Monday, October 12, 2015

Beyond the shortcomings of the educational system

“The rapid changes in the 21st century’s profound impact on the organization of life and work and the persistent poverty in developing nations such as ours have demanded the significant attention of education providers and educators to the issue of employability. Rapid technological changes and the corresponding need to continuously retool workers have compelled industry to pay as much, if not more, attention to learning competencies associated with a liberal or humanist education—critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills, and ethical moorings, among others.” [Toward national development and global competitiveness, Patricia B. Licuanan, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3rd Oct 2015]

“But what competencies or human-resource qualities are needed to fulfill the other function of higher education? Put differently, what constitutes the spectrum of desired characteristics of the new corps of human resources in an evolving innovation? At the recent Apec High-Level Policy Dialogue on Science and Technology in Higher Education, I cited among such qualities critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication skills, adaptability and collaborative skills, which are similar to, if not the same as, what IT BPM (business process management) and other industries are looking for. These add solid disciplinal foundation, design thinking, global-thinking skills (or the ability to understand and analyze social, cultural, industrial, political and economic global forces that impact on technological innovation), research skills, improvisation and regenerative capacity, leadership skills and capacity for risk-taking.”

They all sound very promising. Let’s then try to connect the dots:
“ARANGKADA PHILIPPINES 2010: A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE, Joint Foreign Chambers Advocacy PaperSeven Big Winners: A proven strategy to achieve higher investment, exports, and jobs is concentration on sectors of the economy where the Philippines has competitive advantages and high potential. Ireland, with a population of 4.4 million, followed such a strategy in four sectors after it joined the EU, marketing itself as a manufacturing location that provided easy access to much larger markets in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. Within a decade the ‘Celtic Tiger’ experienced a boom, transforming itself from poor to rich. Irish schools were oriented towards graduating students with skills needed in the prioritized sectors, and foreign investment campaigns in North America and Asia successfully attracted multinational firms that hired these English-speaking graduates.

“In the middle of the global financial crisis in 2009, the JFC released a study that recommended the Philippines build Seven Big Winners, sectors that have high growth and employment potential and in which the Philippines has demonstrated competitive advantage. With its position within ASEAN, with its large, youthful English-speaking population, and with improved access through new ASEAN FTAs with large and fast-growing markets, the Philippines is situated, as Ireland was, to attract large amounts of foreign investment and to create millions of new high-quality jobs in the seven sectors: Agribusiness, Business Process Outsourcing, Creative Industries, Infrastructure, Manufacturing and Logistics, Mining, Tourism, Medical Travel, and Retirement”

It appears the JFC has adopted a model that we could pursue or, alternatively, we can put forward our own? Whatever it is, the key is for PHL to aggressively pursue an industrialization policy! Consider: “Based on the latest round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) in July 2015, job generation continued to be led by the services sector, majority of which belonged to the informal services sector, followed by industry. In industry, the construction sector, not manufacturing, drove job creation.” [Philippine Economic Update, World Bank, Oct 2015]

Indeed there is a role for education in the pursuit of industrialization . . . yet we must stress, highlight and focus on the platform of the Irish model: “A proven strategy to achieve higher investment, exports, and jobs is concentration on sectors of the economy where the Philippines has competitive advantages and high potential. Ireland . . . followed such a strategy . . . marketing itself as a manufacturing location . . . Within a decade the ‘Celtic Tiger’ experienced a boom, transforming itself from poor to rich . . .”

Have we Pinoys taken the JFC efforts for granted? How do we embrace the imperative to craft a vision of what PHL is – that is, an industrialized and developed economy – and the requisite values that will deliver the vision?

We must cease and not take hierarchy as a given against an egalitarian ethos! We are the least able to attract FDI because foreign investors are well aware that the cards are stacked against them and skewed in favor of oligarchy. We must cease and not take political patronage as a given against good governance! Our culture of impunity needs no further exposition.

We must alter – and it is an imperative and the sooner the better – the building blocks of PHL’s economy if we are to be globally competitive and in the league of the Asian tigers! We don’t want to be among the species that aren’t adaptable to change? Nor do we want to be in a race to the bottom, if not extinction?

Granted it’s convenient to rationalize that we need time . . . because we aren’t cut out for Western-style democracy? What about Japanese or Chinese or Singapore style? Or do we believe we’re more like Latin America – which certain quarters would associate with banana republics?

Or are we like the Russians? “‘The Russian people are backward,’ [Putin] told a group of foreign academics in 2005, according to Marie Mendras’s account in ‘Russian Politics: The Paradox of a Weak State.’ ‘They cannot adapt to democracy as they have done in your countries. They need time.’” [In Putin’s Syria Intervention, Fear of a Weak Government Hand, Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times, 4th Oct 2015]

Is our own challenge as daunting?

“Getting competitive,” Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 3rd Oct 2015. “[NCC cochair for the private sector Guillermo] Luz pointed out that the Philippines’ performance over the next several years would ‘absolutely’ depend on the next administration, and that leadership and teamwork would matter: ‘If the next administration has poor leadership and no teamwork, then you’ll see the numbers begin to drop because obviously the other countries are also getting more organized.’

“Over the next several years, Luz’s advice is for the government to continue improvements, particularly in infrastructure development, higher education and training, technology readiness, and anything that puts importance on science, technology and innovation as well as research and development. The government should also continue to institute measures to reduce red tape and streamline regulatory procedures. The Makati Business Club likewise suggested the nationwide implementation of an NCC initiative to reduce the number of steps to establish a business and more intensified efforts to implement critical infrastructure projects.

“Indeed, the Philippines has a long way to go. Compared to its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, it had the fifth highest ranking in the WEF Global Competitiveness Index after Singapore, which placed second; Malaysia 18th; Thailand 32nd; and Indonesia 37th. Vietnam was behind at 56th.

“Reaching the top 20 percent of the competitiveness rankings means the Philippines should be at 30th or higher. From the current 47th, can it move up another 17 slots in the next five years? It has jumped 38 places in the past five years, and while it will be harder to overtake the next 17 as the countries ahead of it now are better and tougher, the NCC’s Luz believes that it can be done if all stakeholders concentrate on the target and work hard. The administration that will take over in 2016 will be largely instrumental in the Philippines’ achievement of this feat.”

In other words, we need the right leadership, one with a sense of purpose . . . and can articulate a vision and demonstrate the requisite values – that of the common good and demanded by nation building – and for Juan de la Cruz to look beyond self and family and embrace his community?

[T]he NCC’s Luz believes that it can be done if . . .” That can be a small or a very big “if”? And it’s all in our hands!

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