A vision for education
LAST WEEK, public and private schools opened their doors to 25.5 million enrollees in basic education.
Education fact sheet Some 1.7 million started kindergarten classes, while 8 million and 14.9 million enrolled in the secondary and elementary levels, respectively. The private sector had 398,000 kindergarten, 1.4 secondary and 1.2 million enrollees.
The fact sheet printed in the June 13 issue of this paper showed that every public elementary teacher has 36 students, while a secondary teacher has 27 students. The classroom-pupil ratio is 1:34 and 1:48 in elementary and high school, respectively. The fact sheet reported that 300,000 4P’s beneficiaries graduated from high school while 36,850 are enrolled under the Expanded Students Grant-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation Program (ESGP-PA). Under the ESGP-PA that has already produced 3,139 college graduates, the maximum stipend per school year is P60,000 to cover tuition, food, clothing, lodging and other expenses.
A discussion paper submitted by Michael Alba to the Human Development Network, and funded by the United Nations Development Programme, reported an average enrolment rate of 82%, comparable with more advanced countries. This suggests that “formal education is highly accessible” in the Philippines. However, the growth rate in basic education is lower than the population growth. In 2007-2008, 1.7 million graduated from elementary, but only 1.4 enrolled in high school. There is a notable fallout rate one to two years before graduating in the elementary level. In high school, the perennial problem is student congestion. The fact sheet bears this out as a high school class has an average of 48 students.
Recently, the Department of Labor and Employment met with the education sector and industry representatives to help refine a vision for education by 2022. Unfortunately, I heard from the education sector reps “gripes, moans, complaints, and mundane issues.” I got the impression that some key people are not focused on equipping graduates with 21st century skills needed by industry to ensure broad-based economic development that can address poverty and unemployment.
While we mourn the Filipinos’ low level of human development, other countries excel in education. The Social Progress Imperative has gathered data on each country’s level of access to basic education, including factors like adult literacy rate, primary school enrolment, secondary school enrolment, and women’s mean years in school.
The top countries with the best educational system are South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, and Poland.
In South Korea, children attend school often seven days a week. Korea’s national education budget estimated last year was $11,300,000,000. Its literacy rate is total 97.9% — males at 99.2% and women at 96.6%. Japan invests tremendously in child education, like the Scandinavian countries. Japan’s technology-based education structure provides great knowledge and skills that contribute to a USD6 trillion GDP.
Singapore is has a highly ranked primary education system. Hong Kong’s education system is managed like the UK model. Its education budget per student last year was $39,420. The mainstream languages used for textbooks in Hong Kong are English and Cantonese. For several years, Finland had the best educational system in the world. Its”no tuition fees” system has an annual educational budget of €11.1 billion.
Education has always been a great equalizer. While many tycoons all over the world are school dropouts, good education is the foundation for many successful people. Research shows that higher levels of education equate to better jobs, higher income, and more rewarding lives.
Personally, I want to see the education sector as a strategic partner of industry in producing globally competitive Filipino workers, entrepreneurs and citizens. Government must enunciate a clear vision of the kind of Filipinos it wants in the future. Then the education sector must tweak its curriculum to ensure that it helps parents mold the students into the vision of the Filipino of the future. This is facetious, but let me say it just the same. If it is government policy to send 6,000 Filipinos abroad everyday to find jobs elsewhere, then the schools should produce graduates that will best perform and succeed as OFWs. If we want more entrepreneurs or managers, schools must produce experienced business people before they are given diplomas.
In the future, soft skills could be even more important than hard skills. Some of the hard skills taught in the first year will be obsolete before graduation. But the soft skills, like critical thinking, communication, social skills, EQ, initiative, resourcefulness, collaboration, or mindfulness, will never go out of style. Unfortunately, most of the 21st century skills are not taught in schools. I don’t even know if they still teach GMRC (good manners and right conduct.)
Today’s teachers must heed my favorite poet Rabindranath Tagore’s words, “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at [email protected])
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