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Crucial role of S&T, education in dev’t

/ 04:28 AM July 21, 2011

In his article “The Aquino administration: a year after” (Inquirer, 7/16/11), Ramon del Rosario says: “An indispensable element of setting the reform agenda in motion was the appointment of honest and competent men and women in the various government agencies.”

No question about honesty. The problem in our government is the failure to assess competence for solving major causes of underdevelopment—poor S&T and education. The gains mentioned in Del Rosario’s assessment, like most other commentaries on Philippine government performance, missed the crucial role of S&T and education.

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Hence, the Aquino administration is still faced with the usual symptoms of underdevelopment: poverty, overpopulation, degraded environment, common crimes, etc. In addition, it also has to deal with more devastating global threats like terrorism, spread of disease and global warming.

The solution to all of them relies on improving science and education. Yet we don’t have enough properly-trained scientists and educators in various fields. Worse, officials of national institutions in science and education—e.g., Department of Science and Technology, National Academy of Science and Technology, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education—do not meet the internationally established selection criteria for the job; that is, they are not properly trained scientists and educators. The same problems beset even our major universities. (Google “Basic problems in Philippine science and education” for a review of this situation.)

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How is competence measured? Properly trained scientists and educators have contributed to knowledge through research. “The easiest way to assess if one has made any major contributions to one’s field is with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge.” Google Scholar will give nearly the same information (published papers and citations). The number of citations per paper is a useful measure of the quality and impact of one’s output.

With Google Scholar, count only those published in journals covered in Science Citation Index or SCI (for science, technology, engineering and math) or in Social Sciences Citation Index (for social and behavioral sciences).

Our failure to use such internationally accepted criteria is the main reason for the poor state of Philippine science and education, the root cause of our underdevelopment. For example, in 2005, our total SCI-indexed publications were only 178, compared to those of Singapore’s 3,600-plus, Taiwan’s 10,800 and South Korea’s 16,400.

Well-developed countries recognize S&T and education as the two most important prerequisites to economic and social transformation. And so do our neighbors that have left us behind.

—FLOR LACANILAO,

retired professor of marine science, UP Diliman, [email protected]

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TAGS: Aquino administration, Ramon del Rosario, science and technology
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