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Education Secretary Leonor Briones (third from left) at the Panel Debate on Empowering People: Ensuring Inclusiveness and Gender Equality during 2018 GEM

4 December 2018; Brussels, Belgium -- Speaking at the second day of the Global Education Meeting (GEM), Education Secretary Leonor Briones highlighted the Philippine Government’s actions aimed at ensuring inclusiveness and gender equality throughout the entire educational system.

Secretary Briones served as a panelist in a session moderated by H.E. Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia. Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium opened the Ministerial Segment of the GEM.

Secretary Briones informed the over 60 delegations led by Ministers and high-level officials, as well as UNESCO and UN agency representatives, academe and civil society, including the youth, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities that the Philippines under the Administration of President Duterte attached the highest importance to education. The Government engaged in a massive school-building campaign and aggressive teacher recruitment to meet the needs of its population.

She emphasized that the Philippine Constitution mandated the Government to dedicate the largest portion of the national budget to education. She also mentioned school feeding programs, improving access to schools in remote areas, and reproductive health campaigns among other measures.

In response to a comment from an indigenous peoples’ representative, the Secretary remarked that education should not be utilized as a political tool. She said that the situation in North Cotabato was not a Department of Education issue, but one related to ideology and the rule of law.

She emphasized that the Philippines in general, and the Department of Education in particular, supported the rights and rich heritage of indigenous peoples within the context of peace and sustainable development.