculum for private madaris blending the national curriculum with Arabic Language and Islamic Studies (Qur’an, Seerah and Hadith, Aqeedah and Fiqh).
This order marks SY 2005-2006 as the commencement of its implementation in the public schools and adoption by private madaris.

  • DepEd Memo 456, s. 2004, holds a one-day national orientation on the implementation of Deped Order 51, s. 2004. The participants were representatives from DepEd-ARMM,  and Central office, all regional directors and selected schools division superintendents.
  • DepEd Order 46, s. 2005, is an operational guidelines for the implementation of DepEd Order 51 (s. 2004).  It prescribed the treatment on mixed enrolment; scheduling of classes; conduct of forum, dialogue and orientation; hiring, training and salaries of teachers for the public schools.  On the other hand, for the private madaris, it also set the rules applying for a permit to operation; charging of tuition fees and giving of incentives, such as assigning one or two teachers to teach RBEC subjects.

  • DepEd Memo 26, s. 2005, requires the conduct of school mapping to determine Muslim population in the public schools and the survey of private madaris in every region.

  • DepEd Memo 72, s. 2005, creates an Ad Hoc Committee on Madrasah Education, specifying its functions, composition and operational details.

  • DepEd Order 281, s. 2006, provides guidelines for the delivery, inspection, acceptance and distribution of ALIVE textbooks in the public schools.

  • DepEd Order 61, s. 2010, is a set of guidelines for the training and development of ALIVE teachers. Teacher recruits will have to pass the Arabic Qualifying Examination (QE). Only those who will pass the QE will move on to avail of the training programs such as the 23-day pre-service training on Language Enhancement and Pedagogy (LEaP). LEaP is also a pre-condition for deployment.  The second and longer training program is the Accelerated Teacher Training Program (ATEP), a two-year stop gap measure to provide the ALIVE teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills on teacher education. This program is implemented in partnership with a nation-wide network of Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs). Only after they have finished the ATEP and passed the licensure examination will they be appointed to a permanent teaching position.
In creating a pool of professional ALIVE teachers, the long-term effort is directed towards developing Arabic Language and Islamic Studies as specialization in teacher education programs.     
·         DepEd Order 81, s. 2007, is a milestone for DepEd and private madaris. Having recognized the role of the latter in providing access to education in Muslim communities and in decongesting the public schools, a financial subsidy (P5,000 per student per year) is provided to pay for teachers handling RBEC subjects such as English, Science, Filipino and Makabayan and the remaining amount (10-20%) for physical facility improvement.  Qualifying for the subsidy requires complying with a set of stringent requirements. About half of the 50+ recognized madaris eventually qualified.

The same order mention about widening resource pool and the possibility of exploring participation of donor agencies and member-countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)  in upgrading the physical facilities of recognized madaris as well as capacity development for managers and teachers and installation of school finance and accounting systems .

·         DepEd Order 18, s. 2008, provides for clearer guidelines in implementing DepEd Order 81, s .2007, on financial subsisdy. This order enumerates grant objectives, requisites, procedures, utilization, monitoring and renewal.

·         DepEd Order 22, s. 2010, transfers the steering and implementation responsibilities of the elementary ALIVE and SMC to the Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) including recruitment and payment of teacher salary, LEaP, ATEP and refinement of these curricula. Current regional and division coordinators will start to work full-time.

·         DepEd Order 56, s. 2010,  by this year 981 public schools across 16 regions are not implementing the ALIVE Program and 40 private madaris implementing the SMC. It heralds the start of the design process for the pre-elementary and secondary ALIVE and Standard Madrasah curricula in partnership with the BEE and the BSE. As of today, the tahderiyyah (kindergarten) curriculum is being developed in partnership with UNICEF; while the secondary curriculum is with UNICEF and SEAMEO-Innotech.

·         DepEd Order 57, s. 2010, the ALIVE program has expanded its coverage to include Muslim out-of-school youth and adults so-called 10-year ALIVE in ALS in partnership with TESDA and BALS.

4. Policy Implication (Moving forward)

  • Change of leadership and priorities. With the change of leadership came changes in the program operations.  The Office of the Undersecretary for Muslim Affairs has not been filled up nor the previous occupant reappointment; instead the previous occupant was appointed as a program consultant while the implementation of the program is now under the jurisdiction of the Undersecretary for Programs.  The Tahderiyyah and elementary ALIVE and SMC under the BEE, while the secondary ALIVE and SMC will be under the BSE. With this fragmentation comes the need of coherence.
    While the new national leadership reiterates what has been done already, things remain to be seen as to how the implementation proceeds starting SY 2011-2012.

    Given this changed environment at the Central Office, the BME should be recognized and tapped by the former as a critical and reliable partner in implementing the program in the ARMM and BME should be consulted and to provide policy advice and technical inputs pertaining to new policy formulation and program implementation outside ARMM. For example, even though ARMM is not covered by the AusAID-funded PRIME Project, BME can facilitate networking with madaris in other regions, provide professional advice and technical inputs on different aspects of project implementation, especially in deepening the Islamic-Arabic-cultural perspectives.
  • Knowledge Sharing and towards a Community of Practice. The synergy between DepEd CO and DepEd-ARMM (BME) on Madrasah education will come a long way in terms of projecting a united front in the Muslim communities, and operationally will save more on resources as duplication and troubleshooting are minimized.
    The current MoA on the recruitment of 1,000-plus ALIVE teachers in the ARMM and to be paid for by DepEd CO and the sourcing of technical skills from BME in the development of the curriculum are laudable efforts towards synergy between the national framework and regional operations; therefore should be continued, expanded and deepen.

    In expanding and deepening this synergy, DepEd cO and DepEd-ARMM (BME) should explore other partnership modalities, i.e. explore financing schemes outside government. 

[1] Section 1
[2] Section 2
[3] Section 3
[4] Ibid
[5] Section 4
[6] Ibid