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Toward inclusive learning: Integrating LGBTQ+ studies in basic Philippine education

Upholding the LGBTQ+’s basic rights requires ensuring that an entire generation has a better understanding of SOGIE.

In a world that is slowly coming to terms with the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, it is necessary to teach younger generations about this new breakthrough in recognizing everyone’s human rights. One way that these new values can be imparted onto them is believed to be through the educational system—specifically the early educational system. However, in a country like the Philippines where many people still do not fully accept the queer community, this idea encounters some hurdles.

To go beyond ‘empty rhetoric’

The traditional hurdles to integrating the LGBTQ+ into the early education system involves unwillingness of the conservative climate in the Philippines. Bahaghari Chairperson Rey Valmores-Salinas argues that the “macho-feudal culture” of the Philippines, which emphasizes traditional gender roles, promotes a disdain for the queer community.

She explains that this culture in turn produces leaders who do not understand the value of accepting the queer community. Valmores-Salinas goes on to say that many leaders in the country even regularly disrespect the LGBTQ+ community. The fact that these leaders do not give as much value to or even acknowledge the existence of the LGBTQ+ makes integrating progressive ideas into early education difficult.

However, there were some attempts to integrate LGBTQ+ studies into the early education system. In 2017, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued Department Order (DO) 32, known as the Gender-Responsive Basic Education (GRBE) Policy, which contains provisions on how to integrate gender sensitivity in the basic education curriculum.

But Valmores-Salinas argues that the policy did little to advance gender sensitivity. A study published in the journal of the ASEAN Research Organization found that there were large gaps in implementation because of a lack of monitoring and evaluation to see if the programs had their desired effect. Thus, not all educators worked to eradicate gender stereotypes with their students. The Bahaghari chairperson even points out that later on, DepEd even contradicted itself with its actions during the pandemic, publishing materials that promoted harmful gender norms—an example being modules that taught children that jobs are gendered.

“The Philippines has never had an administration that has proactively pushed to implement progressive education relating to the LGBTQ+ community. At least, nothing beyond empty rhetoric,” she asserts.

Plans, efforts to progress

In order to give way for the gradual integration of a progressive LGBTQ+ education in the basic curriculum, the DepEd—as the office mainly responsible for such an enhancement in the system—and the rest of the government should provide a plan with comprehensive steps on how this can be achieved.

Both Valmores-Salinas and Department of Sociology and Behavioral Sciences Lecturer and incumbent National Convenor for the 2030 Youth Force in the Philippines Inc. Rodmar Eda underline the important role that these institutions play. The former emphasizes that the government should first acknowledge that “gender inequality is a problem that must be addressed.”

“The passage of a national anti-discrimination policy (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Equality Bill) and its implementing rules and regulations is a concrete form of recognition by the state that the LGBTQ+ community is a marginalized sector in the Philippines, and it is a sector that requires [an] affirmative, anti-discriminatory policy,” she elaborates.

Without such “executory laws”, DOs from DepEd such as the GRBE Policy in 2017 will not make an impact and their objectives will just remain on paper.

Eda echoes this, adding that DepEd should put policies in place and make sure that “core messages” and gender and development concepts are “genuinely and explicitly being used in the curriculum”—such as in lesson plans, class activities, and the like.

He also mentions the importance of first capacitating and sensitizing teaching and non-teaching personnel on gender and development concepts. “There is an active effort to do that. I think schools are required to conduct gender sensitivity training among teachers,” the professor points out. “[But] then again, the problem is there are teachers, I believe, that still do not personally adhere to these [gender equality] concepts, so we have to make sure that our educators are well-informed because they will be delivering the knowledge.”

Although such training and formation for teachers on these concepts begin in their undergraduate and graduate education, all aspects of the system—especially the curriculum—should be an avenue for improvement.

Along with capacity building and policy implementation, parents, guardians, and individuals concerned with and directly affecting the formation of students are also key figures that need to be made aware of such matters.

Sobrang laki ng difference ng curriculum natin 10 years ago versus now. So, I think, people have to be informed about all of these significant changes within the curriculum,” Eda emphasizes.

(There is a huge difference between our curriculum 10 years ago versus now.)

‘Rights-based approach’

However, the integration of progressive LGBTQ+ education into the basic curriculum is not the only concern but the methods of teaching that may be needed to be employed once it is integrated.

Eda says that a rights-based approach should be considered wherein gender and development education will not be presented as a “special agenda or topic” to give “special attention” to LGBTQ+ individuals.

Dapat mas tinitingnan siya na karapatan ito ng mga tao; nagkataon lang na itong subset of people, they identify themselves as a gender minority or as part of the gender diverse population. The approach when it comes to gender studies shouldn’t be too ‘shove-it-in-your-face’ type of education. Dapat mas natural kasi the goal is really to mainstream the concept kasi it’s supposed to be,” he explains. 

(It should be looked at as the rights of the people; it is just that, this specific subset of people…)

Eda further emphasizes that it can only be done if there is a genuine rights-based approach asserting that everyone is supposed to enjoy the same rights as the rest of society.

Valmores-Salinas also adds that gender diversity should be a priority topic once LGBTQ+ education is integrated, “Children must be taught early on that every Filipino, regardless of their gender, is more than capable of being a productive member of society, and that each one [should] equally enjoy the basic human rights afforded by the state.”

“We learn about gender diversity, not to create more boxes, but to better appreciate, scientifically understand, and love our fellow Filipinos,” she ends.

By Deo Cruzada

By Barbara Gutierrez

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