Indigenous Education in the Philippines

On this page, you will find out all about the different activities and initiatives of our ILED partner Sentrong Pagpapalakas ng Negritong Kultura at Kalikasan (SPNKK). The mission of the SPNKK is:

“To serve as a platform for collective action where empowered Negrito communities work toward the elimination of discrimination, protection of their ancestral territories, full recognition of their rights and cultural identity, and development of leadership potential within the framework of Negrito decision-making and political systems.”

Negrito is the collective term to refer to the Filipino Indigenous peoples with a hunter-gatherer background, including the Agta, Aeta, Ati, Ata and Batak peoples. The Negrito peoples represent the most ancient civilization in the country, dating back more than 50.000 years ago.

The Rutu International Advisory Board member, ethno-ecologist and award winning anthropologist Jenne de Beer works closely together with the SPNKK. He is also the founder of the Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Program (NTFP-EP) in Southeast Asia. Based in the Philippines, De Beer provides technical and monitoring assistance to the organizations. He has worked for over 30 years with indigenous forest communities in many parts of Asia, including the Negritos of the Philippines. Together with the SPNKK he aims to improve the situation of the Negrito peoples, as they face ongoing marginalization. An important part of this is guaranteeing the right to mother tongue education. So keep on reading and find out more about Indigenous education in the Philippines!

Grassroot Educational Initiatives


Elementary Schools
SPNKK’s first activities included the creation of various collaborations with elementary schools to provide education that does not alienate Negrito children from their rich heritage and communities. This includes a pilot at the Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta (SPA) main school in General Nakar, Quezon. This has resulted in the creation of a film by young Agta leaders (as part of a series of 5), assisted by Jon Corbetter of the University of British Colombia. In October 2012 (around ‘Tebewen’), it was released during the first Negrito Cultural Revival Festival and Development Forum. Since the film’s release, great progress has been made with incorporating traditional knowledge and skills through learning activities in, around and outside of school. See more examples here: Culture in Education in the Philippines.

New School Book: Proud to be Agta
The lack of multilingual school materials often poses a challenge for providing mother tongue education. Therefore, the SPNKK also creates educational resources that specifically target Negrito children. In October 2014, as part of the curriculum overhaul, a bilingual workbook for first graders was released about the Agta forest-oriented culture and way of life, their history and ancestral domain. It also includes beautiful drawings made by students of SPA school. This book and other tools are now being shared with other Negrito schools in the area. Click here to see the full book!

Mobile Forest School
The Rutu Foundation supports the SPNKK through its Mobile Forest School project. This project arose out of the need to disrupt the harmful effects of mainstream education and environmental changes. It aims to provide Negrito children with an alternative by offering culturally-appropriate secondary schooling, rooted in Negrito worldviews and ways of life. Curious to learn more about the Mobile Forest School? Check out this link.

Cultural Festivals & Revival of Negrito Food Traditions
SPNKK also organizes cultural festivals (such as the Mam-eh Aeta Forest Foods Festival), traditional food revival activities and other cultural revival initiatives. It actively involves the youth in these activities. The SPNKK and associated Negrito communities work together with different partners to realize this:

  • Collaboration for the revival of Negrito food traditions with the People & Plants organization: see the full details here.
  • Collaboration with the National Museum of the Philippines to open a permanent exhibition on the knowledge, history and culture of the Negrito peoples. Read more about the opening of this historical event here. It has led to various regular and re-occurring follow-up activity programs, accessible to both Negrito and non-Negrito youth.