There are many reasons why the business sector should be very concerned about the Philippine Education.  And these reasons justify why the business sector should enjoin government to create the Congressional Education Commission similar to that action taken by congress in 1990.

In the statement of policies, the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that it shall “give priority to education”among others and “promote total human liberation and development.” With this comes other constitutional provisions to make integrated system of education relevant, free public basic education, and compulsory for all school age children. Article XIV mandates that “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.” It provides that “the State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education.”

From the proposed 2021 national budget of P4.506 trillion,the education sector gets the highest allocation at P754.4 billion (16.74% of the total budget) which is 8.8 percent higher than the P650.2 billion allocation for 2020.  This budget covers the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the state universities and colleges across the country. The DepEd will get a P606.6 billion budget, which is 9.54 percent higher than 2020 budget. Commission on Higher Education (CHED) gets P50.9 billion in the 2021 budget.  Technical Education and Skills Development Authority is only allocated P13.7 billion under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2021 with P6.554 billion for the tier one, and P7.151 billion for the tier two.  TESDA, however, requested a P20.042-billion for the tier two, which left several projects unfunded under the NEP.  Director General Isidro Lapeña made an appeal.

The P47.12 billion is set aside for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education and another P27.99 billion will serve as education assistance and subsidies for students.  Other programs with allocated funding in the education sector include the DepEd’s computerization program, the school-based feeding program, and the Alternative Learning System (ALS).

But the vast budgetary resource poured upon Philippine Education, which source mainly comes from taxes paid by businesses and citizens, is not the main reason why the business sector should be more assertive to meddle into the affairs of Philippine educational system.  History will break down these reasons.

The Education that was

In 1990 the Congressional Commission on Education was created by the Joint Resolution of the 8th Congress on June 17, 1990.  This was driven by the observable decline and deterioration of education which had no significant improvement for 65 years since the Monroe Survey of 1928.  The fourteen summarized findings included these that were most significant to business and industry was the the manpower mismatch and irrelevance of education.

In twelve months, the EdCom made recommendations that led to major education reforms including the tri-focalization of education – having three separate agencies in charge of the basic and special education, the technical vocational education and training, and the higher and graduate education. The teachers have been professionalized through the Board of Professional Teachers under the Board Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

The Enhanced Basic Education Act gave birth to the K-12 curriculum only in 2013, with 1.3 million senior High School graduates in 2018.  Before 2013, the Philippines was the last country in Asia with 10-year Basic Education.  The other countries in the world were Angola and Djibouti.

​Thirty years after the EdCom, the relevance and quality of education remains in question.

Are we producing Quality Graduates?

In 2018, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to some 600,000 fifteen-year-old students in secondary schools from 79 countries representing some 32 million people of the same age.   Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored lower in reading, mathematics and science than those in most of the countries and economies that participated.  The country’s average score in reading was 340 score points for an OECD average of 487. In mathematics, students in the Philippines scored 353 for an OECD average of 489. And in science students in the Philippines scored 357 points for an OECD average of 489.  Over 80% of students in the Philippines did not reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading. Out of the 79 countries, Philippines ranked 78th in reading and 77th in science and in mathematics.

It is noteworthy that the expenditure per student in the Philippines was the lowest amongst all PISA-participating countries/economies – and 90% lower than the OECD average.

​These PISA takers are, at the time of this writing, is entering legal age of 18 and soon will join the work force. The PISA may not be sufficient basis to judge the products of the basic education but it is surely a conclusive information that could strengthen or weaken our claim of a world-class education.

Are the Graduates Employable?

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority say that of the 5.3% unemployment rate in October 2018, 24.0 percent of these were college graduates, 16.0 percent were college undergraduates, and 27.5 percent have completed junior high school.  There is a slow school-to-work transition. High School graduates take 3 years to find first job and 4 years to have permanent wage job.  For college graduates, it takes a year to find a job and 2 years to have a permanent job.

Bernarte points out that for the past decade and more, the full potential of the academia-industry partnership is far from being utilized due to basic attitudinal differences and driven interests of the stakeholders making partnership problematic.  Espinoza pointed at Job-skills Mismatch as the top three concerns of the employers.  A study by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) reports that the graduates are not job ready and that companies cope by their conducting own training.

Furthermore, there is a very limited labor market information that will estimate the current and future supply and demand.

The Disruptors of the Times

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has threatened the readiness of Philippine graduates in the language of rapid technological developments and fast-paced industry advancements.  The key employment generators namely construction, manufacturing, tourism and information technology are at high risk of being automated.  Drastic changes are predicted to impact the overall business landscape.  The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicted that 49 percent of the Philippines Industries are at high risk of automation over the next 20 years, with Business Process Outsourcing in the frontline.

And while every sectors were talking about and bracing for the disruptive Industry 4.0, the CoViD-19 pandemic came into the picture not only to impose the new normal but also to accelerate the need to take advantage of digital technology and transformation.  And education is challenged both in its manner of adoption of technology (adaptation to the new normal) and in its role in developing the competencies of its product for the world of work.  The digital divide may widen the disparity that still exist in the achievement of the quality of education in the diverse Philippine society. And the educational system, the educational institutions, the teachers, the learners and even the families are set to high level of stress and anxiety, if not panic.

The business sector, being the major end-user of the products of education, should take the lead in calling and pushing for the EDCOM 4.0 to enable a collective review and assessment of the Philippine Educational System.  In this way, we may be able to gather our footsteps toward the envisioned future when we will look back at this 2020 pandemic experience to say that, together, we transformed this Philippine society to be better through education.


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