School Safety in the Philippines

December 1, 2015

School Safety Philippines


Since 2007, the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd) has started to mainstream disaster risk reduction into the education sector. DepEd issued a policy, DepEd Order no. 55, that prioritises the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction in the school system. A Disaster Risk Reduction Resource Manual was developed for school administrators, principals, supervisors and teachers on the implementation of disaster risk reduction projects.

In 2010, the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act was passed, and DepEd created the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) as the focal point in planning, implementing, coordinating and monitoring activities related to disaster risk reduction, education in emergencies and climate change adaptation. Other roles included initiating and coordinating activities with government agencies and civil society organisations, and serving as the clearinghouse for all school safety resources including production and issuance of teaching and learning materials, and distribution of school kits. With the creation of DRRMO, a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Focal Point for each region and division was assigned.

In October 2015, the DRRMO has been elevated to a DRRM Service, which is granted equal authority with other offices in DepEd, i.e. hire full-time regular staff to carry out its roles and functions. With the elevation of the DRRMO to a Service, the post of a designated Focal Point in the regions and divisions has been replaced with a regular-hired DRRM Coordinator. The process of hiring regular staff (17 Coordinators for the regions and 221 for the divisions) has been ongoing at all levels.

The following are other key policies related to school safety that have been issued:1

  • Disaster Preparedness Measures for Schools (DO 83, s. 2011)
  • Guidelines on the Use of the Quick Response Fund (DM 104, s. 2011) – that can be used by disaster-affected schools
  • Enforcement of support to implement grant calamity loans to teaching and non-teaching staff in areas affected by calamities (DO 10, s. 2011)
  • Quarterly conduct of the National School-based Earthquake and Fire Drills (DO 48, s. 2012)
  • Continuing Fire Safety and Awareness Program (FSAP) in Schools (DO 72, s. 2012)
  • Integration of disaster risk reduction in the data collection forms incorporated in the Enhanced Basic Education Information System (EBEIS) (DO 23, s. 2014)
  • Guidelines on Student-Led School Watching and Hazard Mapping (DO 23, s. 2015)
  • Promoting Family Earthquake Preparedness to all elementary and secondary schools with instruction and guidance (DO 27, s. 2015)
  • Comprehensive Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Basic Education Framework (DO 37, s. 2015)

The Comprehensive Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Basic Education Framework adopts the Global Framework for Comprehensive School Safety. It provides guidance in:

  • The inclusion of DRRM in the school, division and regional education development plans.
  • The implementation of DRRM for education practitioners’ and partners’ planning and programming at all levels.
  • Defining the agency’s preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation initiatives with respect to hazards affecting school operations.
  • Serving as mechanism for engaging partners and aligning their thrust to DepEd priorities.
  • Guiding collaboration with the private schools.

Roles and Responsibilities of Schools, Divisions and Regions

Schools are mandated to form School DRRM team, which is headed by a designated coordinator. The DRRM Team and Coordinator are expected to: ensure the establishment of an early warning system for the school, conduct an annual student-led risk identification and mapping within and around the school premises, plan and implement disaster preparedness measures, maintain the safekeeping of vital school records and learning materials, track all school personnel during disasters, conduct damage assessments, facilitate immediate resumption of classes, and monitor recovery and rehabilitation interventions being implemented in the school, among other roles and responsibilities.

The School Division Office (SDO) provides support to and leads schools in the implementation of DRRM initiatives, and integrates DRRM in the Division Education Development Plan. Additionally, the SDO monitors safe site selection and construction of new school buildings, and recommends possible class suspension to the local DRRM Council. During emergencies, the SDO prepares for and facilitates possible deployment and provision of resources to affected SDO personnel and schools.

The Regional Office supports the SDOs in implementing DRRM initiatives, issues policies and monitors DRRM activities, conducts policy research on DRRM, and integrates DRRM in the Regional Education Development Plan. The Regional Office also maintains close coordination and collaboration with the Regional DRRM Council.

Clear structure and mechanisms are in place for early warning and emergency response from national to school levels. Immediately after the occurrence of any hazard, all affected schools are required to report the effects using the Rapid Assessment of Damages Report (RADAR) templates via SMS. All RADAR should be submitted within 72 hours after any hazard occurrence to facilitate the immediate determination of needs and necessary provision of assistance. Immediate, as well as, recovery and rehabilitation assistance, including school clean-up and repair, construction of temporary learning space, provision of learning materials, and reconstruction of classrooms are based on the RADAR submission of schools.

