Local colleges need to innovate so they can compete globally | Inquirer Opinion

Local colleges need to innovate so they can compete globally

/ 04:05 AM September 28, 2022

How can we compete globally? As a country, we have the mental power to catch up and match the performance of South Korea in producing smartphones, tablets, and televisions that can compete with the United States.

However, if you look at the top 100 universities in Asia, the University of the Philippines (UP) is in the 77th spot, eight points lower than its 2021 ranking. This was done by the Quacquarelli Symonds Asian University Rankings. I think we can have more medical schools in the top 100.


How can our university system’s ranking leap to a higher international level? Should we continue glorifying the top 10 graduates of each of the professional fields? Should we still stay with the 19th-century tenured system of keeping professors? Or should we drastically change our educational infrastructure using evidence-based cognitive research?

About half a century ago, the acceptance of a graduate from the UP College of Medicine (UPCM) to the many well-known medical centers in New York was almost guaranteed. Many members of our class of ’68 were accepted into university hospitals. Now I am seeing from the emails of many UPCM graduates that they are having a difficult time getting accepted into top training programs.


How can we reverse this trend?

We need a national resolve to drastically change our educational infrastructure to include advances in technology and brain research.

Singapore and China did it about 50 years ago, and this is one of the reasons why they are well ahead of us.

Since the 1980s, both fields of technology and cognitive science have leaped way ahead of the 20th century’s stagnant educational highway of teacher-centered, memory-based, individual achievement programs.

In the 21st century, what the Philippines needs is a new educational superhighway. Our universities should overhaul their tenured system and teaching programs, using the twin power of technology and cognitive research to compete globally.

We have seen the result of the current educational highways of tenured professorship and teacher-centered learning centers standing still or going downhill in the world ranking.

What is the cure? Model schools after successful institutions like Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.


The biggest change in Olin was getting rid of the tenured-professorship concept. The teachers are first given a three-year contract, which is renewable depending on their performance. With this structure, teachers are motivated to find new ways of helping their students to learn and innovate.

One Olin student told me that she likes Olin because of the small community: Students know all of their classmates, and all of their professors know them by first name, and are very friendly and approachable. A student can email a question to her chemistry professor and receive a reply just before midnight. Olin also has an honor code where students can leave laptops and money lying around without them being lost.

During our visit to Olin College in October 2012, what struck me most was that students were not tested for their content knowledge. They were judged on their collaboration with outside business organizations in creating new products or services. No more multiple choice questions employed by standard colleges in our homeland.

Although a relatively young college founded in 1997, it is ranked No. 3 in the best undergraduate engineering program. Olin College of Engineering is an innovative school that we should emulate in order to compete globally.

Leonardo L. Leonidas, MD,[email protected]

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TAGS: education, global competitiveness, University of the Philippines, university rankings
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