Government News Analysis Reforms

The case for re-education

Philippine Education System

The Philippine education system has failed. This isn’t a revelation; it’s been an open secret for a very long time. It’s just that the extent of it – and the economic ramifications resulting from it – have always been denied, ignored, obscured or underplayed by those in the education business, and others. This deficit in quality education provision – while no such shortage in the quantity on sale – is the ultimate in cans kicked down the road. The problem is, the Philippines is fast running out of road.

Colleges, universities and other tertiary-education institutes – more concerned with adding to the black on their balance sheets – have provided poor standards of teaching and limited opportunities for real competitive learning. And in the area of technical and vocational education the situation is becoming critical.

Little more than education retailers, these institutions have managed to charge high prices for inferior products while extolling their virtuous mission as knowledge providers.  This isn’t the cutting edge of education; it’s the blunt edge – and it will blunt any attempt to build the vibrant and competitive industrial base the country needs for it to compete in the technology age.

Successive governments, meanwhile, have aided and abetted this quest for the mediocre by their utter failure to grasp the long-term implications of a system that can be described as sub-standard at best. Their inaction in dealing with – and even arrogantly defending at times – an impoverished environment for learning is a classic example of the law of diminishing returns.

There’s been no accountability from governments, university chancellors or boards of education. All have sat by and fiddled as scholarship burned – allowing the opportunity for acquiring knowledge to stagnate while keeping the country’s economic development in a time warp.

This appraisal may jar some nerves and ruffle some feathers among those involved in higher education in the Philippines. But good if it does, because this wretched protectionism that allows ‘learning’ institutions to grow wealth through an apparatus that stunts the facility to acquire vital knowledge – and government endorsement of universities and colleges which amounts to little more than good old-fashioned patronage – needs to end.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost as industry discovers it has a yawning deficit in employment prospects capable of driving the sector forward in an age of increasing competition; in a modern world where there are fewer hiding places for the also-rans.

Manufacturing, unquestionably a required driver of future growth, has serious concerns. Admittedly, the sector expanded by around 10% in the first six months of the year on the back of improved domestic and external demand. But this was largely low-end manufacturing – foodstuffs, leather goods, fabricated metal products, construction materials and the like. It’s not the stuff that’s going to lead the Philippines out of the low-end products market and into high-tech products with greater value added where it needs to be.

Like everywhere else – particularly the emerging economies; those late to the race – the Philippines, with its monumental economic potential, needs men and women who can deliver highly honed skills born of real-and-present knowledge to the challenges of sustainable economic development. The manufacturing sector, widely regarded as essential to boost and consolidate economic growth, lacks skill-power. And particularly in the use of current technologies.

But while academia and a less-than-inspiring political class over the years lie at the root of the problem, industry can also thank itself for this situation. It’s stunning failure or reluctance to invest in research and development (R&D) over time, its disinterest in fostering innovation and its lack of encouragement of entrepreneurs have also made a large contribution to the present state of affairs.

The ambitious programme of nation building being undertaken by the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, has unmasked the paucity of competitiveness that exists in his country. Now, the corporate sector, which has been in denial for years, is starting to come to terms with the reality of their situation.

Speaking at the 2017 Manufacturing Summit at the Fairmont Makati hotel at the end of last month, no less a captain of industry than Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman and CEO of Ayala Corporation – the country’s oldest and one of its largest conglomerates – sort of summed up that situation.

Here’s what he said: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution [Industry 4.0], characterised by rapidly growing interconnectivity and accelerating pace of digital transformation, is fundamentally altering business landscapes, societies, and human interaction itself. It has brought forth a host of disruptive trends that challenged incumbents in a number of key industries”.

What that actually means is that Philippine industry’s traditional players who sat back and ignored the advances of the technological age are now – as if waking from a long sleep – finding that they have to operate in a different climate where the epoch of rule by corporate fiat is over and their once seemingly inalienable right to dominate the country’s industrial sector is being tried and tested.

Well, he’s right. And he’s also right about this, that “a paradigm shift is required in how we view ourselves in the manufacturing value chain – from a provider of low-cost labour to an agile and nimble manufacturing hub highly adaptable to technological changes”.

Unfortunately, Zobel doesn’t have a magic wand to bring about that “paradigm shift”. That can only be achieved by importing foreign knowledge and creating an education revolution that puts learning excellence ahead of considerations such as education profits and blinkered education arrogance. The price tag for that fools’ paradise has already been high but it’s about to get a whole lot higher.

Automation, robotics, data analysis – all of which feed into modern manufacturing – are not luxury add-ons; they’re basic components of industry today. However, they require skilled operators and the hard cold fact is that the Philippines doesn’t have them – at least not in the numbers which industry requires.

