‘BRING the kids to school, and retain them.”
This was the call made by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to address enrollment woes in its jurisdiction, following the opening of public schools in the country.
In a Senate hearing on the preparedness of basic education schools, Gatchalian pointed to the decreased participation rates in BARMM, which are also lower than nationwide averages.
For instance, in School Year (SY) 2020-2021, BARMM’s Kindergarten participation rate was at 53 percent—lower than the 66-percent country average.
Similarly, in elementary education, the region’s participation rate was at 69 percent, as opposed to 89 percent nationwide.
Participation rates in junior and senior-high school further plummeted to 37 percent and 13 percent, by order of mention.
In contrast, the nationwide participation rates for junior and senior-high school in SY 2020-2021 were higher at 81 percent and 49 percent, respectively.
The senator also pointed to the average low cohort-survival rate in BARMM. For every 100 learners in the region who enter Grade 1, only 17 graduate from Grade 12. For the same number of pupils nationwide who enter Grade 1, 51 finish senior-high school.
“I believe that the first order of business in BARMM is to promote schooling, and the second…is to retain learners in school,” said Gatchalian, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
In the solon’s discussions with BARMM governors, it became apparent to him that many children in the region drop out of school to help out in their families’ farms. He illustrated that “[they’re] forced to work at an early age because of poverty. But, of course, in the long run, the situation may not be conducive to their long-term well-being.”
Gatchalian has previously pushed for an enhanced back-to-school program to increase enrollment in the region. He also sought to strengthen the implementation of alternative learning system, or ALS, to enhance skills and abilities of the current working population, as well as out-of-school children and youth.