Culture in Education: the Indigenous Negrito Peoples of the Philippines

Learning how to build a 'binatak'houseThe indigenous peoples with a hunter gatherer background of the Philippines, among which the Agta, Aeta, Ati, Ata and Batak, are collectively referred to as Negritos. They represent the most ancient civilization in the country, going back more than 40,000 years in time.

Rutu advisory board member and ethno-ecologist Jenne de Beer, works closely with the Negrito in a cultural revival and empowerment initiative.

Cultural Festivals/Education
The initiative plays out through cultural festivals and traditional food revival activities, while much attention is given to involving the youth.  The latter includes collaboration with elementary schools, in particular through a pilot at the Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta (SPA) main school in General Nakar, Quezon.

As for the aspirations of the communities to have an education which does not  alienate the children from their rich heritage: a film (part of a series of 5) was produced by young Agta leaders, assisted by Jon Corbett of the  University of British Colombia), in October 2012 around ‘Tebewen’, the first national Negrito Cultural Revival festival and Development Forum.


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Preservation of Culture in Education

Since the film’s release, great progress has been made with incorporating traditional knowledge and skills through learning activities in, around and out of the school:

See more examples here: Culture in Education in the Philippines.pptx FINAL

New school book: Proud to be Agta
As part of the curriculum overhaul, in October 2014, a bilingual workbook for first graders was released about the Agta forest-oriented culture and way of life, their history and ancestral domain. With beautiful drawings by students of SPA. This book and other tools are now being shared with other Agta schools in the area. Click on the image to view inside.

Proud to be Agta - book for first graders

Support from the Department of Education
These efforts have benefited much from the active encouragement from the side of the Department of Education. The department, under its current leadership (Secretary Br. Armin Luistro), is welcoming the developments, as these fit in well in a new policy frame for indigenous peoples’ education formulated three years ago.

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