The continuing mismatch between graduates and labor market needs


The 1990-1995 Congressional-Senate Commission (EDCOM) Survey of Philippine schools was undertaken to fulfill the 1990 Philippine ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The 45 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 curriculum at school.

Among the EDCOM conclusions was the necessity to split the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) into three agencies to make education more manageable for the large Philippine population of almost 100 million then. This resulted in the establishment of the Department of Education (DepEd) to look after basic elementary and secondary education, while Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to focus on skills and development of young adults for employment and place tertiary education under Commission on Higher Education (CHED). It was also observed that the country failed to meet the standards of global Basic Education due to four factors: the irrelevance of the curriculum and the oppressive teachers causing 40% drop out among Grade I students, adding yearly to the increase of adult illiteracy. The dual administrative-academic duty of public school management resulted in weak principalship, which focused more on custodianship of the premises than emphasizing quality teaching. Regular monitoring and evaluations of schools were neglected.

Swiss banker’s hope 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 says “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.

The Philippine STAR September 14, 2006 Editorial, “Learning the Basics” stated that “several top executives of private corporations have set up the Philippine Business for Education and revived the proposal, pointing out to the country’s need to improve its Basic Education system to meet new global challenges. The benefits of investing in Basic Education have long been known. Students in developed countries spend at least 12 years in elementary and high school.”

Under-invested educational system puts us at great economic risk

according to researchers of the Philippine Social Science Council, “DECS officials and curriculum development planners and specialists have not seriously taken into account findings, showing weak linkages between education and employment. Studies have revealed no strong correspondence between educational attainments, employment levels and wage rates. There remains a continuing mismatch between the country 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, which has subsidiaries in Taipei, Jakarta and Singapore, confirmed my suspicions a few years later. Sometime in the 70’s 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 a 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 publishes a book with graphic reports of how the government helped Japanese graduates find gainful employment. There were three vertical lines marked on a graphic illustration. The central line of the diagram represented the Ministry of Education. To its left is the Ministry of Labor while to its right is the 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 linking the graduates to various companies. It is a practice for big enterprises in Japan to provide a year or two of apprenticeship to new graduates. Company dormitories are provided. Private entrepreneurs are also encouraged to set up small businesses.

New senior high school curriculum still sidesteps occupational skill training

where do most of our college graduates find jobs? In the 70’s 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. In the last generation, it was even ridiculous when many chose to invest in their own water business. Obviously, their average ambition was to get easy jobs while gaining a big salary.

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. At the same time Dept. of Labor & Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should endeavor to 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 with Australia. This was not possible since our high school graduates were short of the senior high school requirements. So it took us thirty years to correct this tremendous anomaly.

Asean race to meet UNMDG via sustainable voc-tech education

To meet the UNMDG for national sustainability the Indonesian government made sure that 60 percent of their secondary schools have the technical vocational program. Only 28 percent are expected to enroll in the universities. The Thai Ministry of Education has followed suit to make sure 50 percent of their secondary school will “go TVET.” Acknowledging weakness in their current curriculum, Thailand determined to develop performance indicators for excellence. This is part of the report delivered at the 16th IVETA-CPSC international conference by Dr. Paryono Deputy Director and research specialist of SEAMEO VOCTECH center in Brunei Darussalam.

The mid-decade assessment of Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD 2005-2014) in Bonn, Germany pointed out how high global consumption together with the human destruction of the cosmic biodiversity have caused resources to run out and therefore nothing would be left for our future generations.

This poses a critical challenge to re-orient the education sector in raising ESD awareness. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), as a major sub-sector and being the largest producer and consumer of natural resources, has to play a vital role in addressing sustainability. Therefore ESD principles are high on the agenda of TVET institutions around the world.