Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines receives a grant for evidence-informed policy making (EIPM) activities within the INASP-led VakaYiko programme. Anne Lan K. Candelaria discusses why there is fertile ground for EIPM in the Philippines.
There are many capacity-building programmes being offered to policy makers in the Philippines. Of late, the push to eradicate corruption in government by the Philippine president, Benigno Aquino III, has increased the demand for trainings that will enhance transparency among government agencies. Some of these policies are:
- The Open Government Partnership programme of the Philippines – of which projects include the Transparency Portal for national agencies and local government financial budgets and expenditures
- The Seal for Good Local Governance, which measures local performance in financial housekeeping, service delivery, disaster preparedness, business competitiveness and peace and order
- The recently launched Open Data Philippines, which is a centralized repository of government data that is accessible to the public.
These strongly suggest that the current government is supportive of evidence-informed governance and policy making.
What are we doing?
Our project seeks to address the following gaps in current policy making activities surrounding education in the Philippines:
- The use of evidence in policy making among subnational government institutions
- The organizational gap between national agencies, the Department of Education and local policy makers.
- The gap between the local policy institutions, particularly the Local School Board and the Local Councils.
We aim to do this through a two-phased, capacity-building programme. The first phase involves the delivery of four training modules, and the second phase implements a three-month online and face-to-face mentoring engagement between the participants as they go through the adoption and implementation of proposed evidence-informed policies to address collectively identified concerns in education. As a culminating activity, the participants will be invited to present their experiences and EIPM journey in a roundtable.
In designing our programme, we took into consideration two things: (a) a less technical language, and (b) a more informal and interactive design. This capacity programme therefore is framed within a developmental approach, where a combination of workshop-intensive training and a ‘learning-by-doing’ / mentoring was implemented. The two-phased capacity building programme was designed to facilitate an informal but structured dialogue (similar to policy circles) among the participants from the same municipalities and their province and, together, come up with an initial policy commitment that will further EIPM in their respective areas. In addition, ours also provides room for policymakers to try-out and experiment with the use of EIPM without political risks.
We chose two provinces: Nueva Vizcaya located in the island of Luzon and Samar located in one of the islands in Visayas. Each provincial government then selected three municipalities or towns who will be part of this programme.
Our training workshops consist of four modules. The first module introduces EIPM and why it is important in local education governance. Module 2 introduces useful Evidences in Education including the discussion of performance indicators commonly used by the Department of Education. Module 3 discusses the principles of Data Management including an overview of Action-based research and its ethical considerations. Finally, Module 4 introduces the Policy Lean Canvas as an alternative tool for Weighing Policy Decisions and Alternatives. It ends with a special note on ‘Learning from Policy Failures’ as a necessary step towards the improvement of their internal systems and processes of policymaking.
At the end of the project, we expect that all participants would have implemented their EIPM policy commitments, all modules and materials developed will be turned over to the Department of Interior and Local Government’s Local Government Academy for possible mainstreaming, materials for case study development have been collected and stored; and results of the project have been communicated to all other stakeholders in various platforms available.
Education has always received the most attention in the national government’s policy tables. For 2014, 18.6% of the budget (approx. US$8.34 billion) went to education. Many reforms have also taken place in the last 20 years to improve the quality of the country’s education system. However, the most recent and radical reform is the K to 12 program, which added two years of senior high school to the current 10-year basic education.
Changes are also taking place within the bureaucracy, such as the rationalization of the Department of Education (DepEd)’s operations and organizational structure, expansion of its online database called Basic Education Information System, and the decentralization of some key instructional and management functions to the schools through its school-based management programme.
Despite these developments however, an evidence-informed education policy at sub-national levels of government is still wanting. This is partly because education is still a centralized function of government; it has never been formally devolved like, for example, health or social services.
However, in reality, education is a shared local responsibility. The Local School Board, a multi-sectoral local board, is mandated to plan and implement education-related policies and programmes that are, on the one hand, aligned with current national policies and, on the other hand, focused on local concerns and needs. It is chaired by the Local Chief Executive (Mayors and Governors) and the local DepEd representative (school district Supervisors and Superintendents). It is therefore not surprising that the cost of financing education locally is increasing over the years. A study conducted by AusAID and the World Bank in 2010 suggests that local governments have been increasingly investing in education by as much as 73% from 2002 to 2008.
Still the reality is that the Department of Education, the national government agency mandated to manage the educational system in the country, dominates the policy environment as well as control of data related to education. Hence, our programme also seeks to address the primordial need for evidence to be accessible across agencies of government.
In addition, we also intend to work on the need for the executive and legislative bodies at the local level to understand what these data mean and how it can be used from a policy perspective. But they should learn together (something that traditionally does not happen often) because the policy experience of one enriches the other. The programme therefore provides for a “safe” (non-politicized) venue where the executive and legislative can collaboratively set policy directions that can be manifested into actual policies and subsequently translated into local projects and programmes.
Local policymakers as priority in capacity development
We strongly believe that local policymakers form the country’s policy making backbone. It has been 24 years since the 1991 Local Government Code empowered the local governments to plan and implement policies and programmes that respond to their local concerns. Locally, they act not only as the glue that binds the local bureaucracy and the community together but, more importantly, as a source of remedy for a wide range of concerns from the mundane to the complicated. We therefore envision our participants to become culture shapers within their own organizations, and hopefully to their larger community, after going through this capacity-development programme.
More than strategic thinking, we believe that transforming the culture of policy making in subnational levels of government is key in institutionalizing change and promoting a more open process of governance.
Anne Lan K. Candelaria, PhD is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University. She was the former director of the Ateneo Center for Asian Studies (ACAS) and the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED). She has worked on research and development programmes on decentralization, public policy, local education governance and citizenship education.