At the same time, the general public is involved in the reporting of damaged schools through posting of photos and information on DepEd’s social media sites –Twitter and Facebook.

The Education Cluster

The Education Cluster started in 2005 as the Education in Emergencies Cluster with about 20 member organisations working together to respond to Typhoon Reming in 2006. Since then it has become a coordination mechanism for school safety among the members. With DepEd as the Convener, and UNICEF as the co-lead, members include the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, ABS-CBN, ChildFund, GMA Network, Plan International, Save the Children, Union of Local Government Association in the Philippines and World Vision, among others.

The Education Cluster has been instrumental in carrying out policy advocacy with DepEd on disaster management and preparedness, including the mainstreaming of risk reduction measures into development policy, planning and programme implementation. The Education Cluster provided technical assistance and inputs in the process of developing key manuals and guidelines for school safety, such as the Disaster Risk Reduction Resource Manual and the Physical Facilities Manual. The Education Cluster is one among the few national clusters that is actively engaged with partners even during non-disaster periods.


CSSF Pillar 1: Safe Learning Facilities

To ensure the safe construction and management of school facilities, a Handbook on Educational Facilities was published. This handbook was revised in 2010 as the Physical Facilities Manual. Disaster-resilient designs for 1-storey and 2-storey classroom buildings were prepared. Temporary learning spaces as alternative to tents were also designed.

CSSF Pillar 2: School Disaster Management

Incorporation of Disaster Risk Reduction in School Improvement Plans

The school improvement plan (SIP), formulated in collaboration with the community, is a roadmap that lays down the school’s specific solutions to corresponding identified priority improvement areas covering a period of three years. The SIP is the basis for the school’s Annual Implementation Plan. UNICEF worked with DepEd to enhance the disaster risk reduction component in the school improvement planning process. Over 200 schools were trained. The revised SIP guidelines embrace child-centred and child-friendly approaches as its core planning principles and encourage schools to conduct evidence-based planning through more comprehensive data collection and analysis of children’s and communities’ situation and needs.

Strengthening of School Disaster Management

Plan International Philippines enhanced the capacity of school-based DRRM offices (SBDRRMO) and the Junior Emergency Response Team (JERT), equipped schools with early warning systems, trained teachers on alternative delivery mode of teaching and learning, and reproduced self-learning kits and guidebook for teachers. The project, supported by Prudence Foundation, covered three public primary schools and three public secondary schools, directly benefiting 6,180 students and 190 teachers.

In each school, the SBDRRMO was established to facilitate planning and assessment, and lead the implementation of risk reduction activities. JERT comprised of trained students were formed to increase students’ involvement in preparing and responding to emergencies. Self-learning kits were used as homework for students or in evacuation centres when classes were suspended during emergencies in order to facilitate continued learning.

One of the participating schools is Tanay National High School, which has been conducting school drills twice a month, and has designated safe places in the school, established a school-based early warning system and made life boats and other equipment from recyclable materials. This school has become a benchmark for other schools in the municipality to learn from. The students are providing support to other schools such as serving as resource persons, and showcasing emergency preparedness drills.

Child-Focused Disaster Risk Reduction Programme

World Vision Philippines implemented a Child-Focused Disaster Risk Reduction Programme in which 6,662 children and 2,352 adults benefitted from various training courses and workshops. During the trainings, children and adults conducted disaster risk assessments using child-friendly participatory tools, exploring the hazards they face, their vulnerabilities, as well as their capacities as a community. They also worked on their disaster action plans after a comprehensive risk assessment of their communities. Children recommended solutions to adults and to the authorities in their communities to be integrated into the local government’s DRRM Plan. The trainings were conducted by DepEd officials and World Vision.

In another initiative led by World Vision in Sorsogon, one of the most typhoon-prone provinces in the Philippines, targeted villages developed risk maps and DRRM plans. The project also set up Van-Aralan, a vehicle that carries disaster risk reduction resource materials from the local government and DepEd offices to targeted schools and villages, and conduct sessions on child-focused disaster risk reduction for children and adults.

