Moving Forward: Educational opportunities in the post-pandemic times

THE education sector must face 2022 with greater optimism in anticipation of the end of the pandemic, coupled with the hard lessons learned through it, and guided by the collective vision for a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay (strongly rooted, comfortable and secure life) in 2040.

The strongly rooted life will be evidenced by the Filipino family that is together with members able to have time with friends living a balanced work-life and volunteering in the service of communities.  A comfortable life shall be that which is free from hunger and poverty, living in and owning a secured home, having good transportation facilities, and able to travel and have a vacation. A secure life is envisioned as that of having enough resources for the day-to-day needs, unexpected expenses and savings; enjoying peace and security, and living a long healthy life towards a comfortable retirement.

By 2040, the Philippines is a prosperous middle-class society where no one is poor. People live long and healthy lives and are smart and innovative. The country is a high-trust society where families thrive in vibrant, culturally diverse, and resilient communities.

The Ambisyon 2040 began in 2015 derived from the long-term visioning process guided by an Advisory Committee composed of government, private sector, academe, and civil society and participated in by more than 300 citizens with some 10,000 inputs through a national survey.

The bold Ambisyon 2040 needs an engaged education sector to achieve it.  Those who will be born in 2022 will enter legal age by then, and we may still have the time to engage in an educational revolution before they enter our educational system six years from now, and to benefit the learners these days.

There were and are ongoing disruptions giving birth to new and emerging demands that offer opportunities for education to supply. Here are some anticipated, and envisioned, changes (or wish list) that lead to potentials for education to embrace and optimize. These changes are also anchored on the attainment of the envisioned future for the Philippines and in making Filipinos as global citizens of the future and beyond.

Digitalization and Digital Transformation

Government will be forced to completely migrate to digitalization if it is serious in providing for efficient public service and if it is committed in curtailing corruption.  Taxation, for example, may need to be digitalized to simplify the complex processes and to reduce human contact that breeds corruption. If the private sector is able to digitally transform, there is no excuse for government not to do the same.

In the private sector, e-commerce is accelerated by the pandemic and adaptive business processes that have made businesses survive and thrive. E-commerce is bound to stay and even level up to proportions and innovations beyond our current imagination. Cryptocurrency and blockchain infrastructure enable wider crypto economy, making virtual items exchangeable for real economic value.

IT, KPO and Next-Gen Electronics

The IT-KPO that grew as a $27-billion industry in 2020 (from $9 billion in 2010) is an emerging goldmine of the country. From the voice-based business-process-outsourcing (BPO) services, it has the potential to transform as the global hub of excellence in knowledge-process-outsourcing (KPO) if only we can transform into the areas of artificial intelligence, robotics and animation, game and software development, cloud technology and information management.

There is an inevitable pursuit of the metaverse, a virtual-reality space in which users can interact in a computer-generated environment and other uses. It is an interface of platforms on the Internet that have built interactive worlds complete with virtual entertainment, socializations and businesses. Crypto-metaverses are immersive virtual worlds with immense social and financial potentials.

These, and many more, may sound Greek to many but these are emerging realities that education should be able to comprehend and optimize, if it wants to be part of the future.

Entrepreneurial MSMEs

Government will need to provide for more incubation hubs for micro-enterprises, especially those in technology start-up, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable enterprises. The micro-enterprises (89% of all businesses) will benefit from a Commission on Micro-enterprises which will ensure access to funding (money), mentorship, and market; entrepreneurship mindset and instructions; integrated government and non-government assistance, and tax incentives and reliefs.

Entrepreneurial MSMEs include the creative and knowledge industries, which have become a brand of Filipino products and services. A basic law for creative industries is imperative, and such should incentivize educational institutions that shall level up on these.

Education needs to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking and financial literacy in the early formative years. The incubation hubs may be the academic institutions linked with government agencies and industries that could offer learnings in a more contextualized authentic setting. Outcomes of education must be co-created by the “village” which is needed to “educate a child.”

MSMEs generate 62% of jobs.  Education can contribute to the employability of its graduates for the productivity of these MSMEs, to the entrepreneurial graduates who will engage in business, and to the partnership it may forge with MSMEs for them to benefit from research and development, which is the strength of the academe.

