“Indigenous peoples in education have been oppressed, discriminated against, their knowledge and systems of practice seen as inferior to a one-size fits all system of education which has sought to compartmentalize and separate learning from life.“
Addressing an audience of indigenous educators and supporting staff from across Mindanao and the Philippines, Mr. Rozanno E. Rufino, Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Education Office (IPsEO), spoke about the progress made in understandings of culture-based education in the Philippines, and how both the National Indigenous Peoples Education Policy Framework (DepEd Order No. 62, s.2011) and the K-12 Reform (Republic Act No. 10533) aim to bring this to the center of education policy.
Mr Rufino was key-note speaker at the recent conference held by Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center in Sitio Bendum, Bukidnon, entitled ‘Developing management capacities in culture-based education.’
“Education which is culturally rooted is about nurturing identity, maintaining intergenerational ties; it is aligned with maintaining the wellbeing of ancestral domain and community, and achieving harmony with the community life cycle. This is culture-based education,” Mr Rufino said.
Even in the present day, the school system contributes to the erosion of indigenous knowledge skills and practices (IKSP):
“Schooling is in conflict with the life of the community and community activities that are actually intertwined with indigenous learning systems,” he said.
Mr Rufino also quoted Bro. Armin Luistro’s statements from January of this year:
“We have been mis-educated by a system that perpetuates cultural oppression… which we need to change to undertake reforms.”
Mr Rufino went on to emphasize how K to 12 is responsive to the learner’s context. This has implications on curriculum and assessment, teaching and learning processes, learning resources, structures and environment, and management. It moves from the separation of learning and life, to learning from life.
Mr Rufino said that the reforms are about allowing communities to chose and design the component of education which will allow them to provide their learners with a strong basis in community history, experience and life, while also developing their key learning competencies.
This moves the approach from IKSP being taught as a stand alone subject–’museumising’ the knowledge–to a system of education which is both relevant and responsive.
“K-12 is flexible, it encourages a range of educational approaches…. it is both interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary,” he said.
In a question and answer session after his speech, participants at the conference raised questions about the implementation of the K-12 on the ground. Some DepED offices, school principles and teachers have understood the reforms as a means to impose curriculum to the people at the margins, which is not in keeping with the idea of indigenous education. The speaker said it should be Indigenous Peoples who teach and make decisions about what is taught.
“Communities must assert themselves if they want to change the implementation of DepED,” replied Mr Rufino.
Acknowledging that some DepED offices have not implemented the program properly, he said that communities must be more assertive about how they wish students to be educated, and expose those offices or principals who are not allowing recognition of IKSP.
As part of the D.O. No. 62, s.2011, Mr Rufino said, there are already situations where community elders’ knowledge has been incorporated and where they have become part of the teaching force.
“The framework is not black and white, the policy is designed to be open…. If there are competencies required by a community, it must be the elders that evaluate the performance of students, and they must take part in decision-making about what knowledge the children get.”