Thursday, December 14, 2017
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Business Matters

Education for better lives

We all want an education system that helps every Filipino to succeed in the 21st century. We at Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) believe that we can achieve high-quality education by improving teacher training and certification, encouraging industry-academe partnerships, decentralizing education delivery, and participating in international testing.

The fact is that we still have a long way to go: Our kids are not learning and our youth not earning. Our education system has improved, but two major problems in student achievement and graduate employment remain.

We see this in national achievement test scores that are consistently below Philippine Development Plan targets. Only 2 percent of high school graduates are ready for college, as seen in the results of the college entrance exams of a network of universities that cater to low-income students. Additionally, the dismal performance of graduates in licensure exams shows the poor quality of learning across the system.

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Joblessness remains intractable, particularly for the 1.2 million youth that comprise half of the unemployed in 2016. Importantly, education has not delivered on its promise of success for the 2 million unemployed Filipinos who have at least a high school diploma, a quarter of whom also have a college degree, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

PBEd offers four solutions in the areas of teaching, partnerships, governance, and accountability to address this dual problem of low student learning and readiness for the global economy.

We must develop better teachers by improving the teacher qualification and screening process. Teachers in the Philippines need much help. When surveyed by the World Bank in 2014, the average Philippine teacher could only answer fewer than half of the questions correctly when tested for knowledge in math, science and English. This indicates that the screening mechanism, the board licensure exam for professional teachers which is essentially a knowledge exam, is not very reliable. Worse, PBEd monitoring shows that a number of teacher education institutions (TEIs) with consistent passing rates of less than 10 percent continue to operate. Perhaps we should explore a qualification process where only the best and brightest can enroll in TEIs, only competent schools are allowed to offer teacher education, and licensure exams are radically improved or eliminated.

We must engage industry in education. We were second to the last among middle-income countries in industry-academe links in a 2012 World Bank Study. There have been efforts to address this, but the response should be institutional and sustainable. If the goal is to ensure curricular relevance for job-readiness and entrepreneurship, then the private sector needs to be an equal partner.

We must look into decentralizing education. The sheer size of the system and the Philippines’ archipelagic nature make education delivery prone to inefficiencies and wastage. In 2013 alone, 23 percent of the operating budget got lost along the way as funds moved from the central office to the schools, while 30 percent of construction funds went to schools that had excess classrooms, according to an AusAID-funded study. Conversely, school-based management (a form of decentralization) has been shown to raise achievement test scores in many countries worldwide.

We must invest in accountability measures to help us know whether we are on the right track in terms of student learning and postgraduation outcomes. The last time we took part in international testing was 14 years ago, with dismal results. But while seemingly discouraging at first, the results of our participation shed light on the need for a move to the K-to-12 basic education system and calls for more and better classrooms and teachers.

Over the years, our country has made great strides in increasing resources for education. This has led to more children going to and staying in school. But it all means nothing if our youth continue to earn diplomas and little else to show for their success. We therefore need to improve teacher development, encourage industry-academe partnerships, explore decentralizing education delivery, and invest in accountability metrics. Together, let us work for a high-quality educational system for all Filipinos, because education that does not lead to better lives is no education at all.

Ramon del Rosario Jr. (rrdelrosario@ gmail.com) chairs PBEd.

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TAGS: Business Matters, education, Inquierer Opinion, Philippine Business for Education (PBEd)
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