MANILA, Philippines – With just over a week left before he steps down after a 6-year term, outgoing Education Secretary Armin Luistro admitted that he is, at this point, very tired.
"But I think this is the most meaningful job I have ever had in my life, and maybe none other after this," he said during a Rappler Talk interview on Monday, June 20.
Luistro took the helm of the Department of Education (DepEd) at a time when Philippine education was, according to President Benigno Aquino III, in crisis.
Six years later, and Luistro is happy to report that the biggest changes in education happened under the Aquino administration.
"[They are] not very well appreciated, but I think history will bear [Aquino] out. He has contributed so much in that change," he said.
"But at the end of the day, it's not about President Aquino alone. It's not about DepEd. It's about the capacity of the Filipino to face change, to embrace that, and to effect that change. Kaya naman natin eh (We can do it, after all), as long as we work together and we are patient with each other."
One of the changes Luistro is most proud of is the "sense of malasakit (concern)" in his department.
The best showcase of this, he said, is the Brigada Eskwela, an annual event where millions of volunteers give whatever they can – in cash and kind – to help out in preparing schools for the opening of classes.
"I have wonderful stories of how small communities, however limited the budget is, are able to create wonders, miracles, because they come together," he added.
Luistro said he will leave the department with stories of "living heroes" he met on the ground: the teacher in a far-flung area who, even with very little support from the department, put up reading corners for children; and another teacher in a Yolanda-stricken area who immediately came back to school the day after the typhoon just to track down all her students.
"I would never have met living heroes until I went and visited these schools. I don't care what changes happen in the department. At this stage, as an outgoing secretary, I look at, 'Then how has that changed me?'"
"I've always looked at our education system as an investment for the nation, and in this demographic sweet spot where the majority of our people are young, investments must come in to education. That's the only way where you could actually support that. We need to make sure that no one...should be left behind," Luistro said. – Rappler.com
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.