Education and Home

Continuing mismatch between graduates and labor market needs

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven - The Philippine Star

(Part II of “Model Occupational Skills Training for SHS and Unemployed Adults”)

The 1991 Congressional-Senate Education Commission (EDCOM) Survey of Philippine schools was undertaken to fulfill education gaps as well as the 1990 Philippine ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The 45 CRC articles stipulated the child’s right to have himself registered as a citizen of the country, his right to good parents and a good home, his right to protection during times of conflict and the right to a quality and comprehensive Basic Education.

Observed as the four major obstacles in education are the irrelevance of the curriculum and oppressive teachers which cause 40 percent drop out among Grade I students, the lack of effective principalship, inadequate monitoring and evaluation of schools. EDCOM noted then that the Philippines and Bangladesh were the only ASEAN countries still missing senior high school.

Swiss banker’shope for Filipinos

Walter Lutz, a Swiss banker whose average offer is $500,000 investment portfolio to private and public borrowers comes yearly to the Philippines in spite of several frustrations. “Similar under the table deals, heavy bureaucratic procedures, endless lunch negotiations,” he say “go on in other Asian countries, but the Philippines tops them all.”

I asked him what hope is there that makes him keep trying. “The great number of untapped potentials – the big population,” he responded. “China now has an aging population with its one child policy, while the Filipino family has an average of four to six children making the future of the Philippines hopeful.”

“What blocks this aspiration?” I inquired. “It will be, only if your education has quality. Many of my clients foresee the Philippines of the future populated with hundreds of millions. But, of course, without quality education to make them well employed and fully productive, they would just become useless dependents and dry up the little resources left,” he replied.

Under-invested educational system puts us in a great economic risk

According to researchers of the Philippine Social Science Council, “DECS curriculum development planners and specialists have not seriously taken into account findings showing weak linkages between education and employment. There remains a continuing mismatch between the country’s graduates and labor market needs.

Who says there’s a backlog in employment? The truth is companies keep seeking for competent or skilled workers but there are few of them. This was a major problem I encountered while establishing the OB Montessori schools way back in 1966. Other than teachers, good secretaries, accountants and food service personnel were hard to find. Most of the electricians, carpenters and plumbers were not licensed at all. Trained building custodians were nowhere to be found.

The president of the prestigious accounting firm of Sycip Gorres and Velayo (SGV), which has subsidiaries in Taipei, Jakarta and Singapore confirmed my suspicion a few years later. Sometime in the ‘70s, Washington Sycip found himself seated with my husband Max on a return flight to Manila from Hong Kong. As they conversed, “Wash” made a startling revelation. “Do you know Max that the competence of the average college graduate in the Philippines is equivalent to that of high school graduate in Taiwan? Moreover, the spirit of entrepreneurship is not ingrained in the Filipino psyche, otherwise our economy could surge forward.” A front-page article confirmed this, “The Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) said educational standards in Southeast Asia rated poorly. While Japan, Singapore and South Korea have the best educational system in Asia, the Philippines landed ninth out of 12 countries surveyed, and was probably losing its edge in terms of the quality of its labor force because it has grossly under-invested in its educational system.”

Japanese employment is guaranteed with networking of ministries of education, labor, trade and industry

Japan published a book with graphic reports of how the government helped Japanese graduates find gainful employment. There were three vertical lines marked representing the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Trade and Finance. The labor department provides the statistics on the need for various employees (for either blue collar jobs, rank and file employees, or professionals) all over Japan.

The education department informs the public and encourages them to take up the corresponding collegiate courses to fill up these job positions. (Filipino parents lack information on such matters so they helplessly follow the whims and caprices of their children on the choice of collegiate courses.) Meantime, the Trade and Finance department facilitates the linkage of the graduates to various companies. It is a practice for big enterprises in Japan to provide a year of apprenticeship to new employees. Company dormitories are provided. Private entrepreneurs are also encouraged to set up small businesses.

New senior high school curriculum still sidesteps occupational skills training

Where do most of our college graduates find jobs? In the ‘70s many aspired to be nurses foreseeing the chance to work abroad. Then Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) and IT training became very popular. Today, many choose to be employed in call centers reducing them to clerical jobs instead of pursuing their majors. It even seemed ridiculous when many college graduates had no higher aspiration than investing in the ordinary water business. 

How much money has been squandered and opportunities thrown away to be gainfully employed and fortify our economy? If only our government were realistic in the pursuit of developing the full potential of the people. DepEd, TESDA, and CHED must first work in harmony while Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should align with them.

Majority of European adolescent students prefer to attend technological high school to enter readily into the job market. In 1986, when I was a member of the UNESCO Paris Executive Board, my colleague, former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam repeatedly reminded me to let our then Minister of Foreign Affairs Salvador “Doy” Laurel work out the mutual exchanges of college students in the Philippines with Australia. This matter of equivalency seemed insurmountable because our own college graduates would fail to pass Australian collegiate requirements. So it took us 30 years to correct this tremendous anomaly.

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