24 October 2020; Paris, France — Philippine Education Secretary Leonor Briones participated in an online Extraordinary Global Education Meeting (GEM) co-organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Governments of Ghana, Norway, and the United Kingdom on Thursday.
Secretary Briones emphasized the Philippines always prioritized education in accordance with its Constitution. Education received the highest portion of the national budget. However, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was intense competition for national resources and the challenge was to defend continuity of learning.
“We are doing all we can to ensure continuity of learning,” she emphasized.
The Philippines was doing its best so that delivery of learning was done in as safe a manner as possible. As the world seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, “education is a sound investment for transformation,” noted Briones.
She shared that enrollment for elementary schools in 2021 was even higher than in previous years. Despite the challenges, “there will be equity and quality gains in education in the Philippines,” she concluded.
Heads of State and Government and Ministers from 70 countries and executives of a number of international organizations addressed the event, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The GEM adopted a declaration on the importance of promoting and protecting the right to education of all learners, especially girls and the most vulnerable, during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery phase.
The GEM highlighted the need for action and cooperation in three areas:
1. Maintaining and strengthening domestic and international financial support to the education sector;
2. Safe reopening of schools; and
3. Narrowing the digital divide.
Countries and stakeholders at the meeting pledged to monitor progress towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Education Agenda and the action areas identified in the GEM Declaration.
The Philippines is a member of 2030 Education Agenda Global Steering Committee and actively participated in the drafting of the GEM Declaration. Suggestions made by the Permanent Delegation of the Philippines to UNESCO were incorporated in the text, particularly on addressing the digital divide and enhancing international cooperation for developing countries.