In a workshop-orientation session facilitated by the Ateneo de Davao University’s (ADDU) School of Education (SOE), a well-represented gathering of T’boli tribal leaders, parents, students, teachers and other stakeholders articulated what they desire as the core values and objectives of their senior high school (SHS) to be piloted in June of this coming school year (SY) 2015-16. The two-day workshop-orientation on 17-18 April 2015 held at Punta Isla Lake Resort in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, was attended by a total thirty-nine (39) participants gathered together by the Department of Education (DepEd) in coordination with Lake Sebu’s Council of Elders. It was likewise graced by no less than Mr. Johnny Sumugat (Regional Indigenous People’s Education [IP] Focal Person), Mr. Bert D. Labuaya (South Cotabato Division IP Education Focal Person), Ms. Leolyn Simora (Principal of Lake Sebu National High School), Datu Benito Blonto (Municipal Tribal Chieftain of Lake Sebu), and Mr. Levi Butihen (DepEd District Supervisor of Lake Sebu).
Facilitated by Ms. Femie Faller and Dr. Maria Teresa B. Isidor, and assisted by Education graduate student Yi Yi San (from Myanmar) and M. Isabel S. Actub, the session ushered in dynamic exchanges of ideas that helped define the commitment of the T’boli stakeholders in their active support and participation towards the fruition of their aspiration of a SHS that is strongly grounded in the culture, history, arts, and heritage of the T’boli tribe.
This special session is part of a long process of crafting and developing an IP-based curriculum for SHS in preparation for the implementation of the K-12 educational reform of which ADDU—in partnership with DepEd—is taking a lead not just in Mindanao but in the country.
Importance of Mother-Tongue
The multi-level group of participants openly asserted the importance of preserving their IP culture in the midst of an evolving educational environment. The participatory discussions were peppered with the use of the local dialect (T’boli) which enlivened the collective sharings of a cohesive IP community that clamours to make a strong contribution towards developing a contextual IP education in their own locality. Indeed, the dynamic exchanges in the local dialect—which the participants insisted during the session—is but a strong indication of the T’boli’s sensitivity towards preserving and affirming their cultural heritage even in the midst of promoting standardization of a SHS curriculum.
Strong Community Participation
The process undertaken by the ADDU-SOE team during the workshop-orientation resonates with the collective desire of the participants to promote participatory and collaborative community work. The datus representing the Council of Elders showed eagerness in having a strong stake in the implementation of this pilot SHS program this coming June 2015, a year ahead than the national implementation of SHS in 2016. Likewise, the parents, teachers, students present during the session openly expressed commitment to work together to implement this pilot SHS project in partnership with ADDU and DepEd.
Global yet Culturally Sensitive
While the participants expressed that this partnership should be sustainable beyond the pilot stage which will run for two SYs (2015-16 and 2016-17), there was a strong collective sentiment in upholding the important core values of preserving their cultural heritage as IP, yet underscoring the need for a curriculum that is at par with national/global standards, integrating modern technology and contemporary approaches in teaching/learning vis-à-vis preserving and developing IP culture with particular emphasis on environmental preservation, gender equality, equal opportunity, competitive curriculum, teamwork and participation, promotion of Christian values, capacity-building, development of IP professionals, and job opportunities, among others.
Presentation of Proposed SHS Curriculum
On the second day of the workshop-orientation, the SOE team presented the ADDU-crafted proposed curriculum for the T’boli SHS, based on the prescribed DepEd requirement, generating further comments, ideas, and suggestions from the participants. The proposal highlighted a pre-work track curriculum with a course on Sustainable Community Resource Management in line with Agriculture and Eco-tourism. The presentation generated positive and affirmative support from the participants especially that it considers the context of the locality. There were also strong expressions of commitment on the part of the stakeholders towards the implementation of this special SHS project which is a first of its kind in the country. Before the end of the second day’s session, the participants articulated ways on how they could contribute towards fulfilling their commitment to support this important pilot program.
Product of Research
The crafting of this special program (i.e., Indigenous Peoples Education Project) is a by-product of a process of collaboration that included the conduct of an ethnographic research by ADDU’s Department of Anthropology. It may be recalled that on 13 September 2014, ADDU was granted by the T’boli a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for the conduct of an ethnographic research—the T’boli Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP)—which forms the foundation in developing a culturally responsive T’boli SHS curriculum. It should also be remembered that as early as last year, ADDU president Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ and DepEd Secretary Bro. Admin Luistro, broke new grounds by collaborating together to address the IPs’ assertion for an inclusive education in the light of the K-12 educational reform.
The T’boli SHS, to be housed initially in one classroom in Lake Sebu National High School, will be inaugurated formally in a special ceremony on 25 May 2015. Meanwhile, in time for the preparation of it’s opening in June of this SY, the identified T’boli high school teachers who will run this special SHS will be trained at ADDU for the remainder of the summer. (By M. Isabel S. Actub, for the School of Education)