[PHOTO AT LEFT - Luistro Echoing the guiding principle of President Aquino that the Filipino people are his boss, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said all schoolchildren, whether in public or private schools, are his boss.]

MANILA, JULY 17, 2010 (STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda - “The batang Pinoy (Filipino child) is our boss here in the DepEd (Department of Education),” Luistro told The STAR.

His leadership of the largest bureaucracy of the government, tasked to educate more than 21 million young minds in public schools, is geared towards addressing the shortage of resources and providing “quality education for all.”

“I will strive to inspire people, empower them, get them to make commitments and goals and then hold them accountable. I like to believe that I work best with networks,” Luistro said.

The new education chief, however, remains silent on his position on the controversial program to integrate reproductive health education or sex education in the basic education curriculum (BEC).

“I cannot give my position right now because I have to serve as a bridge between parties who have different opinions on the teaching of sex education in elementary and high school,” Luistro said in a press briefing yesterday.

Luistro said he will try to strike a middle ground between those who are for and against the sex education program.

The DepEd’s move to include sex education in the BEC is being opposed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Various organizations, including teachers’ groups led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, have raised concerns regarding Luistro’s appointment due to his religious affiliation, citing possible conflict of interest on the sex education issue.

Luistro is a member of the Catholic La Sallian Brothers which runs the De La Salle schools, including De La Salle Greenhills and De La Salle Zobel in Alabang.

Hunger for education

Luistro said he came from a financially challenged family in Lipa City, Batangas and his father, who worked in a small rural bank, struggled to send him and his seven siblings to school.

The sixth in a brood of eight siblings, Luistro said he would not have been able to finish college if not for an educational scholarship given by the La Sallian Brothers.

“I know how it is to hunger for education. So I know the hearts and minds of our young children in our public schools.”

According to Luistro, President Aquino wants him to arrest education backlogs in two years.

“The President wants the Filipino people to immediately feel changes in their lives particularly in education, which is his priority,” he said.

Luistro believes his whole working life devoted to teaching and education prepared him for DepEd’s top post.

Paraphrasing the late President Corazon Aquino, Luistro expressed gratitude to God for being a Filipino and for sending him to DepEd.

He also asked DepEd employees to work with him in raising the quality of education in the country, stressing that he wants a collaborative management.

“The load we bear here in the department will be much lighter if we work together,” Luistro said.

“Teachers plant seeds whose fruits they never get to enjoy. As chief teacher, I present to you fresh fruits that symbolize the many things you have done for education,” he said.

But Luistro asked for time to study DepEd and the problems it is facing.

“Any prudent educator will need to observe, look around, and listen,” he said.

“DepEd is a huge organization. I will need some time to know the lay of the land so we can promote the programs that continue to be relevant and effective and also identify and implement the necessary reforms to address the most urgent needs of the Filipino youth,” added Luistro, who spearheaded several organizations, including the Black and White Movement, that opposed the administration of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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