Eastern Visayas: A Rare Gem in Philippine Basic Education

Over a decade of monitoring learning outcomes in Philippine schools, one region has always stood out. Elementary and high school students enrolled in the schools of Region VIII, Eastern Visayas, have always done much better than the rest of the country in the National Achievement Test. These are the students that come from the two islands of Samar and Leyte, the two islands that came face-to-face recently with a super typhoon, Yolanda.

Map of the Philippines showing the location of Region VIII (Wikipedia)
Eastern Visayas is also among the poorest regions in the Philippines. In 2012, the poverty incidence is 37.2 percent (second only to the conflict-ridden regions of Mindanao). The figure below shows the poverty incidence in 2003 and 2006.

The most recent numbers are not any better:

Source: National Statistical Coordination Board
With the profound deleterious effects of poverty on basic education, it is therefore surprising that Region VIII performs so well in the National Achievement tests (These are copied from slides prepared by DepEd National Education and Testing Center):

It only natural then that the Asian Development Bank touts Southern Leyte as an example of how to make schools effective. In 2008, after a landslide buried an elementary school, students still topped the national achievement test for recent elementary school graduates:

To read the entire article visit
The project financed by the bank consists of the following programs:

  • school heads were trained in planning and management
  • teachers were trained in subject knowledge and teaching skills
  • textbooks for students in core subjects, such as math, science, English, and Filipino were provided 
  • alternative education programs were setup for students unable to attend school regularly
  • innovative ways to keep the students in school have been developed; some schools even have their own school feeding programs to discourage children from dropping out due to hunger. 
  • decentralization of education management was provided by building up the capacity of divisions, regions, and central offices to take on new responsibilities.
Since Region VIII is also home to the poorest provinces in the country, schools in this area have also received support from the Third Elementary Education Project (TEEP) funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. The TEEP project described in a previous post in this blog includes the following:
  • Education Development Component: This component provided (a) in-service training of education staff (school head, teacher, DepEd administrative staff), (b) the School Improvement Innovation Facility (SIIF), a grant facility for funding specific school improvement initiatives, (c) textbooks and supplementary materials, (d) school kits, (e) equipment, (f) and furniture. After the mid-term review in 2001, School-Based Management (SBM) was added to this component. 
  • Civil Works Component: This component provided classroom and DepEd administrative office facilities. Almost all schools in the target provinces were planned to have at least one classroom facility constructed or repaired by TEEP. TEEP required ten-percent of LGUs’ equity for the school building program.
  • Finance and Administration Component: This component provided teachers and staff of DepEd and LGUs with technical assistance to improve their management of procurement, finance, and project monitoring. It also provided the Education Management Information System (EMIS) to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation function of DepEd.
One should not make the mistake, however, of understating the effects of poverty on basic education. Although Region VIII has one of the highest scores in the National Achievement Test, the region also has a relatively large number of school drop outs:

Above figure copied from
In terms of percentage (attendance rate), region VIII is among the lowest in the Philippines:
Above figure copied from
There is no doubt that the devastation brought by super typhoon Yolanda would have a dramatic impact on basic education in region VIII. We could only hope that after sending bottles of water, emergency food, and providing temporary shelter, we would not forget that Yolanda also destroyed schools....