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By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While the Philippines has been making “wonderful progress” on meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – particularly SDG 4 or education – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) underscored the need to “invest more” to achieve “quality education for all.”

UNESCO has added the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in Australia to its World Heritage list (AFP Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

UNESCO (AFP Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The Philippines is making wonderful progress on SDGs – especially SDG number 4,” said UNESCO Jakarta Office Director and Representative Dr. Shahbaz Khan said in a recent press briefing. He added that the country is “doing a wonderful job” in terms of achieving certain SDGs standards. However, he noted that the country needs to “focus more on quality.”

In September 2015, United Nations (UN) member states formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which contains 17 goals including a new global education goal or the SDG 4 which aims “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Citing the 2019 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report – which was launched in the country recently – Khan noted that data shows “very, very positive trends” when it comes to the Philippines and its efforts on achieving SDG 4.

“Based on the comparative data, there’s positive progress,” Khan said. While enrollment and participation rates are “very good,” he noted that need to work on the quality of education. “We need to make sure that people are not left behind like the out-of-school youth and we have to work on the quality of education on the different levels,” he added.

To help ensure that the Philippines stays on the “right track” when it comes to achieving education goals, Khan underscored the need for bigger and stronger investment in education. “Investment in education should be a top priority,” he said.

Meanwhile, DepEd Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Alternative Learning System (ALS) G. H. Ambat assured that DepEd is now initiating more efforts when it comes to quality. “We are now pivoting from access to quality because we recognize that in the recent years, we have improved the access to our learners so that in June 2019, we have 27.2 million learners in our schools already, our participation rates, completion rates, and cohort survival rates have greatly improved,” she added.

Despite all these, Ambat said that the DepEd recognizes “that there still those that are left behind.” Given this, she noted that DepEd has been “invigorating our support to our students – whether it is through school-based feeding program so that they stay in school.” She also noted that DepEd also tries to ensure that learners are healthy through its “OK sa DepEd” which is the agency’s health flagship program. “We have reinvigorated that ALS so that those who cannot come to formal school will still be able to get the quality education that will empower them to contribute to nation-building,” she added.

When it comes to the other indicators of SDGs, Ambat said that DepEd – along with other agencies – are “all working towards that, making sure that our graduates will graduate with skills needed for the 21st century.” In the next three years, she noted that this administration “is intent on really achieving the targets that we have set.”