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The Challenge

Though Mindanao is rich in natural resources and scenic beauty, the area has been historically disadvantaged relative to the rest of the Philippines, obtaining fewer social and economic benefits and suffering disruptions from armed conflict. As a result, social and economic indicators in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Regions IX and XII are the lowest in the country. Nearly 63 percent of the people live at the poverty level, nearly double the national rate. About 21 percent of the barangays in the ARMM are without schools. Only four students out of 10 complete elementary school, and nearly 30 percent of the population above 10 years of age are illiterate. The high drop-out rates and the correspondingly high illiteracy rate—along with conflict and the lack of job-creating investment in the region—have contributed to high unemployment. This leaves youth vulnerable to recruitment by criminal elements and violent secessionist groups. Access to quality basic education can provide a solid foundation for economic growth and help the people of the ARMM and conflict-affected areas break out of the cycle of poverty and alienation.


A Unique Approach: Education Alliances with the Private Sector
Two boysTo help address these challenges, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)/Philippines has launched a new education program to improve access to quality education and livelihood skills in areas affected by conflict and poverty, particularly in Mindanao. The principal vehicle for implementing this new program is the Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills (EQuALLS) Project.

To implement EQuALLS, USAID is partnering with the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd), DepEd-ARMM, the U.S. Peace Corps, the Asia America Initiative, Creative Associates International, Inc., and six private sector alliances led by the following organizations: the International Youth Foundation; Save the Children-Philippines; the Knowledge Channel Foundation; Synergeia Foundation; Real World Productions; and the Brother’s Brother Foundation.

These private sector alliances are expected to double the resources available for the EQuALLS program. By joining with such private sector groups—corporations, foundations, and NGOs—the U.S. Government pools not only their financial resources, but their creativity, energy, and expertise as well.

USAID assistance is focused on achieving four results:

  • Increased community-based formal and nonformal learning opportunities, especially in areas without schools or in conflict-affected areas;
  • Improved instructional capacity in reading, English, math, and science;
  • Reintegration of out-of-school youth (OSY) into a peaceful, productive economy; and
  • Policy reform and strengthened capacity to implement this at both the national and local levels.
The EQuALLS Project

Launched in 2004, EQuALLS is a five-year, $30.1 million initiative that combines the efforts of USAID partners from government, civil society, and the corporate sector. In coordination with DepEd and DepEd-ARMM, EQuALLS has set the following goals:

  • Building foundation skills (reading and numeracy) of young students,
    especially in Grades 1-3;
  • Strengthening and expanding the non-formal Alternative
    Learning System (ALS);
  • Improving pre-service and in-service teacher training;
  • Providing livelihood training and links to employment opportunities for out-of-school youth;
  • Developing new models of distance education through TV and radio;
  • Acquiring and distributing supplementary educational resources; and
  • Encouraging policy reform and building capacity to implement it.
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