Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy

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Background & Rationale Comment by Phoenesse Tee:

Weak, emotional, and soft. These are just some of the frequent terms used to describe a woman. On face value, these are in no way derogatory or depreciative. Though if taken into the context of the female population, it bears a much more different and degrading meaning. Propagated by a patriarchal society, words such as these are used to belittle the skills and credibility of women in any field they enter. They are usually not recognized for their contributions to various sectors such as the academe, science, politics, corporate, and many more. Due to this stigma against women and their power, they are frequently the second priority of society which is quite a loss according to Todaro and Smith (2015).

The Philippines, a country located in Southeast Asia, is still traditional in terms of many concepts. As such, it is no stranger to this scenario, but fortunately, the situation is getting better here. The increasing realization of the importance of Filipina women gave rise to the movement of empowering the Filipina. Research about the issue, together with the prompt and pressure from their citizens, the government recognized the need to act. Hence, the Magna Carta of Women was created.

The Magna Carta of Women, also known as Article 9710, is a human rights law enacted in July 22, 2008. It is a legislation that primarily focuses on improving the status and lives of Filipina women. It aims to minimize, if not eradicate, discrimination towards Filipinas by developing plans and legislations that seek to reduce the gaps between men and women with regards to opportunities and access to resources. The gaps being pertained to can be seen on how women have less access to clean water, formal education, sanitation, and the likes. They are also often excluded from the services of the government and have reached a point wherein they, specifically those in the informal sector, are more likely to be poor and malnourished as compared to their male counterparts. (Todaro & Smith, 2015) These are just some of the many inequalities that the government and the citizens want to address and are trying to act upon.

As a result of the law, the Philippine Government also created the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, now Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), to be the one to coordinate with women and gender equality concerns as well as to ensure the effective implementation of the Magna Carta of Women. These implementations comprise of the regulations that the private sector and society in general have to recognize with regards to the rights of women, as mandated by the Magna Carta of Women law.

Despite the efforts being made by the government, discrimination towards women still continue to persist especially in education. This is disadvantageous for the nation because according to PCW (2013-2016), it has been discovered that females perform better than males in several, if not all, key educational factors. This entails that women tend to be more productive than men and would contribute more effectively to our country’s society. As a result of such findings, more policies are being added to the law by several government agencies. One of the most recent ones is the Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy, also known as the Department of Education (DepEd) Department Order No. 32, s. 2017. This policy was established in June 29, 2017 by DepEd as a response to the gap in formal education among sexes. There are two main goals that this policy aims to accomplish. The first one is to integrate concepts such as gender equality, gender sensitivity, and human rights into the basic education of the younger generation. Then, the second one is to disseminate education in a more equal manner. These are requisites so that more women, especially those in the informal and indigenous sectors, can have access to quality education and more individuals can become open, concerned, and prone to achieve gender equality. Having such a scheme, the government is trying to stimulate change by starting with an area that has massive influence on an individual in hopes that the rest of the discrimination towards women will fade and gender gap will continue to increase.

Issue or Problem Being Addressed by the Policy

The Department of Education seeks to address emerging gender equality and discrimination issues against Filipino women through the Gender – Responsive Basic Education. (Department of Education, 2017). As gender inequality is highly evident in the provision of basic education, the policy aims to provide equal access to quality education in a safe and nurturing environment to ensure the holistic development of the students. It promotes inclusive education wherein both men and women are given equal opportunities and resources throughout the learning process. Furthermore, it also aims to alleviate gender inequality, especially those experienced by marginalized groups, by reducing gender gaps in education and in the workplace where gender discrimination is overlooked. This is done to ensure that the rights of women and those marginalized are protected. Aside from these, the policy also aims to protect children from bullying, abuse, and discrimination in schools brought about by gender differences.

Benefits of the Policy

The Gender-Responsive Basic Education (GRBE) aims to ensure that equal access to education and other learning opportunities is given to men and women by eliminating gender-based barriers like gender-based discrimination and gender-based violence. Moreover, this policy emphasizes that by addressing the gender disparities in the learning process, gender equality not only in academic institutions, but also in the workplace and community can be attained. Equal and fair gender treatment as a result of gender equality in educational outcomes is the goal of this policy (Llego, 2017).

Since this policy seeks to undertake worsening gender and sexuality-related issues in basic education, it can be seen that one of the highlights of this policy is ensuring that both men and women get fair treatments and opportunities in education and in the workplace. This includes the enforcement of non-expulsion of women who become pregnant outside of marriage, formulation of policies to boost women participation in sports, and provision of breastfeeding, as well as child-minding stations (OutrageMag, 2017). By mitigating the educational gap between men and women, the economy of the country will prosper. To reiterate a previous point, according to one of the key points of the Millenium Development Goals, “the rate of return on women’s education is higher than that on men’s” . This is attributable to two reasons. First, is that increasing women’s education increases productivity due to increase in supply of labor force Second, since women carry the bigger burden of poverty, making improvements in their status through education creates a heavier impact on the development of the economy (Todaro & Smith, 2015). Third, increasing participation of women in societal activities and alleviating their burden in terms of child-care also allows them to have more career opportunities. From this, it can be concluded that developing the roles of women in the society to more than just being the caregiver of the family.

