He heads a highly-urbanized city; she, a fifth-class municipality. Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian and Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya Mayor Ronelie Ubando-Valtoribio may find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their locality’s size, population, and revenues, but they have something in common.
Their local government units (LGU) are two of 17 recipients of the Synergeia Foundation’s Seal of Good Education Governance. This is a feat that both have achieved for the second straight year.
“Our elation this time around is even more heartfelt because this win builds on the first and confirms that we are doing things right, that all our hard work in giving our children a better education is paying off,” says Valtoribio.
Gatchalian thanks Synergeia and its partners for the recognition which is “proof of our dedication to education.”
“This Seal inspires and motivates us to sustain our efforts and find more ways to enhance the public school system in our respective localities,” he says.
There are 41 public elementary schools and 19 high schools in Valenzuela City that cater to about 70,000 to 80,000 students. In contrast, there are 13 public elementary schools and 1 public high school in Villaverde, of which 4,000 students are 14 years old and below, says Valtoribio.
Qualifications for the Seal
These numbers may not put both LGUs on the same footing, but the performance metrics drawn by the Synergeia Foundation to determine the Seal recipients do.
Valenzuela City and Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya registered high scores against a 5-point assessment scale that measured how they ensured the active participation of their local school boards and school governing councils.
They also reduced the number of non-readers and frustrated readers in their locality by at least 20 percent, surpassed the national average of 80% for cohort-survival rate (percentage of first graders who went on to sixth grade), and increased their budgets for education.
As Seal recipients, the two LGUs will receive customized technology packages from PLDT and Smart.
Valtoribio looks forward to using the Smart School-in-a-Bag to improve the learning performance of public schoolchildren in Villaverde’s remote areas. “There are pre-loaded apps that can help enhance reading and comprehension, among others,” she says.
A component of the technology package, the Smart School-in-a-Bag contains a solar panel to serve schools without electricity, mobile devices, curriculum-based educational content, teacher training, monitoring and evaluation.
The technology package may also include the installation and maintenance of Smart WiFi in the LGU’s nominated university or college and provision of Infocast, a web-based solution that will allow the LGU to broadcast announcements and receive feedback via text message. Seal recipients will also receive smartphones and a cash prize.
Constituents from each of the 17 Seal recipients who will sign up for KasamaKA will also get a free three-month micro-insurance coverage from FINTQ, the financial technology arm of PLDT-Smart digital unit Voyager Innovations. KasamaKA is a community-based, self-help, income-generating and inclusive ecosystem-building movement.
Gatchalian says that he intends to repeat what he did last year and give a big chunk of the prizes to Valenzuela City’s smaller schools, particularly those located near the greater Bulacan province.
“The need will always be greater than the available resources,” says Gatchalian. This is why he urges fellow chief executives to use data to identify needs and determine programs, their recipients, and any needed intervention.
Data gathered for weigh-ins of public school kids, for example, allowed them to run a targeted feeding program and left them with funds for other components of the City’s award-winning Education 360 Investment program, he says. A weigh-in conducted midway allowed them to make adjustments, while one conducted at the end of the program gave them conclusive results.
He stresses the importance of data gathering, storage, and analysis to come up with cost-efficient programs that address real needs and upgrade existing ones.
The same holds true for Valtoribio who held a summer feeding program because the weight of a significant number of students reduced during the school break based on the results of a weigh-in conducted at the end of a schoolyear and a follow-up at the start of the succeeding schoolyear.
Like Gatchalian, she trusts that data will help her maximize her Special Education Fund (SEF). “We are the smallest and the poorest among the towns in Nueva Vizcaya,” she says.
Another way to offset limited resources is getting all the stakeholders in the community involved, says Gatchalian.
“When you get everyone – parents, education graduates or students, the whole DepEd (Department of Education) family, the machinery of City Hall – to push for literacy, then nothing is impossible. Resources suddenly become unlimited because you have tons and tons of volunteers willing to help,” he adds.
Smart vice-president for community relations Darwin Flores agrees that “innovative solutions to learning challenges work only when all major stakeholders are committed to solving these problems.”
“This is why it gives us so much hope to see all these LGUs deeply involved in improving the basic education of their constituents,” he adds during the awarding rites.
The Seal of Good Education Governance was first awarded in 2017 by Synergeia – a coalition of individuals and organizations working closely with LGUs – to promote transparency, accountability, and excellence in the delivery of basic education by local governments units.