(Keynote address delivered at the Education Summit organized by and held at the Concepcion National High School on December 14, 2007. The Summit, the first in Sibale, drew over 80 participants.)
2. We must have decent and complete elementary education facilities.
We should start by having enough classrooms, desks,
books, and laboratory equipment. Our elementary schools must have toilets with running water. We should fence-in our campuses. We should have books at a ratio of one-is-to-one. We should have community libraries. And if we can, with enough political will and through the judicious use of scarce money resources, we should expand the pre-school feeding program to the elementary schools.
3. Our teachers should be well-trained and well-equipped.
The most important component of basic education is the teacher. We should attract the best and brightest elementary school teachers, whether Sibalenhon or not, to our schools. But it would be best if the teachers are Sibalenhons themselves. However, the important thing is that they should excel in their profession.
The municipal government, again, with enough political will and through the wise use of limited financial resources, should help implement a training program for our elementary teachers. It is not enough that our teachers graduate with teaching degrees and pass the teachers’ licensure examinations. They must continue to learn and imbibe the latest knowledge and techniques and acquire modern teaching skills. They must have their windows open to the global resource pool of knowledge and must breathe the winds of change.
The municipal government must reward our teachers. Incentives other than supplemental pay from municipal resources will not only motivate and inspire them but also lead them to excellence.
I propose that during this Summit, the operational mechanisms of activating and strengthening our local school board be thoroughly discussed and the modes of cooperation between the teachers, the parents, the students, and the local officials be finalized. The board should always meet in dialogue and act in a concerted fashion.
4. We should invest in ICT for our schools.
The power and wonder and efficacy of information and telecommunications technology are already here, in our midst, for us to use, benefit from, and harness. There is no excuse for our children in the elementary and high schools not to learn to use the computer, much less to have one which they can utilize. We must invest in computers. I realize that the Department of Education has limited resources, but we must ask for it. There is no harm in trying, but there is in failure to ask.
Every elementary school in our island must have at least one computer, complete with a printer, the basic computing software, and hooked to the World Wide Web via satellite. The municipal government should allocate the resources for this to materialize, and if it doesn’t have enough money, raise it from outside sources as soon as possible. It is a mortal omission and monumental neglect on the part of the municipal government not to have an Internet connection even for itself.
It is surprising that while almost everyone in Romblon is dreaming to be hooked to the grid of the global information highway, our municipal government has not exercised the will to acquire even decent PCs for its offices. Office computing is now a necessity, not a luxury. The municipal government must allocate money to train its employees on information technology. Training is an investment that has its own rewards.
5. We must have a trade or vocational school.
It is a fact that not all of Sibalenhon high school graduates have the intellectual capacity or the financial capability to go to college. There are many Sibalenhon school leavers or drop outs and out-of-school youth. It is time that we study the possibility of putting up a community technical-vocational school to accommodate the drop-outs and OSYs so they, too, can be prepared for the Knowledge Century. The financial and technical requirements of such a technical-vocational institution could be immense but it can be done, if we have the will to summon communal unity and cooperation toward this endeavor.