Promoting the non-discrimination and inclusion of marginalized and minor groups like women has a lot of benefits. Investing in education can be related to the human capital approach. The human capital approach is the term used for investment in human capacities, such as education and health to raise productivity when increased. According to Todaro and Smith (2015), the impact of human capital investments can be substantial for developing countries. With DepEd looking to implement policies to promote and minimize gender and sexual discrimination, this institution cannot ignore one of the most controversial and prevalent discrimination existing today, which is the discrimination against the women in our community. With this being said, more policies orienting the youth regarding the importance of gender equality and respect for people belonging to different groups and stronger implementation of existing anti-discrimination laws are essential to lessen the number of dropouts from educational institutions. Education is one of the backbone of a country’s economy. All in all, eliminating discrimination based on gender orientation can help improve the nation’s educational system, which in turn can improve income inequality since educational opportunities can be made available proportionately to all people at different income brackets (Todaro & Smith, 2015).

Implementation Problems and Solutions

Implementation Problems

While the policy definitely has some good intentions, it does not come without some lapses of its own. The policy seems to place equal access to education as one of its main goals. This can be seen in the Policy Statement section of the document (Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy in 2017 (2017). However, according to Manila Bulletin (2017), Filipinas currently face issues that go beyond mere access to education. With regards to access to education, the Philippines is actually doing very well. In fact, the primary and secondary education attainment rates of Filipinas are higher than that of their male counterparts. However, the statistics for tertiary education attainment for women could be improved, with women being at 9%, as compared to 15% for men. Nevertheless, Filipinas generally enjoy equal access to education in the Philippines, and this may have been the result of the proper implementation of the Magna Carta for Women.

This gives light to a different issue. The issue that still looms over Filipinas comes in the form of discrimination and violence. According to Jacobsen (2017), this comes in the form of “sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and sexual harassment in schools, the workplace, and on the street”. While the policy is limited in terms of what it can do to improve the sex trafficking and forced prostitution situation in the Philippines, it can help address discrimination and sexual harassment in schools. It is important to address this issue because the situation is already dire in the country. In fact, some women are not able to attend school because they do not feel safe. Even the policy itself recognizes this as one of the more pressing issues that need to be resolved in the Philippines. It is repeatedly reported as such within the first few pages of the Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy in 2017 (2017).

However, upon detailed examination of the plans of the policy, it seems that, in light of trying to provide equal access and less discrimination, their focus is on trying to get the curriculum, school materials, and school instructors to be more gender sensitive and inclusive. While this is a definite step towards a less discriminative school environment, it does not tackle the problem head on. Among the list of plans that DepEd aims to employ, only one of them directly tackles the issue of discrimination. It is to “Ensure a gender-responsive and physical and social learning environment that promotes respect for all people and has zero-tolerance for all forms of discrimination, violence, and abuse.” The problem with this is that this one sentence anti-discriminatory plan can easily be forgotten among the 10 pages worth of plans. The vagueness of the proposed plan of action does not help either. All of this result in a low impact policy that seems like it’s trying to address an important issue, through the use of band aid solutions.

The lack of impact can be seen today. Upon research of the 2017 DepEd policy, no follow up or concrete implementation plans seem to be in place. This may be partly attributable to the budgeting system in place for this policy. According to the Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy in 2017 (2017), at least 5% of DepEd’s budget will be allocated to Gender and Development related plans. This means that the budget allocation is dependent on DepEd’s total budget, which, for 2019, is 8.92% lower than its 2018 budget (Tomacruz, 2018). It also doesn’t help that in 2017, when the policy was being put into force, DepEd was focused on the full-implementation of the K-12 program (Arcangel, 2016).

Solution:

In order to better address the issue of discrimination and sexual harassment, certain adjustments and additions have to be made to the policy. UNESCO suggests that “teacher education and codes of conduct can help change teacher attitudes and behaviours.” The creation of said code of conduct comes from teacher unions to help form professional guidelines for fellow teachers to follow globally. A separate review of 24 countries found that over half of teachers believed the code of conduct had a very significant impact in reducing misconduct (McKelvie-Sebileau, 2011). The Philippines has actually implemented said code of conduct however the problem remains with it not being properly monitored. Aside from that, with teachers being hands-on in teaching their students, having them be properly educated on gender equality can also help address gender-based biases. Countries such as Italy, Spain and Turkey have taken the initiative on requiring their teachers to undergo gender equity in education courses for them to be more aware on how to address gender sensitive topics (UNESCO).

Other countries have also formed their own gender-based responses towards education in relation to the growth of their students, in which the policy can also improve on. Schools are increasingly implementing prevention-oriented models to teach students acceptable strategies for interacting with their peers (Horner et al., 2010). Such models help students exude positive social behaviour which improves their social skills and can be further linked towards academic achievements. Asian countries such as Singapore have also begun adopting said models (Durlak et al., 2011). All of these are much more detailed plans that can be incorporated into the policy, which can be more effective in addressing the discrimination and sexual harassment problem.

With regards the the budgetary problem, instead of allocating a certain percentage of DepEd’s budget towards gender equality in education, setting up a fixed amount of funds might be more fitting for this situation. This would create a sense of security for those pursuing Gender and Development projects under the said policy. They wouldn’t have to worry about not having sufficient funding for the implementation of their projects, and this would be better for the continuance and the effectivity of the said policy.

Something that is important to keep in mind is the fact that plans and budgets are useless unless they are put into force and are maintained with regularity. However, this is an important aspect wherein the country lags behind. The lack of monitoring and evaluation of such plans and budgets can be a hindrance for the development of the country, as these two activities are important in being able to make improvements and forecasts in the projects and policies that are currently in place. Once these improvements are implemented, we can be assured that the country is inching towards a brighter future.

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Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy. (2020, Mar 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/gender-responsive-basic-education-policy/

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