June 1, 2012
SENATORS QUESTION FUNDING
Senators are pushing for increased funding for the Early Years Act which was earlier vetoed by President Benigno Aquino III for budgetary constraints.
During the interpellation following the sponsorship speech delivered by Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Senators Joker Arroyo and Gringo Honasan questioned why the allocation for early childhood care and development (ECCD) was slashed when this is period is critical in the formative years of learning.
The original measure passed by Congress stipulated an initial allocation of P1 billion plus P500 million every year for five years for the implementation of the National ECCD Program. In the refiled measure following the veto, the initial P1 billion allocation was removed.
"We want to bankroll the implementation of the National ECCD Program with as much money as we can," said Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture. "However, there are realities we need to face: we want to allay the fears of the executive branch and get this measure finally enacted into law."
The amended Senate Bill No. 3176 sponsored as Committee Report No. 155 seeks to institutionalize early childhood education in the country. The National ECCD System is comprehensive, integrative and sustainable, and involves multi-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration at the national and local levels of government.
Said measure will also provide community training to arm parents with the information, skills and support systems needed as the primary caregivers and educators of their children. Neighborhood-based play groups, family day care programs, parent education and home visiting programs will be established to harness and develop parents' strengths as providers of ECCD at home.
"We will be using the existing daycare centers throughout the country and turn them into education-oriented institutions. This conversion is necessary because ECCD entails more than just child-minding and childcare--it includes the provision of health, nutrition, early education and social development services for the children," Angara explained.
Congress earlier passed the Early Years Act (EYA) but was later vetoed by President Benigno Aquino, citing potential overlaps in agency accountability; budgetary constraints; concerns on the possible displacement of barangay day care workers; and issues towards rationalizing the bureaucracy.
With the new version, Angara assured that the bill will not lead to an overlap in agency accountability because it retains the core departments and agencies that are already overseeing the government's ECCD program, namely the DepEd, DSWD, the DOH, and the ECCD Council, which will become an attached agency of the DepEd.
The veteran legislator also believes that sending the children early to school will significantly reduce repetition and dropout rates in the country.
"Early childhood education is seen to significantly reduce repetition and dropout rates in the country and quality early childhood education has been shown to improve the scholastic abilities and school readiness of young children, thereby prevent school dropouts," he stressed.
Citing a study by the World Bank, Angara claims that children who participate in early development programs are more competent socially and emotionally, and show better verbal, intellectual and physical development than children who are not enrolled in high quality programs.
He said the lack of educational support from children 0-6 years old resulted in high dropout rates. This translates to 1.2 million who are in play centers not fit to prepare them for school while 2.5 million children of school age who are not enrolled.
"Filipinos do everything they can to send their children to school. Parents often say with pride, 'Ginapang namin para makapag-aral aming mga anak'. If every Filipino does this, what excuse do the national and local government have not to do the same?" remarked Angara.
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