During a virtual event commemorating the 54th anniversary of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) last November 27, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones represented the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). As such, DepEd is the focal agency of Philippine government-hosted SEARCA whose main mandate has been to build capacities in agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia since its establishment in 1966.

She stressed that “masteral and PhD level researches should be translated into the curriculum and integrated into the curriculum for basic education so that we start off our learners early in their lives on being appreciative of the benefits of agriculture, of protecting our environment, and caring not only for the present but also for the future generations.”

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said “From 2020 to 2025, SEARCA’s programs are geared towards accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN) to elevate the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets.” He added that SEARCA’s five-year development strategy is articulated through its core programs on research and thought leadership, emerging innovation for growth, and education and collective learning through graduate scholarship and institutional development as well as training for development.

“As a region that is mainly agricultural and dependent on natural resources, we have benefited from the programs and researches that have been produced by SEARCA,” Sec. Briones noted. She remarked that “Insofar as is concerned, I have a very special interest… and I have given advice on how the products, outputs of research can be used for our curriculum requirements in the Department of Education at the basic education level.”

The education secretary said “DepEd’s School Plus Home Gardens project, on which we have been working with SEARCA and the University of the Philippines Los Baños, has been a shining example of our successful endeavors with the Center. And we are thankful for the support that it extends to our local agricultural institutions and we look forward to more years of partnership.”

“SEARCA’s mission to help the agricultural communities improve their livelihoods is in line with the DepEd mission to improve the Filipino learners’ quality of life through holistic education,” Sec. Briones said.

She added that “We are particularly interested in capacitating even more our farmer-teachers, our farmer-scientists, and teachers who start off our learners at the very basic levels of education on the joys and excitement of feeding our country and keeping it beautiful and also preserving the environment which they should learn at a very early stage.”

Sec. Briones assured that “The government of the Philippines, and not only the Department of Education, strongly supports the Center’s programs and we’re always happy to partner with SEAMEO SEARCA whenever possible.”

She emphasized that “In a world that is advancing towards technological innovations and skills development… we need to be reminded of inclusive and sustainable development to fully accomplish our development goals. So we are pushing for inclusive and  equitable for all Filipino learners. We acknowledge the significant impact of having an educated and skilled population for the nation to progress.”