For Education Secretary Br Armin Luistro FSC, the Palarong Pambansa is more than just an annual sports meet. “It is the culmination of all sports and physical development programs of DepEd from Kinder to Grade 12. Nakapaloob ito sa K to 12 curriculum,” he explains prior to meeting Department of Education (DepEd) regional directors.
Reminding everyone to exercise the “same level of care we give our students in our schools” Luistro says that the Department’s strength is in developing the curriculum, which is why they have crafted a senior high school (SHS) track focused on sports. “This is not just a program for developing star athletes,” he says. “Our goal is to create a curriculum that will allow athletically-inclined learners to develop skills and knowledge that will allow them to be productive in the field even beyond their peak years.”
“We want them to be able to make a living out of what they know and love.”
While competitors in the games focus on ‘the moment,’ Luistro and his team are looking to the future. DepEd’s Management Committee (MANCOM) chooses from among different bidders (cities or provinces) the next Palaro hosts.
“One of our criteria is what they will do after the games are done. The host invests in facilities and equipment and we want to know if they will be able to maximize these when their Palaro is over.”
“We envision each province to specialize in particular sports,” Luistro says, adding that like the academic and tech-voc tracks, senior high schools cannot offer specializations in all sports.
DepEd’s vision puts the learner first when crafting policy, and this is what anchors the reforms DepEd instituted in recent games. Luistro and Palaro Secretary General and DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali ensured insurance coverage participants and worked towards better screening for athletes.
“We have special awards for the most organized delegations and a ‘clean and green’ policy that ensures that we leave the host the way we found it. Or even better.”
As billeting areas for athletes and delegation officials, public schools undergo a “makeover” months before the games – toilets are upgraded, shower areas installed, and classrooms spruced up to serve as sleeping quarters. “Serving as quarters for delegations means an early ‘Brigada Eskwela’ for these schools,” Luistro adds, referring to DepEd’s yearly school maintenance activity.
DepEd and the local government unit have ensured a safe and learner-centered Palarong Pambansa. With the installation of mobile clinics and medical first-aids in every game venue, DepEd and the LGU are able to provide medical assistance to those who need it.
“The Department is working towards improving the safety of our athletes,” Umali said. He added that this starts with the teachers and school administrators who make sure that the schools are safe for the students.