Zobel put it like this: “With lack of sufficient access to affordable quality education, leading to massive dropout rates across all educational levels in the country … we need to overhaul our technical and vocational training system to match the skill sets required in an automated and digitised environment”.

Meanwhile, could someone in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) – the top administrative body for all post-secondary education in the country – for example, explain why Philippine universities rank so low globally?

Actually, we can help them with that. The answer can be found in the 2017 Global Innovation Index which showed that out of 127 countries worldwide, the Philippines managed to spend less on education than all but 21 of them. It was also the lowest expenditure of any country in Southeast Asia bar Cambodia.

We’re not sure how many universities there are in the Philippines, we lost count at 300, but only one of them – the University of the Philippines (UP) – managed to struggle onto the 2018 World University Rankings compiled by the Times Higher Education, the benchmark index for rating universities world wide. UP achieved a ranking range of 801-850. And out of 298 universities Asia-wide it made it into the 201-250 range. Lack of investment in quality teaching staff will have been a contributory factor to these results.

Also, could someone from the National Economic Development Authority or perhaps from its resource agency, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, explain how it is that R&D has managed to lag so much of the world including most of its Southeast Asian neighbours?

On the 2017 Global Innovation Index the Philippines is ranked 98th out of 127 countries for gross expenditure on R&D as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, developing countries should have an R&D budget of no less than 0.3% of GDP. The Philippines has never come close to that.

Maybe the Federation of Philippine Industries could shed some light on this. Its self-proclaimed mission is to be “an effective partner of the Philippine Government in promoting and developing globally competitive Philippine industries” – indeed, it claims its “advice and counsel are support” in that endeavour and that it is “the prime mover of Philippine industries responsive to the challenges of the global economy”. Really? So how’s that working out?

No-one’s in any doubt that an educated workforce is a major contributor to economic growth –economies with higher proportions of educated and highly trained workers are more efficient, more innovative, more entrepreneurial and consequently more productive.

In a fast-changing world, their input is essential to constantly regenerate economies to suit the pressures of the times. And for the Philippines right now – given its ambitious development plans – large numbers of workers of this calibre are essential.

The point is, not just one thing went wrong here. The present situation has been caused by a confluence of errors, negligence and misjudgments for which academia, government and industry can all share the blame. And it’s going to need a confluence of effort, commitment and investment to haul industry out of the hole it now finds itself in.

In fact, Zobel has correctly identified the answer which, in his words, is this: “Successfully transitioning to the rapid changes of Industry 4.0 requires a cohesive and integrated country strategy that ensures that all stakeholders are well involved in the process – government, the private sector, the academe, as well as the existing workforce”.

That’s fine as far as it goes. But now we’ve had the speeches – and there’s never been any shortage of those – it’s the time for real commitment and action. The era of the apologists in academia, the blame merchants in public service and the Luddites of the old Philippine Inc. should be drawn to a close.

Education curriculums need to be rewritten taking into account the demands of industry and the pace of technological change. Factories need to be retooled; workforces re-skilled. And both government and the private sector need to invest in innovation and fully sponsor the culture of entrepreneurship.

If this country is going to succeed as an industrialised nation, it has to throw off the shackles of the past and compete with the rest of the world. And it can’t do that while it’s wearing blinkers with one hand tied behind its back.

Old-guard ‘educators’ (we really don’t like using that word), along with politicians and corporate bosses with vested interests in maintaining the ‘old ways’ have become a major liability. In short, the Philippines can’t develop its industries while that mindset continues to drive the agenda.

45 Comments

  • Now I am appreciating more how we were educated. The curriculum looked very basic. But we were taught how to respect, how to acquire basic skills and how to be proud of our country, the Philippines. We were taught how to do critical thinking and make decisions ourselves. How we were taught was not all about “head knowledge”. It was about mobilizing such head knowledge into productive and useful applications. And most of all, my elementary and high-school education were from public schools. I am truly thankful that my teachers cared about growing us intellectually and molding us to be responsible in life.

  • I know little about the education situation overall but the country is and will change rapidly if all goes well…education will play a major roll in our future and we need the best the system can offer…we also need opportunities at home to stop out best educated from leaving…unfortunately it’s a complex problem compounded by a large young population with few good job prospectus

  • To add insult to injury from this problem, the requirement for professionals to take up additional units of so-called skills from accredited agencies, as a requirement for renewing their professional licenses, is a BIG JOKE. As if this was the solution to the problem condition of the Philippine educational system. But actually, it’s more of a political posturing than of any substantive remedy. The law mandating this under the sponsorship of Sen. Trillanes or the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Act of 2016, was surreptitiously passed at the end of the previous administration and thus lacked proper study and consultation with concerned sectors.

