(by Dang Samson Garcia)

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian called on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to address its low enrollment rate, the lowest nationwide.

“Bring the kids to school and retain them,” Gatchalian said.

In a Senate hearing on the preparedness of basic education schools, Gatchalian pointed to the low participation rates in BARMM, which are also lower than the nationwide averages.

During School Year 2020-2021, the participation rate in Kindergarten in BARMM stood at 53 percent, notably lower than the nationwide average of 66 percent.

Similarly, in elementary education, the regional participation rate was 69 percent as opposed to 89 percent nationwide.

The participation rates in junior and senior high school further plummeted to 37 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

In contrast, the nationwide participation rates for junior and senior high school during SY 2020-2021 were considerably higher at 81 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

Gatchalian also pointed out the low cohort survival rate in BARM saying that for every 100 learners in the region who enter Grade 1, only 17 graduate from Grade 12.

“I believe that the first order of business in BARMM is to promote schooling and the second order is to retain learners in school. During my discussions with BARMM governors, it became apparent that many children in the region drop out of school to help out in their families’ farms. They’re forced to work at an early age because of poverty. But, of course, in the long run, the situation may not be conducive to their long-term well-being,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

Gatchalian previously pushed for an enhanced back-to-school program to increase enrollment in the region.

He also sought to strengthen the implementation of the Alternative Learning System in the region to enhance the skills and abilities of the current working population, as well as out-of-school children and youth.