The island region of Mindanao in the Philippines has been home to a minority Muslim population for more than five centuries. Much of Mindanao’s history has been marked by war, poverty, inter-clan fighting, and ethnic marginalization. Armed conflict has pulled boys out of school and disrupted the local economy. Today, about half the children in the region do not attend school, and only one in six teens enrolled in high school will graduate.
Hoping to reverse this legacy, USAID funds EQuALLS, a public/private alliance among Filipino and U.S.-based organizations to increase educational opportunities for local children both in and out of school, improve teacher quality, and mobilize the community in support of education. EDC provides leadership and coordination as these groups overhaul the education sector.
Project leaders aim to develop an educational program that is relevant and meaningful to this minority population, so children will stay in school longer and graduate with an education that equips them for success.
“The national curriculum in the Philippines has been designed for the majority population,” says Nancy Devine, EDC project director. “But the young people in Muslim Mindanao are growing up in a distinct minority culture and in a conflict zone. They deserve an education that is relevant to their world.”
EQuALLS focuses on improving teacher training in mathematics, English, and science. It also provides thousands of dropouts a second chance through alternative high school programs offered in community learning centers. Locally, staff train school boards to help them become more effective advocates. Project workers also engage mayors and other officials in supporting school improvement.
“Right now local government and the private sector are not actively involved in improving education, but we’re working hard to change this,” says Miriam Pahm, director of technical programs for EQuALLS.
Originally published on May 1, 2007