    This manner of politically diluted management of the Philipline educational system had been a major factor in its substandard condition. All frills, too many cooks spoiling the broth.

    Contrast this to the no-nonsense, honest-to-goodness effective methods of the past. When the Philippines first adopted the American educational system under colonial rule, it immediately produced a generation of enthusiastic, competent school teachers. So effective was the system that the quality of grade six intermediate school graduates in terms of language, analytical skills, geography and general knowledge were better off than most of the college level students in the latyter part of the 20th century. In fact, those who had such 6th grade educational attainment could and were allowed to teach in the elementary, thus reinforcing the teaching force of foreigner teachers who initiated the program.

    From that system had emerged the succeeding generations of capable professionals and leaders of our country, especially significant during that time that the Filipinos were being introduced to the modern way of living in contrast to the previous Spanish era of programmed illiteracy, feudalism, and antiquated technology.

  • That’s what happens when you keep fixing what is not broken. I don’t understand why very obvious naman s kung ano ang mga problema ng educational system natin,pero hindi yun ang pinagtutuunan ng pansin o binibigyan ng solusyon.

  • 2. kulang ang mga classrooms,good teachers,materials na mali-mali, corruption sa decs mula sa hiring ng teachers hanggang pagbili ng teacher’s uniforms at chalk. tsaka paano matututo ang mga bata kung 3 shifts sila sa isang araw,tapos nasa 60-70 pupils per class? tapos makikita mo merong mga batang nagtetext,naggagames, nagfafacebook habang ongoing ang klase.hindi naman masita ng teacher dahil takot makasuhan ng child abuse.tapos meron mga teacher na hindi man makacompose ng tamang english sentence.just want to make myself clear,hindi ko po kinukutya ang mga guro,gusto ko lang maayos ang problema ng edukasyon natin.marami kasing diploma mills sa mga colleges and universities natin kaya napakababa ng quality ng mga teachers natin ngayon.

    • D naman siguro. Lahat naman nv teachers ay pasado sa teachers board bago makapagturo. Yung sinasabi mong graduate ng mga diploma mills ay ilang take na pero d pumapasa. Maaaring mga tamad lang talaga ang ibang guro kaya yung mga students nila ay hindi nila alam i-motivate. Yung mga stratetegies nila ay traditional at d pinagiisipan. Kaya ang mga batavay d interesadong matuto.

  • our system is focused on QUANTITY EDUCATION and not on QUALITY EDUCATION.. sa sobrang pag-intindi ng gobyerno sa ating mga kabataan, sumadsad na ang ating standards to the extent pati good values ay nawawala na sa kanila.. I’m also wondering about this K-12 program ng gobyerno dati.. kung nagfocus tayo sa skills development ng mga bata, wala na sanang GAS, STEM, HUMMS, ABM na kurso.. sana puro technical at vocational courses nlng.. panu kung ang kumuha ng GAS ay hindi pala makapagpatuloy ng kolehiyo, anong trabaho ang pwed niyang pasukin eh wala siyang NC2? hindi nlng sana kinuha sa senior high ang basic subjects sa college.. halimbawa, bread and pastry kurso ng isang bata, dapat subjects nya puro bread and pastry.. tingnan natin after 2 years hindi yan makagawa ng sariling recipes nya! ang gulo ng sistema natin.. may curriculum at teacher. guides na, kelangan pa rin gumawa ng lesson plans! talagaaaa???

  • I have been harping on Excellence in Education ever since, but the educators I have talked to seemed not to understand such Institutional Strategy. Now, I’m glad this has been revealed and I look forward to a more disastrous outcome in the next ten years. My Project is very timely…A Primer for Educational Institutions … Reflective Assessment and Reflective Practice…

  • Marami sa mga students walang focus sa studies nila. Besides , alam nilang kahit wala silang natutunan at mas maraming days pa ang absent kesa sa pasok nila buong school year, makakapasa pa rin sila kasi ayaw ng deped na may babagsak. Home visit maraming beses pero ang student wala pa rin. And ang laging sabi ng deped teacher factor…..so …..pasado lahat.

  • Lack of reseaRch, parallel study what the industry requires versus degree programs offering, report for the public consumption on where does the graduates of colleges get hired etc. Industry study of what career will b in demand in the next 5 to 10 yrs. Govt support s also lacking in comparison to other asean countries n terms f scholarships, infastructure etc etc

  • To add insult to injury from this problem, the requirement for professionals to take up additional units of so-called skills from accredited agencies, as a requirement for renewing their professional licenses, is a BIG JOKE. As if this was the solution to the problem condition of the Philippine educational system. But actually, it’s more of a political posturing than of any substantive remedy. The law mandating this under the sponsorship of Sen. Trillanes or the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Act of 2016, was surreptitiously passed at the end of the previous administration and thus lacked proper study and consultation with concerned sectors.

