Filipino graduates’ English skills lower than target for cab drivers in Dubai, study says

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Filipino graduatesâ English skills lower than target for cab drivers in Dubai, study says

A study on the English proficiency skills of Filipino graduates showed that their level was lower than the target for high school students in Thailand and for cab drivers in Dubai. File

MANILA, Philippines — The English proficiency level of college graduates in the Philippines is lower than the proficiency target set for high school students in Thailand and the competency requirement for tax drivers in Dubai, the preliminary results of a two-year study showed.

Rex Wallen Tan, general manager of Hopkins International Partners, said that the average English proficiency score of a Philippine college graduate was 631.4, based on the metrics of the Test of English for International Communication.

Tan explained this was alarming considering that cab drivers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates were expected to have a TOEIC proficiency score of 650 while business process outsourcing agents should have a score of 850 in the metric.

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He explained that in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference of Languages, where A1 represented basic users and C2 meant proficient users, the level of Filipino college graduates was at B1, lower than the B2 target for Thai high school graduates.

He said that this was a serious problem considering that communication skills were one of the primary considerations in the hiring of applicants.

“Communication skills are the number one reason why graduates are not being hired,” Tan said Thursday on the sidelines of the Government Academe Industry Network convention at Heritage Hotel in Pasay City.

Monette Ituralde-Hamlin, president of GAIN, stressed that need for the government, the academe, and the industry to address the low level of proficiency of Filipino graduates, warning that the Philippines is “sitting on a landmine.”

“Most of the country’s major economic drivers are anchored on English proficiency,” she said, “For us to successfully continue to equip a globally-competitive workforce, we must synergize and take on a multi-sectoral approach.”

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Hamlin urged the government, the academe and the industry to adopt global English standards such as the CEFR framework already used in 81 countries and to aspire for a least a score of B2 (Independent User) among the country’s graduates and members of the workforce.

Another worrying finding from the study, Tan said, was that graduates of Bachelor of Science of Education major in English who participated in the research scored between Grade 2 and Grade 5 English proficiency.

“What makes it unique is they graduated despite low proficiency. Number two, that university is level 3 accredited for some programs,” he said, as he raised questions about the admission requirements of schools, the education standards being observed and the accreditation process currently in place.

“It’s not just one school, but a whole series of processes that don’t make sense,” Tan said.

Also concerning was the fact that the sample for their investigation came from private institutions with mid-level tuition fees and high quality standards and state universities and colleges, according to Tan.

Grace Zata, GAIN’s vice president for industry, stressed that companies could train their employees in the latest technologies but underscored the need for graduates to be equipped with basic knowledge and skills.

She said that some of the skills that companies in the Philippines and the world were looking for were the candidates’ ability to communicate, influence and collaborate.

Peter Laurel, president of the Lyceum of the Philippines University- Batangas and Laguna, also supported the adoption of a set of national English standards and warned that the industry would slowly require schools to level up.

Speakers at the convention said that the results of the investigation showed that the English proficiency advantage of the Philippines was “great at risk” as countries such as Singapore and Thailand continued to improve their citizens’ language skills.

Aside from worries over the English proficiency of Filipino graduates, skills mismatch and the economic integration of Southeast Asian nations were some of the challenges that were identified by the convention’s participants.

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