Emergency Psychosocial Support for Secondary School-aged Students Affected by Typhoon Yolanda

The UNESCO Jakarta Office and the Psychological Association of the Philippines with support from the Government of Japan revised DepEd’s Psychological Interventional Training Manual to incorporate issues related to addressing post-disaster stress among school children. The revised manual was piloted by teachers in selected secondary schools in three regions most affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

CSSF Pillar 3: Risk Reduction and Resilience Education

The integration of disaster risk reduction in both formal and non-formal curriculum in the Philippines was first outlined in the 2007 DepEd Order No. 55 on Prioritising the Mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction Management in the School System. It directs the utilisation of DepEd’s Disaster Risk Reduction Resource Manual as a guide for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction concepts in primary and secondary school curricula, and developing multimedia modules on disaster preparedness. The subjects identified for integration of disaster risk reduction include science and social science for grades 6 and 7.

Lesson exemplars and teacher/student modules were developed, tested and validated by experts from the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The Instructional Materials Council-Secretariat and the National DRRM Council also reviewed and approved the materials for printing.

In 2013, the Philippine Basic Education System widely adopted the K-12 Programme that covers kindergarten and 12 years of basic education. With the change in the education system, entry points for integration of disaster risk reduction were identified, and now disaster risk reduction is integrated in the curriculum in a more comprehensive manner. In Grades 1-10, disaster risk reduction is integrated in the health, science and social science subjects. In Grades 11-12, in Earth science.

UNICEF supported this process of integrating disaster risk reduction in the K12 curriculum, and trained 844 kindergarten to grade 3 teachers, school principals and supervisors, on child development principles and learner-centred approaches.

Save the Children, in collaboration with DepEd and with support from the United States Agency for International Development, implemented a Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in the School System initiative since 2011. The initiative trained at least 4,000 students, and 300 public secondary school teachers and DepEd officials on mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in the school system. On 30 May 2012, this initiative organised the National Congress on School Disaster Risk Reduction that was participated by over 200 students, school officials, government agencies representatives, NGOs and development partners from all 17 regions of the country to share and learn school safety best practices.

SEEDS Asia with the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education in Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency partnered with DepEd in the integration of disaster risk reduction in the curriculum. The project called Capacity Building on Disaster Risk Reduction Education through Cooperation with Local Community in Cebu Province and started in November 2014. Activities involved creating a system to promote disaster risk reduction education at DepEd Region 7 Office, training DepEd officials and teachers, establishing two model schools, and replicating the models to seven schools in Cebu Province.


Although the Comprehensive Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Basic Education Framework is now in place, achievements need to be consolidated and expanded, and pilots scaled up in order to fully integrate comprehensive school safety in government system, schools and communities.

Having champions at the local level is crucial in ensuring that interventions are implemented and sustained. These champions help prioritise the implementation of disaster risk reduction needs, and should come from DepEd central and local offices, or other government offices.

Turning DRRM coordinators at all levels into advocates of DRRM is important. To do this, provision of technical support, guidance and encouragement from immediate supervisors is necessary.

Establishing communication and coordination protocols is helpful in monitoring and evaluating DRRM interventions at all levels.

Change in the behaviour of key stakeholders and people in the community who are at-risk of hazards is important in moving forward school safety programmes.

It is helpful that NGOs and other partners are well-informed of the developments of comprehensive school safety work undertaken by DepEd, for them to be able to align what they are doing. This contributes to more effective and concerted efforts towards attaining common goals.

At the school level, there will always be outward movement of people who were trained on disaster risk reduction, due to reasons like graduating for students or change of jobs or assignments for school teachers. This has always been a challenge and is impacting the sustainability of school activities. It is necessary to ensure that schoolchildren or teachers who were trained also pass on their knowledge and skills to the next generation.

The following are the main focus of school safety work in the next couple of years:

  • Develop the capacity of DRRM Coordinators at all levels, train them to organise their teams, develop and implement their plans, and encourage them to work in the field.
  • Orient more schools on the DRRM in Basic Education Framework and other DepEd DRRM initiatives, enhance their capacities on developing their plans, and implementing and performing their roles and responsibilities.
  • Use school DRRM data to formulate policies and plans. Data have also been given to other government partners and researchers to aid the development of recommendations on DRRM interventions. DepEd’s database will be improved, with more DRRM-related data and information to be integrated.
  • Supervise the SIP planning cycle, and monitor and evaluate implementation.
  • Build human resources and release new learning and training/retooling resources for public school teachers in line with the roll-out of the new K-12 curriculum.
  • Invest in physical facilities, which targets the construction of 20,000 senior high school classrooms and 455 technical vocational laboratories.
  • Encourage greater private participation through completion and release of policy brief to key stakeholders (e.g., private school associations).
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