    This manner of politically diluted management of the Philipline educational system had been a major factor in its substandard condition. All frills, too many cooks spoiling the broth.

    Contrast this to the no-nonsense, honest-to-goodness effective methods of the past. When the Philippines first adopted the American educational system under colonial rule, it immediately produced a generation of enthusiastic, competent school teachers. So effective was the system that the quality of grade six intermediate school graduates in terms of language, analytical skills, geography and general knowledge were better off than most of the college level students in the latter part of the 20th century. In fact, those who had such 6th grade educational attainment could and were allowed to teach in the elementary, thus reinforcing the teaching force of foreigner teachers who initiated the program.

    From that system had emerged the succeeding generations of capable professionals and leaders of our country, especially significant during that time that the Filipinos were being introduced to the modern way of living in contrast to the previous Spanish era of programmed illiteracy, feudalism, and antiquated technology.

    • Very true mr.Peralta Gil! Past elementary graduates(40’s,50’s,60’s)have been augmented to teach elementary as their learnings&intelligence could surpass those in the tertiary levels of today’s generations..

    • Such are true. On the matter of CPD, it should be the obligation of the employers to train their employees of the continuing advances in technology which were not learned while employees were yet in schools. Licensed professionals renewing their licenses and certificates should not be held hostage by demands of CPD units gained out of trainings and reeducation that drains an ordinary professional’s wallet. The law should have imposed sanctions on employers who failed to implement a CPD, and not put the burdens on the lowly professionals.

  • I agree with mr. villahermosa, the education system, questionable values and inept attitude of teachers, influence of drugs, students lack of discipline, lack of parental guidance, parents in remiss of their attention towards their children, parents abroad, unscrupulous suppliers of books and educational materials, students more focused on texting, chatting on facebooks, bad environmental influence , so many holidays etc are factors that education is out of knowhere,

  • I’m so glad this issue came out. We teach a lot of stuff that are not functional in real life. Too many academic subjects required in colleges and universities that are useless in the professional world. Too many theories in graduate studies that won’t work in the real world. We fail to teach and learn the basics of life… Our textbooks contain the non essentials…

  • DAHIL NI PANOT NA ABNO.AKALA NYA MA SOLVE NYA ANG PROBLEMA SA UNEMPLOYED PAG NAG DAGDAG SYA NG 2 YRS.IN HIGH SCHOOL GANON LNG MAN DIN ANG TURO NGANGA NAMAN DIN LALO LNG PINAHIRAPAN ANG MGA MAHIHIRAP ABNORMAL TALAGA ANG PUTIK

    • KOREK ka jan! That’s why TESDA wz introduced to us. With complete equipment, a student cd really learn of the job technically with efficiency and excellence! Students even get financial assistance!

  • The curriculum before Cory Aquino’s time should be back. It had higher standards. Scrap the textbooks created under Arroyo and Aquino. And most of all, scrap the K-12, ang bring back the real vocational courses. Make education cost-friendly to Filipino parents.

  • Tama po Kayo, early60 nyear 80s. matitino pa noon mga students, good manners and rights t conduct! Kasi Wala na Yun selfdesipline at Ang mga Bata ngayon kulang SA desiplina! Ang nakakasira SA kanila ay Yung Videogames at itong CP..dapat ipagbawal Ang gumamit NG CP while they are in class room..Kasi Ang problema ngayon SA patakaran NG Aguino’s children or students are untouchs able..

  • Very well said. But let us put aside political colors to address this dificit in our educational system. I agree with most of the comments but there are still.some few who put the blame to the past administrations not considering the lack, not even an iota of interest of the present government to give priority to this problem. Thank you so much Ms Edita Asuncion for sharing this enlightening information and to those who gave inputs & resposible comments unbiasly.

  • maraming estudyante nagiging pasaway, maraming teachers nagtitinda ng kung ano anong pagkakakitaan sa mga bata dahil sa kapos na suweldo, sa mga game show maraming college students puro mali ang sagot pagdating sa Geography, tama lang 4 years ang high school at ang mga bata na may pangarap na be what they want to be ay sa College nila pagsumikapan,

  • I must agree that from what I have seen in my short time here education standards are lacking but to be honest I sadly think it is much more than that. High academic levels in other countries do not always see them as leaders in the free world. I feel the very basics are more what is missing here and with those basics learned comes an ability to learn and question. First let me say that the Marcos era is still suffered by the Philippines and perhaps that has contributed to a

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