Farm schools to be set up under new measure awaiting signature by Aquino
MANILA, Philippines — A different kind of high school, focusing on agriculture and fisheries-related lessons, could soon rise in the country’s rural areas, on the guiding principle that not all students’ needs are the same.
These rural farm schools would teach practical agriculture and fisheries-related skills, aside from the core secondary school lessons required by the Department of Education curriculum, in order to provide lessons more responsive to the needs of children in agricultural or fishing communities and to encourage them to become local entrepreneurs.
These institutions would be created under the rural farm schools bill, which Congress approved shortly before adjourning last week and which is just awaiting the signature of the President to be enacted into law.
The schools, which would be an alternative delivery mode of secondary education, are a “multi-pronged attack against poverty, inequity, agricultural decline, and economic constriction in the rural areas,” according to the bill.
The relatives of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beneficiaries would be a priority when it comes to admission in these schools.
Poverty incidence is highest among fishermen and farmers, and the agriculture sector also has the lowest productivity rate, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board.
The rural farm schools are also intended to drum up enrollment in agriculture-related college courses, according to Aurora Representative and Senator-elect Juan Edgardo Angara, a co-author of the measure. Many colleges have actually been offering these courses, but there have been few takers, Angara noted.
“The farm school bill hopes to help address the lack of interest,” he said.
The bill declares it a policy of the state to “promote sustainable agricultural productivity and rural development by empowering the human capital in the countryside through access to avenues of learning suited to the needs and realities of the rural agricultural communities.”
Under the measure, the Department of Education should encourage the establishment of at least one public rural farm school in every province in the country, and these schools should be free from tuition and other school fees except the ones allowed by the department.
They should follow the DepEd’s core secondary education curriculum, with additional agri-fishery courses. The last two years should focus on integrative learning, with emphasis on farm entrepreneurship theory and practice and its promotion as a tool to cultivate local entrepreneurs, revitalize rural economies, and repopulate rural communities.
The schools should also apply a flexible learning philosophy.
The DepEd would be tasked with accrediting rural farm schools, which may also be set up by private entities. Donations, contributions, bequests, or grants made to accredited rural farm schools would be exempt from donors tax and would be an allowable deduction from the gross income in computing the donors’ income tax.
Senator Edgardo Angara, the bill’s principal author in the Senate, said in his introductory note that the rural farm schools would “warm the social and economic engines of the countryside, lessening poverty incidence and empowering the rural communities.”
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