Advocacy group pushes for improving quality of education so PH can take advantage of digital boom

Published February 26, 2021, 9:50 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While the Philippines is in a “favorable position” to take advantage of the rapid growth in the digital economy, an advocacy group warned that potential gains can be “wiped out” if the country’s workforce remains  ill-equipped to meet global demands.

(AFP Photo / File photo)

The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), in a statement issued on Friday, Feb. 26, said this in response to the latest World Employment and Social Outlook 2021 released this week by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“While there is great labor demand in the global digital economy which Filipinos can take advantage of, we must focus on ensuring that future members of our workforce are coming into the world of work equipped with the skills they need to actually maximize these opportunities,” said PBEd director for workforce development Justine Raagas.

The report, which looked at the rapid growth of digital labor platforms in the last decade, placed the Philippines at second in the world in terms of meeting the global demand for virtual assistants, freelancers and other online jobs. India (US$26 million), accounted for almost 20% of the total market, followed by the Philippines (US$16 million) and Ukraine (US$13 million).

“Digital labor platforms are opening up opportunities that did not exist before, particularly for women, young people, persons with disabilities and marginalized groups in all parts of the world. That must be welcomed,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

He added that the new challenges they present can be met through global social dialogue so that workers, employers and governments can fully and equally benefit from these advances.

Meanwhile, Raagas said Filipino workers stand to benefit from the growth in digital online jobs worldwide, owing to their English proficiency that allows them to communicate well with clients largely originating from Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

However, PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote said said that the Philippines are at risk of losing its competitiveness in the global market because of the “current learning crisis negatively affecting our students.”

PBED noted that school year, “more than 2.7 million Filipino students dropped out of school because they cannot meet the requirements of distance learning forced upon them by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The group also mentioned that latest international assessments of science, mathematics and reading competency also showed an “alarming decline in the academic performance of our students.” 

Basillote warned that this has grave implications for the future of the country’s workforce and their ability to become competitive in an increasingly globalized world of work. 

Given this, PBED is appealing to the government to implement crucial measures so that Filipino students can continue their learning. “We must raise the quality of our education so that our graduates can lead meaningful and productive lives when they step out of the classroom,” she added.