Atty. Rami Hourani
- The Philippines places a premium on formal classroom education, this leads to:
- An abundance of under-employed college graduates.
- A lack of skilled tradesmen with experience.
- A system should be put in place to funnel learners towards skilled vocations.
- The private sector should be permitted to take a more active role in training design and implementation.
College Education v. TechVoc Education
There is a bias in the Philippines towards formal higher education settings. A vocational education is something that is looked down on. This is definitely a reflection of the Filipino optimism. In our hearts we believe that all youth are future engineers, doctors, lawyers, and accountants. This is great for a nation that principally intends to outsource its own expert labor in the form of OFWs or BPOs.
It is my position that this is not a good set up for two reasons. First, it limits the productivity of Filipinos to the participation in the value chains of other countries; and Second, it prevents our economy from being diversified. If we want to have a diverse and more productive economy, we have to make more workers that can do other things.
The Choice (and taking it away)
In the Philippines, it is very common that a person takes a course and winds up doing something completely unrelated to what they studied. In other countries, the government takes an active role in directing learners to either vocational or more formal higher education paths. This ensures that they have a mix of technocratic and pragmatic skills.
In the Philippines, there is little attempt to direct the flow of learners from secondary education to either technical/vocational education or to tertiary education. As a result, most who have the option will elect for tertiary education destined to be under employed Those who do not have that option may forego vocational education and become unemployable. I believe that in today’s increasingly complex global economy, the government should take a more active role in determining what percentage of learners proceeds down either path.
The Missing Ingredient
I understand that any plan for a societal problem in the Philippines that involves “more regulation” is approached with skepticism. However, there is an important qualification to my suggestion. I believe that we should write into our laws that Sectoral Organizations and the private sector have a greater degree of influence in the crafting of training and certification. Currently, in the framework of TESDA, the private sector is limited to an advisory role only. This puts a large onus on government to be dynamic and responsive to the ever shifting needs of the labor market. Our government service is very capable but it is not tuned to be familiar with the needs of the global economy vis-à-vis the Philippines. If we defer to sectoral organizations and the private sector, we have a greater assurance that our learners will be placed in roles that greater fit their ability and level of training.
A large part of the opinions stated here come from a deeply rooted desire of mine that the Philippines be known for more than just the demeanor of our people as workers. I want us to make things again. Just like the French have their fashion, the Germans have their cars, the Americans have their technology, the Chinese have their factories; I want the Philippines to have a product that we are known for as well.
Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, Philippines. If you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.