Since 2002, Synergeia Foundation has transformed and helped organize community leaders into a thriving movement of education champions dedicated to raise the country’s declining literacy and numeracy rates—a task that has become doubly challenging with the onset of the pandemic.
Present day limitations did not prevent some 100 Synergeia member communities from converging online to answer the call of Synergeia Chairman Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ to “defy the downward pull of the pandemic by “pushing action from within” at Synergeia’s 14th Washing SyCip National Education Summit, held March 25-26, 2021, aptly themed “Learning from Our Best to Defy Gravity.”
At the frontlines of this movement are the Synergeia Regional Educational Councils (RECs) made up of local government, school board, and community leaders who subscribe to the Synergeia model of good education governance—inclusiveness, transparency and accountability, with a generous dash of perseverance.
This revolutionary concept was introduced by the late Interiors Secretary and founding Synergeia trustee Jesse Robredo, hailed for his determination to empower local government units to engage with their constituents in “bottom-up” policy-making for the benefit of the communities under their watch.
Currently, there are six RECs dedicated to engaging stakeholders in their designated regions to come together and tackle head-on the complex task of delivering to every child the education he or she deserves: North Luzon, Panay Island, Northern Mindanao, Central Mindanao, Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi, and the LEARN Council composed of LGUs from the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and Southern Luzon.
Through pocket discussions, meetings, seminars, and workshops, the RECs facilitate team and capacity building, the sharing of concerns, consultations with third party experts, data gathering and profiling of communities, benchmarking of school and learner performance, identification of priority concerns, brainstorming solutions, and strategizing action plans.
Representing the strides that they have taken at this year’s Summit were: Board Member Jason Gonzales of the Provincial Government of Iloilo, Chairman of the Panay REC; Vigan Mayor Juan Carlo Medina, Chairman of the North Luzon REC; North Upi (Maguindanao) Mayor Ramon Piang, Chairman of the Central Mindanao REC; and Bongao (Tawi Tawi) Mayor Jimuel Que, Chairman of the BASULTA REC.
In the panel discussion “Communities in Action,” the four shared their “gravity-defying” moves in providing every child the education that he or she deserves.
Noting that “to see is to believe,” inviting LGU leaders and local school boards to Synergeia meetings and to visit model communities that are yielding positive educational outcomes is the first step to hurdling doubts. All four agreed that local leaders warm up to the idea the moment they realize that they are not alone in the quest for quality education. At the end of the day, the drawing power of RECs lies not so much in innovative practices as in a shared culture and a common language when it comes to standing up for the Filipino child.
The reach of this brotherhood of mayors, education leaders, and change agents committed to raising the quality of basic education in the country was commended by no less than USAID Acting Administrator Gloria Steele. In her message to Summit participants, she said, “With the local governments leading the way and with strong support from local businesses, there has been a 56% reduction in the number of students self-identifying as frustrated readers.” Ms. Steele furthered that Synergeia, through its partnership with the USAID Education Governance Effectiveness (EdGE) program has reached over three million (M) million learners, 14,000 educators and 18,000 officials and administrators.
Synergeia, founded in 2002, is a non–profit organization of individuals, institutions, and organizations working to improve the quality of basic education in the country.