DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones during the virtual event on August 13.

Education stakeholders convened on August 13 for a virtual event to recognize the Department of Education (DepEd) and USAID Philippines’ joint efforts in increasing early grade reading and literacy in the Philippines this year, despite the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 epidemic.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said USAID collaborated with the DepEd to enhance reading and literacy, arithmetic, and social and emotional skills for early grade students (K-3) in Regions V (Bicol) and VI (Philippines) via the ABC+: Advancing Basic Education in the Philippines Project (Western Visayas).

For operations in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, USAID collaborated with the Bangsamoro Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education.

U.S. and Philippine government officials led by Acting USAID Mission Director Sean Callahan and DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones celebrate shared successes in advancing learning continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“By working together, we have supported DepEd in implementing innovative strategies to improve early grade literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional learning.  Through ABC+ we will work together to reach up to two million students in Regions V, VI and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” said Sean Callahan, acting mission director of USAID Philippines, was quoted in the statement.

Interventions to enhance early grade teaching and delivery systems, access to quality resources, and education system capability are all part of USAID’s assistance. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, USAID has aided the implementation of the DepEd’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan in early grades.

To date, the USAID-DepEd partnership has produced and distributed nearly four million supplementary reading materials to more than 250,000 students; trained over 10,000 teachers, supervisors, and school administrators; developed and adapted nearly 500 leveled readers in several mother tongue languages and in English; and produced 64 television-based and radio-based instructional materials. 

DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, in her remarks, said that “ABC+ is an example of the many initiatives that made schoolyear 2020 and 2021 possible.  A collaboration with USAID, this partnership covering Regions V and VI and a division of Maguindanao focuses on improving reading and literacy of math and social and emotional skills for early grade children…. today we will witness a glimpse of the success of this partnership that has helped us achieve what we were able to do during the past year.”

“The efforts and innovative practices brought to us by this partnership will be taken forward in this incoming school year.  We need to embrace innovation, we need to engage with partners and USAID is a shining example, and stakeholders to collectively develop innovative solutions that will help us overcome challenges,” she said.

USAID and DepEd are also assisting teachers in project sites to develop appropriate remedial measures to address gaps in reading skills.  As a result, children gain the ability to progress towards their actual grade level or become “reading ready” during the school year. 

To streamline the training and professional development of teachers, the partnership also developed the NEAP Professional Development Information System that enables teachers to participate in training programs, take pre- and post-tests, complete evaluations and receive their certificates online.

The ABC+ project will continue for three more years and aims to benefit two million early grade learners in its focus areas.  The project is a partnership of USAID and DepEd, implemented by RTI International, in collaboration with The Asia Foundation, SIL Lead and Florida State University.

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