Pandemic times did not hinder the convening of the14th Washington SyCip National Education Summit, Synergeia Foundation’s first-ever virtual summit.
Held on March 25-26, 2021 with the theme “Learning from Our Best to Defy Gravity,” Synergeia continues to pursue its vision of empowering local governments and communities to rise as one for the Filipino child, to accelerate efforts to boost the quality of basic education in their communities, in and despite of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Recent global studies have raised the alarm about the lagging literacy rate in the country and its negative impact on economic growth. According to a 2019 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, only 10% of Filipino Grade 5 pupils had achieved the reading literacy skills expected at the end of primary school, versus 82% in Vietnam and 58% in Malaysia. In 2018, the Programme for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that 15-year-old students from the Philippines ranked lowest among 79 countries in reading proficiency and the second lowest in mathematics and science.
Synergeia Chairman Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ opened the sessions with an inspirational message to around a thousand online participants–local government officials, school administrators, and teachers from all over the country who logged on to share, listen, and learn from one another, despite the spotty internet connection in some areas.
Fr. Villarin underscored the need of Synergeia members to be “catalysts” who defy the downward pull of the pandemic by “stimulating action” and “pushing action from within.”
“We come together to learn about ourselves and from each other. We need our neighbor to infect each other with goodness, to replicate not the bad but the good and to share many copies of the good. This is the only summit that we can ‘copy’ (from one other),” he said.
Since its founding in 2002, the Synergeia culture has made its way into the hearts and minds of communities via its “6R programs”: Reinventing Local School Boards (LSBs) to be inclusive and strategic in planning and executing community-based learning solutions; Rebuilding learning communities through functional School Governing Councils made up of parents, local officials, teachers, NGOs, and private business; Retooling teachers in new pedagogical techniques and school administrators, in management skills; Reshaping parents to be more engaged in their children’s learning process; Restoring the trust and capacities of educators and leaders of Moslem communities; and Reinforcing the strengths and capacities of children to develop love for family, country, and their fellows.
According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID),its collaboration with the Synergeia network since 2013 to help boost learning outcomes in the early grades via the USAID Education Governance Effectiveness (EdGE) project, has touched the lives of over three million (M) Filipinos, 14,000 educators and 18,000 officials and administrators. Of these, the local government units (LGUs) that excelled in delivering quality education to their constituents were honored with the Seal of Good Education Governance, which was launched in 2017.
This year, 27 LGUs received the Seal, which now makes for a total of 88 “education champions” leading the charge for Synergeia across the country, even as current conditions have rendered the job tougher and more complex than ever.
“Education is the responsibility of the central government, yet you embraced it completely and we deeply appreciate your effort,” said Synergeia President and CEO Dr. Milwilda M Guevarra as she congratulated the awardees.
Founding Synergeia Chair, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres thanked the entire Synergeia community for continuing to build “a new future for our children from the ground—child by child, school by school, LGU by LGU. Our virtual summit has shown that we are on the way to journeying together, caring for the most vulnerable, our children. We are on the path to coming out of the pandemic towards a better future, together.”
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.