Agricultural Revolution

There is no need to overstate the issues and concerns of the agricultural sector which output increased only by 20% over the span of 10 years. There is a need to enable industrial farming, which may prompt government to revisit the Land Use Law. The Science and Technology that proved effective among the countries that have trained in our land (and from whom we import our agricultural supplies these days), is the same technology that we could learn to apply. The agricultural budgetary support needs to increase from the usual 3% to 8% of our GDP if we are serious in achieving food sufficiency.

Appreciation of agriculture as a viable career among our young people may benefit from productive agro-processing and other value adding agri-preneurial ventures in the value chain. Accelerated rural development will entice young people to be most productive as purpose-driven generation in their provinces.

Universal Health Care

RA 11223 was passed prior to the onset of the pandemic. It is anchored on a vision for better health outcomes for Filipinos. It will pose a challenge on building public capacity to care, enjoining the essential participation of the private sector, and on building the confidence on the Department of Health to orchestrate the ambitious whole-of-government and whole-of-system people-centered approach. With issues on the supply-side readiness, financial constraints, and sustainability, the education sector may see opportunities for relevant institutions alongside inter-government cooperation.

The availability of the critical human resource, the primary care provider, rests upon the ability of the academe to provide for the competent graduates through its curricula, which may need to pivot towards greater relevance. The UHC to be successful needs empowered people and communities, which the academe may take as its role.

Professionalized Governance

The growing number of young voters (estimated at 52% below 40 years of age by Comelec, with 5 million voting for the first time), and the powerful social media that inform people real-time, there is a pressure to professionalize governance. There is an emerging clamor for rules-based, science-based, and value-based governance. The technocrats in government may need to emerge from the academe, with values and research-based competencies.

The Ambisyon 2040 can only be achieved through an empowered citizenry capable of “reviewing” candidates, in the same way that the electorate may have learned from reviewing even their small online purchases. The educational sector may need to take a pro-active role, not in influencing decision making, but in developing critical thinking that would enable its learners to discern biased misinformation in the digital space.

Critical Thinking

The academe may need to engage its learners into deep thinking to make a stand on many issues and dilemma in a globalized world. It includes the issues of climate change and environmental protection versus the God-given Philippine wealth of more than $1 trillion worth of mineral reserves, equivalent to Saudi Arabia’s oil. We should also engage conversation on the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that we may need to attract to infuse new capital, technology, and best practices versus the competition that it may impose upon our local industries, which may have difficulty to match up. There is also a dichotomy between the global preference for Filipino knowledge workers who are offered irresistible salaries and benefits overseas versus our need for their expertise and services to propel our own growth. Our perceived need to break down the local oligopolies by opening industries to foreign competitions that threaten many comfort zones. Our need to optimize trade with China, but with ambivalent paranoia because of its disrespect to the Arbitral Tribunal ruling, which is in our favor. The need for multilateral cooperation with the democracies of the world for various national interests, but with reservations on how ordinary Juan Dela Cruz could benefit from those.  The need for a credible National Security Policy with our resources barely available to protect our territorial seas as an archipelago, at least for our food security.

Education has the power to transform young learners to become global citizens who are capable of co-creating a society we collectively choose to deserve. The Ambisyon 2040, if achieved, may not be enjoyed by many of us anymore. But surely, it will benefit our children and our children’s children in a country that is the only one we own.

No Filipino should lose faith, for as long as we believe in the Almighty. No Filipino should give up on love, for as long as there is reason to live. No Filipino should lose hope, for as long as there is education.

Dr. Carl Balita is a Doctor of Education, a licensed teacher, registered nurse and midwife. He is a member of the Board of the Philippine Franchise Association and Chairman for Basic Education of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is a multi-awarded entrepreneur and media personality, author, university professor, and trainor. He is a BusinessMirror columnist, on leave after filing his certificate of candidacy for senator.

This paper was presented during the Oathtaking and Investiture Ceremony of the Commission on Accreditation for Local Colleges and Universities.


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