Reforming the PH education system

One of the aims of the K-12 program is to increase the supply of skilled and competent labor force. Yet, the first supply of K-12 graduates numbering more than 1.2 million did not make the full cut.

Only 20 percent of the country’s 70 leading companies across all sectors were inclined to hire senior high graduates, according to a study by the Philippine Business for Education (PBED).

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) echoed the same. It said in a recent TV interview that ‘K-12 graduates are not yet ready for work’ and they lack the knowledge and skills for the 21st century such as ‘innovation and critical thinking’ skills. PCCI added that the current education system still needs a lot of help and improvement. They are right.

Despite the K-12 Law and the other educational reforms such as the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Law and the Free Higher Education Law, the Philippines continues to get poor marks in international education performance indices.

Our country ranked 66th out of 137 countries for quality of primary education, 74th for quality of higher education, and 76th for quality of math and science education, according to the Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 released by the World Economic Forum. Our educational system did even worse on the 2017 Global Innovation Index where it ranked poorly at 113th place out of 127 countries.

How can our educational system change and prepare the country’s future workforce for the 4th Industrial Revolution? Reforms in policy, pedagogy, infrastructure and educational technology are all critical and urgent especially in the public school system.

On the policy side, apart from the execution of existing laws to reform the educational system, teacher pay has been a sticky issue for years that needs to be addressed. A public school teacher earns between P20,000 to P22,000 gross monthly based on the 2018 Budget Department records which is obviously not enough for a family of five. Hence, a teacher must make ends meet through layers of loans. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the lack of monetary resources distracts one from focusing on the job.

In addition, corruption allegations are hounding the Department of Education (DeEd) which is described as a ‘national agency suffering from systemic corruption’ in a study conducted by Vicente Chua Reyes Jr, and published in the Journal of Developing Societies in 2017. Issues of ‘lack of transparency’ in the use of funds occur within the district, division, and regional offices of the department. There is also corruption in bidding of projects as reported in newspapers. These are all siphoning off much needed funds to reform the public school system.

On the pedagogy side, the problem stems from the memorization methods of schools which are present in both the private and public educational systems. Graded recitations and examinations reward students who memorize lessons which is nothing more than temporarily storing information in their brains. This results in the constant decline of critical thinking among past and present students which is evidenced by the outcome of ‘The Perils of Perception 2017’ that ranked Filipinos as the third “most ignorant” on their nation’s key issues.

Our education system needs to develop teachers that employ reflective teaching that allows students to raise questions, explore possibilities and scenarios and engage in substantive discussions and debate. Teachers’ pay, especially in public school system, should reflect competencies of teachers that use this teaching approach.

Personalized and individualized learning is an emerging methodology which considers the different learning styles of students, thus maximizing the learning outcome. First world nations are already using this technology – a far cry from the state of education in our country. But this should be our education authorities’ target in the coming decade.

On infrastructure and educational technology, building of important classrooms is on-going to narrow the 113,000 shortage as of June 2017, according to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines.

Equally urgent is to address the internet connectivity for public schools. Out of the 46,739 public schools nationwide, only about 12,163 or a mere 26% are connected, a DepEd report said. Most of these are off-grid areas or those unserved by telecommunication companies (Telco) where internet subscription is impossible.

But thinking out of the box, the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI) was able to provide off-grid internet to three high schools in Negros Oriental using the free bandwidth from the Department of Information and Communications Technology. A collaboration with the third telco player might cover the off-grid areas to provide internet to the rest of public schools nationwide.

Internet connectivity is a key enabler to transform our education system. E-learning platforms and content can empower teachers and students alike for a blended and personalized learning.

There is much work to be done to reform the education system in the country. Only an incorruptible and visionary leadership can execute such overhaul.

The author is President & CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consultancy Inc, a digital and culture transformation firm and Co-Founder of Caucus Inc., a data privacy and advisory firm. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. He is also an Adjunct Faculty of the Asian Institute of Management.The author may be emailed at