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There are many reasons why the business sector should be concerned about Philippine education. These reasons justify why the sector should ask government to create a Congressional Education Commission similar to that action taken by Congress in 1990.
The 1987 Constitution states that it shall “give priority to education” among others and “promote total human liberation and development.” With this comes other constitutional provisions to make integrated system of education relevant, free public basic education, and compulsory for all school age children. Article XIV mandates that “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” It provides that “the State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education.”
From the proposed 2021 national budget of P4.506 trillion, the education sector gets the highest allocation at P754.4 billion (16.74 percent of the total budget) which is 8.8 percent higher than the P650.2 billion allocation for 2020. This budget covers the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the state universities and colleges. The DepEd gets P606.6 billion, which is 9.54 percent higher than its 2020 budget. CHED gets P50.9 billion. Tesda gets P13.7 billion, with P6.554 billion for the tier one, and P7.151 billion for the tier two. Tesda requested P20.042 billion for the tier two. Director General Isidro Lapeña made an appeal.
The P47.12 billion is set aside for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education and another P27.99 billion will serve as education assistance and subsidies for students. Other programs with allocated funding in the education sector include the DepEd’s computerization program, the school-based feeding program, and the Alternative Learning System.
But the vast budgetary resource poured upon Philippine education is not the main reason why the business sector should be more assertive to meddle in the affairs of Philippine educational system. History will break down these reasons.
The education that was
In 1990 the Congressional Commission on Education was created by the Joint Resolution of the 8th Congress on June 17, 1990. This was driven by the decline and deterioration of education for 65 years since the Monroe Survey of 1928. The findings that were most significant to business and industry include the manpower mismatch and irrelevance of education.
The EdCom made recommendations that led to major education reforms including the tri-focalization of education—having three separate agencies in charge of the basic and special education, the technical vocational education and training, and the higher and graduate education. The teachers have been professionalized through the Board of Professional Teachers under the Board Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers of the Professional Regulation Commission.
The Enhanced Basic Education Act gave birth to the K-12 in 2013, with 1.3 million senior High School graduates in 2018. Before 2013, the Philippines was the last country in Asia with 10-year basic education.
Thirty years after the EdCom, the relevance and quality of education remains in question.
Are we producing quality graduates?
In 2018, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development conducted the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to some 600,000 15-year-old students in secondary schools from 79 countries representing some 32 million people of the same age. Students in the Philippines scored lower in reading, mathematics and science than those in most of the countries and economies that participated. The country’s average score in reading was 340 score points for an OECD average of 487. In mathematics, students in the Philippines scored 353 for an OECD average of 489. And in science, students in the Philippines scored 357 points for an OECD average of 489. Over 80 percent of students in the Philippines did not reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading. Out of the 79 countries, the Philippines ranked 78th in reading and 77th in science and mathematics.
It is noteworthy that the expenditure per student in the Philippines was the lowest among all PISA—participating countries/economies— and 90 percent lower than the OECD average.
These PISA takers are, at the time of this writing, entering legal age of 18 and soon will join the work force. The PISA may not be sufficient basis to judge the products of the basic education but it is surely a conclusive information that could strengthen or weaken our claim of a world-class education.
Are the graduates employable?
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority say that of the 5.3 percent unemployment rate in October 2018, 24 percent of these were college graduates, 16 percent were college undergraduates, and 27.5 percent have completed junior high school. There is a slow school-to-work transition. High School graduates take three years to find first job and four years to have permanent wage job. For college graduates, it takes a year to find a job and two years to have a permanent job.
It was pointed out that for the past decade and more, the full potential of the academia-industry partnership is far from being utilized due to basic attitudinal differences and driven interests of the stakeholders, making partnership problematic. Job-skills mismatch was also pointed out as one of the top 3 concerns of employers. A study by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines reports that the graduates are not job ready and that companies cope by conducting their own training.
The disruptors of the times
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has threatened the readiness of Philippine graduates in the language of rapid technological developments and fast-paced industry advancements. The key employment generators, namely construction, manufacturing, tourism and information technology are at high risk of being automated. Drastic changes are predicted to impact the overall business landscape. The International Labor Organization predicted that 49 percent of Philippine industries are at high risk of automation over the next 20 years, with Business Process Outsourcing in the frontline.
While all sectors were talking about and bracing for the disruptive Industry 4.0, the Covid-19 pandemic came into the picture. And education is challenged both in its manner of adoption of technology (adaptation to the new normal) and in its role in developing the competencies of its product for the world of work. The digital divide may widen the disparity that still exists in the achievement of the quality of education in the Philippines. And the educational system, the educational institutions, the teachers, the learners and even the families are set to high level of stress and anxiety, if not panic.
The business sector, being the major end-user of the products of education, should take the lead in calling and pushing for the Edcom 4.0 to enable a collective review and assessment of the Philippine Educational System. In this way, we may be able to move toward the envisioned future of transforming Philippine society through education.