Isabela State University as an institution has been true to its mandate in providing access to quality education in reducing the effects of abject poverty in the community. As the university’s dictum “University for People” mainly supports and aligns with the goal of promoting equal opportunities in education, fostering inclusivity, and empowering communities through education and outreach. The University also contributes to achieving SDG 10 by breaking barriers and creating a more equitable society for all.
Education is seen as important in a teaching institution; Isabela State University makes sure that it offers the best quality of instruction by opening its portal to diverse learners. The university takes pride with its total number of enrollees of 40,342 (78.68%) students while 10, 934 (21.32%) students starting a degree is recorded in the university with 4,993 (45.66%) male students and 5,941 (54.34%) female students. This construes the role that ISU is playing in building a more equal fortuity in education by providing quality education regardless of gender. With this, the university accords to breaking down gender-related barriers to foster inclusivity.
Limited access to education is still one of the problems the world has in the 21st century, though the government has been persistent in providing free education for all, it is no surprise that a lot of children today lack access to education due to inequalities especially to the marginalized groups of our country. In region two (2) where diverse cultures are visible, it is not surprising that other indigenous groups are not given opportunities to quality education; however, ISU’s mission to reach out learners from the marginalized societies has been one of its core purposes. In Cabagan campus, there are students who are part of the Dumagats of Palanan and Divilacan who are given the same opportunities as other IP groups in the community, thriving in a welcoming circle. Most of these students have their share of success that will surely inspire people.
Meanwhile, Gender identity uproars its relevance in today’s age—it is commonly referred to as a person’s deeply-felt sense of being a male, female or a gender that blends both or neither, thus it can encompass a wide spectrum of identities. Understanding and respecting diverse gender identities is crucial. Schools and Universities play an important role in cultivating inclusive environments where all students, regardless of their gender identity, feel safe and supported.
ISU as an accepting institution whose values acknowledge the test of times, opens its arms to accept learners despite their gender identities or sexual orientation: 3,421 students are homosexual either gay or lesbian; 1,893 students considered themselves as bisexual, 116 students are pansexual, 40 omnisexual, 149 asexual, 29 transexual, and 737 cisgender respectively. ISU has an inclusive atmosphere that helps students develop empathy, respect, and understanding for the diverse experiences of their peers, promoting a positive and accepting learning environment.
During the 45th founding anniversary of the university, queers from the different campuses showcased their beauty and wit in the Queen of Queens 2023. This activity was spearheaded by the student-leaders and was supported by the whole ISU community to promote inclusive and more open environment in connection with gender-inclusive policies and support agenda of the university.
Moreover, ISU and the 502nd Infantry Brigade signed a memorandum of agreement on mainstreaming gender-based initiatives as solutions to curb violence against women and children in Cagayan Valley. This initiative is part of the Gender Resource Research Development Center project funded by the Department of Science and Technology where ISU will be providing academic resources and technical support services in the field of gender and development.
Inequalities do not only speak about gender-identity or gender stereotypes; it transcends the concept of long-term social and development threats—the presence and concept of age, disability, ethnicity, origin and among others can be part of these so-called inequalities. In the Philippine context where there is a widespread culture and tradition that entail ethnicity or origin, this can also be subjected to prejudice that will result in an inequitable balance of opportunities. On the other hand, Cagayan Valley is also a boiling pot of cultural wealth emerging from the unique languages to the beautiful people; it is undeniable that Cagayan Valley is home to a group of communities.
Isabela State University houses these Ethnic Minority groups who are harmoniously collaborating to achieve a common goal: Ilokano has the highest number of speakers with 7,718 speakers; followed by Tagalog with 5,231; Gaddang with 4,422; Ibanag with 3,828; Yogad with 3,556; Igorot with 27; Paranan with 10; Waray with 9; Lumad with 2; and 57 other minority groups. These numbers show the immense support of the institution in embracing and welcoming students regardless of their ethnicity.
As a support, ISU led various programs and activities during the celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Month—this showcased the appreciation of the university, its faculty members, staff, and students in recognizing the pivotal role of the IP communities in the country. The University also keeps its students understand and appreciate other ethnicities aside from their own—this is essential for promoting cultural diversity.
Embracing ethnic diversity helps learners develop cultural competence and enhance their ability to collaborate with people from various backgrounds. Part of the ISU’s curriculum is the offering of the course: Local Language Studies that explores the languages in the region with the aim of preserving the usage of the languages for the next generation: in sustainability, it is crucial yet significant that ISU include the students in the process. It is also by encouraging tolerance and acceptance, ISU prepares students to thrive in a globalized society and contribute positively to a multicultural world.
Likewise, nestling disability acceptance is a key factor to a more inclusive community of learners and teachers; hence, ISU makes sure that students, faculty, and staff especially those with disabilities are given equal opportunities in the university. There is a total of 443 students with special needs in the institution with 338 students with physical disability; 76 with mental disability; 12 with intellectual disability; and 17 with sensory impairment. On the other hand, from the 2,018 total employees of ISU, 1,169 faculty members and 849 non-teaching personnel, 166 employees have a disability where 254 has a vision impairment; 17 with physical disability; and 9 with hearing disability, respectively.
To address the adherence of all offices of the university to the provisions of R.A 7277 Magna Carta for disabled persons and for other purposes, and R.A 9710 Magna Carta of Women—with this the Isabela State University is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible environment for all students, employees, and other stakeholders regardless of their ethnicity, gender, social status, or disability.
The said Office Order 18 of 2022 mandated its compliance with the following: (1) all jobs must clearly state that the university is an equal opportunity employer and that all individuals are encouraged to apply, regardless of ethnicity, gender, social status, or disability; (2) the application process must be accessible to all individuals; (3) applicants with disabilities should be given reasonable accommodation during the interview process; (4) the university must not discriminate against applicants based on ethnicity, gender, social status, or disability.
For student admission, the following are observed: (1) the university must admit qualified students to all programs and activities offered by the university, regardless of ethnicity, gender, social status, or disability; (2) the university must provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities to ensure that they have equal access to all educational opportunities and services.
Aside from the adherence of the university to the provision of R.A 7277 and R.A 9710, ISU established a committee on decorum and investigation both for teaching and non-teaching personnel pursuant to the R.A 7877 otherwise known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. Part of an invaluable effort of the institution in creating a safe and equal environment, the university complaints and grievance committee was established for teaching and non-teaching personnel.
ISU provides students, employees and clienteles with disabilities, support services and facilities. They provide ramps for easy access to school buildings. Aside from providing easy access, ramps also help make sure that people with disabilities can freely move around safely. This can be visibly seen at the administration building and all other colleges and offices in the university.
The efforts of Isabela State University for various initiatives exemplify dedication—by providing competent instruction, ISU promotes inclusivity in higher learning, breaking barriers. The commitment of the university to providing equal opportunities in the academe and actively engaging with communities showcases its dedication to addressing inequalities. ISU’s role in advancing SDG 10 contributes to a more equitable society and a sustainable future for all.