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Embedding employability into the curriculum

Defining education quality tends to be difficult because it depends on who you are and where you’re coming from. If you are the parent of a grade school or high school student, the K-to-12 Law puts things in context by saying that as a matter of policy, every student must have the opportunity to receive quality education that is “globally competitive based on a pedagogically sound curriculum that is at par with international standards.”

In her public presentations on the new K-to-12 curriculum, Education Undersecretary Dina Ocampo has repeatedly emphasized: “We want to educate children so they can find meaningful opportunities where they are. We’re not graduating dressmakers and car mechanics; we’re developing lifelong learners with critical and technical skills.”

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Similarly, the five-year Higher Education Reform Agenda (2011-2016) puts quality in context by saying that the twin strategic roles of higher education are “as an instrument for poverty alleviation” and “as a vehicle for technologically-driven national development and global competitiveness.”

At the basic education level, the K-to-12 curriculum allows for senior high school specialization tracks to address four possible exit scenarios: The 18-year-old graduates can pursue higher education, immediately seek employment, opt to sharpen middle-level skills for later employment, or take the entrepreneurship path. However, all tracks have a core curriculum that would enable the graduates to pursue tertiary education if they wish.

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The senior high school curriculum is aimed at easing the apprehension that graduates have to deal with as they transition into the so-called “real world.”

Some quarters hold the view that the K-to-12 curriculum as it stands now is biased in favor of tertiary education. They contend that the Department of Education’s 15 Core subjects, nine Specialization Track subjects, and seven Contextualized subjects only help propel graduates toward college studies.

On the other hand, Ocampo has had to correct the contention that the DepEd is “tech-vocalizing” education. “It’s just not true. We’re adding tech-voc to high school,” she said.

Clearly, relevance is a key characteristic of education quality. In the words of the esteemed Jose V. Abueva, “education for what, and for whom?” From the student’s perspective, this loosely translates to the anxiety-laden question: “What am I going to do, and what kind of job will I land, when I graduate?”

Globally, new graduates are finding it very difficult to find a job, much less land one for which their education supposedly prepared them. In countries with advanced education systems, industry and universities carry on a continuing conversation to ensure that the competencies and skills that learners acquire in school remain relevant when they eventually join the modern workplace. This conversation takes many forms, but essentially it revolves around intensive internships that provide students with several hours of hands-on experience and exposure to the prevailing culture at work.

In the Philippines, there is definitely a trend toward the formation of industry-academe partnerships that transcend corporate social responsibility initiatives. These emerging partnerships feature close collaboration and continuous exchange of ideas between faculty and industry practitioners.

This is becoming particularly evident in the information technology and business process management (IT BPM) industry, which is reputed to be very efficient and cost-conscious. A couple of years ago, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) deemed it worthwhile to issue Memorandum Orders No. 6 and No. 34 that prescribe the integration of a Service Management Program (SMP) specialization track in the business administration and IT degree programs offered by state universities and colleges as well as private higher education institutions (HEIs).

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The SMP has four electives: systems thinking, service culture, business communication, and business process outsourcing fundamentals. Most importantly, it has a 600-hour internship component with an IT BPM company.

The national government has repeatedly cited the IT BPM industry as a key employment generator. In 2013, it hired an estimated 900,000 full-time employees coming from various academic disciplines.

The CHEd and the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) are in a partnership agreement to propagate the SMP as widely as possible. In April, with the help of Catherine Castañeda and Leonida S. Calagui, DepEd directors in the National Capital Region and Region IVA, respectively, the Ibpap is offering SMP training for higher-education teachers in the NCR and Calabarzon.

The training venue is at the Asia Pacific College at 3 Humabon Street, Magallanes Village. The sessions for systems thinking, service culture and business communication are on April 21-25, and for BPO fundamentals on April 21-29. I will be happy to assist interested parties. Inquiries may be directed to the e-mail addresses provided below.

Incidentally, the Asia Pacific College is an SMP pioneer, along with Jose Rizal University, the University of Makati and Lyceum University in Laguna. These four institutions started offering SMP training to their students two years ago. Today, these students have completed their 600-hour internships and are about to graduate. Jobs await them. This is what we mean by embedding employability into the curriculum.

Butch Hernandez ([email protected] or [email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.

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TAGS: Commentary, education, Employability, employment, K-to-12 curriculum, opinion
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