Over the years there has been a mismatch between the quality of our graduates and the needs of industry. There have been efforts by the private sector (e.g., preemployment training) and the government (the K-to-12 system and Tesda’s notable TVET framework of school-based, center-based, enterprise-based and community-based training), but these are not enough especially if these are not implemented in congruence with a strategic national education master plan.
There is a clear need to scale up the education reform efforts that are demonstrably effective and with a scope broad enough to give our student population the quality education that they deserve. Furthermore, quality education and job creation work hand in hand. We are all aware that the level of an individual’s educational attainment is a coefficient to his/her gainful employment, but any discussion on education quality has to address the social dimension as well. Thus, in pursuing meaningful education reform we must make sure that positive civic values are inculcated in students as well, because a flourishing economy and a progressive society are founded on a well-educated citizenry.
McKinsey’s Education to Employment report highlights the challenges faced globally by the youth and industry today: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of people with critical job skills. The findings of a survey conducted among the youth, educators and employers in nine countries show that half of the youth are not sure that their postsecondary education has improved their chances of finding a job, and almost 40 percent of employers say that a lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies. The report also takes a look at innovative education-to-employment solutions, both from the government and the private sector, to address this global challenge.
In the recent Higher Education Summit organized by the Philippine Business for Education (PBed), major players in the private and public sectors as well as industry associations came together to begin to address this issue. Detailed discussions and break-out groups were conducted on curriculum design, faculty development, industry concerns and factors needed for an enabling policy environment for higher education institutions. A common thread in the discussions was the emphasis on the need to enhance entrepreneurship, leadership, work ethic, “soft skills,” and an appreciation for humanities and lifelong learning among our graduates. Aside from the issue of employability, we cannot leave out the importance of inculcating values and humanities as part of the overall cultivation of our graduates.
But the decision-making process for students and parents in selecting higher-education institutions (HEIs) continues to be based on affordability rather than on quality. Although more private-sector investments are being poured into higher education through privately managed institutions as well as through public-sector partnerships—thus providing more options for our students—the proliferation of “diploma mills” continues to exert a negative impact on the overall quality of our graduates.
Significant steps have been taken by various industries, especially the semiconductor and business processing/outsourcing (BPO) sectors, to address skill requirements. But a more institutionalized partnership with industry should still be developed, specifically in curriculum design and development and teacher training. Industry can also play a part in setting standards by initiating a ranking system for schools based on how employable their graduates are and how well they perform in the world of work.
McKinsey cites the for-profit organization IL&FS Education and Technology Services in India as an example of a privately led development program. IL&FS conducts selection tests to match students to occupations, develops curricula in cooperation with industry, conducts pretraining mobilization of youth and post-training monitoring, and secures hiring commitments from industry before student enrollment.
Clearly, the need to improve on our education-to-employment systems will need a sustained collaboration among HEIs, the government and the private sector. Over the next 10-15 years, globalization and technology will further shape the kind of skills required by industry from our graduates. What is the vision we have for higher education in our country? Are our HEIs ready to provide the education needed by students and industry? Are our students equipped with the education foundation needed to learn a higher set of skills? The implementation of K-to-12 will hopefully provide a better foundation for our students, not just to be ready to take on possible vocational tracks but to better prepare them for higher education.
The PBEd summit created shared optimism for a brighter future for higher education in the country. This will hopefully lead to a better policy environment for HEIs, more access for our students to quality schools, and better guidance for students in career development and learning paths. It will hopefully lead as well to heightened collaboration with industry in curriculum development and teacher training, and, for higher-education executives and policymakers, a clearer understanding of job market and industry concerns.
Ching Jorge (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of Bato Balani Foundation and the lead convenor of Young Public Servants.