In the Philippines, the 95 distinct groups of Indigenous Peoples remain among the most vulnerable sectors of society affected by displacement, conflict and poverty. During the recent Pahiyas Festival in Quezon, a young Badjao girl begging for money captured the public’s attention shedding light on the issues that IPs continue to face, challenged by instability, living on the fringes of mainstream society.
As a multicultural nation, we must endeavor to develop as an inclusive society that celebrates and promotes diverse identities that exist across the archipelago.
In accordance with RA 8371, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, which recognizes the States duty to promote the “strong expression of the ICCs/IPs for cultural integrity by assuring maximum ICC/IP participation in the direction of education , this bill seeks the creation of an Indigenous Peoples Education Council (IPEDC).
Under the Department of Education, the IPEDC will oversee, control, manage and supervise all IP Schools. The IPEDC will aim to give IP communities ownership of their education so that it may be developed in the context of their cultures, customs, traditions, interests and beliefs and may be used as an instrument for their maximum participation in national development and in ensuring their involvement in achieving national unity.
The IP curriculum shall ensure that learning takes place within the ancestral domains of an IP community and uses culturally appropriate learning standards and methods. Moreover, this bill seeks for the creation of an IP School Regional Accreditation Body mandated to monitor and give accreditation for schools to be able to issue certificate of IP curriculum completion.
The IPEDC will ensure that the adequate financial support from both the public and private sector is available to support the pioneering of IP Schools that will be able to grant scholarships, subsidies and incentives for those who wish to participate in the development of IP Education in any capacity such as curriculum development.
By institutionalizing the educational system of Indigenous People in our nation, we are taking a step toward empowering them, enriching our culture and ensuring that all Filipinos, regardless of ethnicity, can participate meaningfully in Philippine society while maintaining the integrity of their tradition.