Remarks by Lawrence Hardy II, Mission Director, Synergeia National Education Summit

Friday, September 29, 2017

[As Prepared]


It is a great honor to be here in my third week in the Philippines as the new Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development, commonly known as USAID. USAID is the lead U.S. government agency that works to end global poverty and enable democratic, resilient societies to realize their potential. As part of U.S. Embassy Philippines, I bring you the greetings of the U.S. Ambassador, the Honorable Sung Kim.

I would like to start by acknowledging all your hard work to strengthen education governance in Philippines. I understand that yesterday was an inspiring first day of the summit. You heard from a variety of distinguished speakers — including mayors, governors and education officials — who discussed their insights on education governance, based on their rich experiences. I am certain the learning will continue today.

USAID is proud to partner with the Synergeia Foundation to implement the Education Governance Effectiveness project, affectionately known as EdGE.

A well-known African proverb that has now been adopted by cultures around the world says that “It takes a village to raise a child.” With this same spirit, USAID through EdGE engages the community — including principals, teachers, parents and community leaders — to heighten participation in education. EdGE also mentors local governments, school division superintendents, supervisors and local school board members to make education planning, management and evaluation more efficient and effective.

At USAID, we believe that education serves as a driver for development and the elimination of extreme poverty. Education is transformational for individuals and societies. It also creates pathways to better health, economic growth, a sustainable environment, and peaceful, democratic societies.

It is because we believe so strongly in the importance of education that the U.S. government works closely with the Philippine government to expand access to inclusive, quality education for all – especially the most marginalized and vulnerable. Experience has shown that education not only raises individual incomes but can also advance inclusive economic growth for the country.

One of the goals of USAID’s global education strategy, which EdGE feeds into, is improving the reading skills of students in the primary grades as the foundation for future learning. Greater community engagement, accountability and transparency in education are key elements to increasing school success and completion.

At the heart of this strategy is USAID’s commitment — together with our partners — to good education governance. This includes better use of public education funds, so that they are effective, transparent and aligned with education needs identified by the local communities.

In 2013, during the first USAID-supported National Education Summit, the mayors of the initial 64 EdGE sites, Department of Education officials, local school board members and representatives from the private sector signed the EdGE covenant to lead education governance reforms in their communities and collaboratively improve access to quality education. Since then, USAID and Synergeia have been working with partners to develop and implement effective and responsive school improvement plans that are connected to the budgets of the local school boards and barangays.

Today, four years later, we celebrate our successes.

As a result of our partnership, there are nearly 300 barangays and school boards with more funding devoted to education needs. Their expanded work has benefitted almost 2 million early-grade learners. In the last quarter, 17 barangays reported an outstanding 153 percent increase in their education spending, amounting to nearly 400,000 Philippine pesos.

USAID, together with Synergeia, has also trained more than 8,300 administrators and officials in 91 cities and municipalities. As a result, nearly 1000 local school boards and school governing councils now serve as our partners and advocates for improved education governance.

Our EdGE partners have demonstrated that transforming education service delivery through good governance is achievable. I would like to recognize just some of these successful examples today.

  • In Lambunao, Iloilo, USAID’s partners, through the education summits they organized, helped diagnose challenges and identify opportunities to improve the quality of education. In these schools, 84 percent of the student population are now expected to complete primary school, representing a 15 percent increase since 2013. Santol, La Union and Solano, Nueva Viscaya are also champions who have improved their primary school completion rates by 30 percent in just three years.
  • We also celebrate the successes of Cagayan de Oro City in Misámis Oriental and Simúnul in Tawi-Tawi. They utilized the Special Education Fund to develop new school sites, train teachers and conduct research. Today, the number of children who could not read or who had significant difficulty reading in these localities decreased by an amazing 35 percent!

This ‘EdGE Community’ also includes mayors who are champions of education governance reform and are at the forefront of our partnership.

  • Mayor Ramon Piang of North Upi, Maguindanao identified the need to develop networks, partnerships and alliances in education. Under his leadership, the local government organized education summits to discuss and agree on education reforms. For example, parents now campaign for the payment of real property tax to expand the resources of the Special Education Fund. These same parents trained additional parents in 10 municipalities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, scaling up a program that involves parents to reduce dropouts and improve academic performance of students.

These are just a few examples of education champions who have transformed their communities. And there are many more among you — too many to go into details about today — who have proven that education transformation through good governance is indeed possible and sustainable when a community joins together around this goal.

We celebrate our shared accomplishments today, but our work is not yet complete. Reading skills are still below-target in the National Achievement Test and currently, more than one in five children do not finish primary school.

I would like to challenge you to inspire your peers and press forward to advance education governance as an essential step in improving the quality of education in the country. I believe that you have all the knowledge, the experience and the capacity to do this. Now is the time to not only continue your good work in your respective communities, but to scale up these best practices nationwide.

It is our hope that the knowledge, insights and connections gained at this summit can spread positive models of education governance, municipality by municipality, city by city, and province by province. Now use this momentum to bolster education standards in every part of the Philippines, so that every Filipino child has access to the high-quality education that she or he deserves.

The U.S. government remains committed to the belief that we must continue to invest in our children as world citizens and our future leaders. And we must do so both collaboratively and sustainably, involving the national and local governments, the private sector, and most importantly, the parents and children.

I wish you a successful Education Summit.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat!

Issuing Country