Batanes is 1st province with no out-of-school youth

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Batanes is 1st province with no out-of-school youth
Hundreds of high school graduates used to be idle in Batanes. Now all of them are learning functional skills so they can earn for their families.

BATANES, Philippines – Despite its small population size and high literacy rate, the province of Batanes once had hundreds of out-of-school youth.

These are people ages 15 to 30 who are mostly high school graduates but were not able to complete or pursue a higher education, and are unemployed and “idle.”

But in March 2015, education officials and local government units in Batanes finally mapped all 574 out-of-school youth in the 3 islands of Batan, Sabtang, and Itbayat, registering them under the Department of Education’s Abot Alam program. 

This makes the island province the first to achieve a zero out-of-school youth status in the Philippines, according to Education Undersecretary Mario Deriquito.

The department recognized the province in a ceremony Tuesday, March 31, held at Basco, Batanes. All 6 municipalities of Batanes have the following number of learners under the program:

  • Basco – 109 learners
  • Itbayat – 136 learners
  • Ivana and Uyugan – 135 learners
  • Mahatao – 117 learners
  • Sabtang – 77 learners

The Abot Alam program provides interventions on education, entrepreneurship, or employment for the out-of-school youth. (READ: Education for all by 2015? Not happening, says Unesco)

Productive youth

Deriquito said the province, even with a population of only 16,604, still sets an example for the rest of the country. (READ: DepEd 2014 target: Get 1M dropouts back to school)

Kahit sabihin po natin na kaunti lang naman ang out-of-school youth sa Batanes…pero kung titingnan natin, sa buong Pilipinas, marami ring maliliit na barangay, marami ring maliliit na mga bayan, marami ring maliliit na mga probinsya,” he said.

(Even if we say there are only few out-of-school youth in Batanes, but if you look at it, there are many small villages, small towns, and small provinces in the Philippines.)

If Batanes can do it, then other provinces can also start small to achieve a big goal: A Philippines with no out-of-school youth. 

SOUVENIR-MAKING. Mothers in Batanes learn paper weaving. Products like this are often sold to tourists as souvenir items. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

Since the literacy rate in Batanes is high at 97.39%, most of the Abot Alam learners are high school graduates who are after functional skills like food processing, carpentry, welding, and weaving.

These skills can help them earn extra income, since opportunities are limited in Batanes, where the main sources of income are agriculture, fishery, and government employment.

The program also keeps young people from being idle in their communities.

“There are those who are not doing anything, and these are the people that become problems in the community. The mayors, when they learned about this program, were happy because actually in their own communities, it would help a lot in easing out the problem with the youth,” said Wivina Gonzales, DepEd Batanes schools division superintendent.

Beyond high school

Other provinces can learn from Batanes, where the education sector partnered with the local government units and different government agencies in seeking out opportunities for the out-of-school youth. 

They also tapped industry partners and small enterprises willing to train learners on-the-job.

But the challenge will be to maintain Batanes’ zero out-of-school youth status. This means tracking where future graduates will go after high school.

The way I see it is next year, siguro, yung mga matatapos ng high school or elementary, kaunti lang ang magiging out-of-school youth. Babantayan na namin. Madali na lang yan. This is tracking, and we have to do this,” Gonzales said.

(The way I see it is next year, maybe, from those who will finish high school and elementary, only a few will be an out-of-school youth. We will monitor them. That should be easy. This is tracking, and we have to do this.) –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.