By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
For the upcoming mid-term elections, an advocacy group on Monday called on education stakeholders nationwide “to work together” and “support reforms” by choosing leaders “who will prioritize the role of education” in the national development agenda.
The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) gathered over 100 leaders representing the government, industry, academe and civil society in its annual policy forum in Makati City to discuss policies needed in the education sector as the country gears up for the midterm polls in May.
PBEd President Chito Salazar, Synergeia Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Nene Guevara, and World Bank Program Leader for Human Development Gabriel Demombynes led the policy forum.
Guevara explained that there is currently a “reading crisis” in the country. “The first thing that we need to do is to recognize that there is a crisis, to know that it is a crisis and that we need to do something about it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Salazar underscored the need to “reconceptalize and reimagine how we do education” and to further strengthen workforce development particularly on “how can we develop graduates that industries hire.”
Demombynes, on the other hand, discussed the need to capacitate teachers.
He explained that while there were many factors in education, such as school infrastructure – among others – the major consideration will always be the teachers.
“The number one input that we got is the preparation of teachers because they dominate the school,” he explained.
For PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote, there is a “need for stakeholders to push for reforms in education.” However, she noted that “it is as crucial that we choose leaders who are going to advocate for these policies that are aligned” with the Philippine long-term development plan or the AmBisyon Natin 2040.
In this plan, the government’s long- term vision for national development, the country’s education system must ensure graduates “acquire relevant competencies and develop character qualities to guarantee an improved quality of life for Filipinos.”
Meanhwile, PBEd Chair Ramon del Rosario said “Filipino graduates lack the skills demanded by industry.” He also noted that the Philippines “has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment” in Asia.
Citing latest data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), PBEd noted that “21.7 % of youth in the Philippines are not in education, employment or training as of 2017.”
For del Rosario, this “goes back to the poor learning that happens in our schools” as evidenced by low scores in the National Achievement Test (NAT). “And although there are noble efforts to arrest these trends, they are at best sporadic and in grave need of coordination,” he added.
Given this, del Rosario noted that stakeholders “must work together” and “synchronize efforts” that push for education reforms. “Let us disabuse ourselves of the idea that we can go at it alone: our individual efforts are small in comparison to the enormity of what is demanded of us,” he said. “Indeed, we will be measured ultimately by our collective persistence and our ability to make inroads hand-in-hand,” he explained.
PBEd, as an advocacy group focused on education, has pushed for the K to 12 reform as well as the use of mother-tongue based teaching and learning for early primary school.
In terms of workforce development, PBEd has been promoting greater industry participation in standard setting and skills training, improved labor market information systems and increased partnerships among the academe, industry and government.
When it comes to teacher quality and learning, PBEd continues to call for the review of teacher education admission and graduation standards, closure of non-performing teacher education institutions (TEIs) and licensure reform for teachers.