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The challenge of education in the Philippines

It has been said that the economic development of any nation is a function of the quality of its education. This basically means that the higher the literacy rate, the greater the chances of economic development. This point is made more significant within the context of our modern globalized world wherein, often characterized as a “knowledge society”, education and information have become increasingly more valuable than labor and financial capital, consequently placing a premium on national investment in human capital as a condition for international competitiveness.

Last year, Lower Saxony became the last of Germany’s 16 states to abolish tuition for undergraduate students at all public German universities. This means that both domestic and international undergraduate students at public universities in Germany can now study in Germany for free, with just a small fee to cover administration and other costs per semester. Moreover, German private universities also currently have one of the lowest education costs in the world, based on countries providing internationally reputed higher education systems. These low charges certainly have made studying in Germany an attractive option for prospective students both (local and international), and according to to universities.com, it is now the fourth most popular destination for further education after the US, the UK and Australia.

Admirably, despite the fact that competition for funding and accountability has been steadily increasing in German higher education, the general consensus that it is a public system and should be state-funded remains deeply rooted.

Comparatively, the Philippine educational system remains highly challenged particularly in terms of lowering the costs of education. For this School Year 2015-2016 alone, the Department of Education (DepEd) allowed some 1,246 private schools to implement an increase in tuition and miscellaneous fees. DepEd data showed that the highest request for tuition fee and miscellaneous fees was 29 percent while the lowest was at 1.25 percent.

For its part, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) also approved tuition hikes for 313 private higher education institutions (HEIs) for the school year 2015-2015. Of the 313 HEIs, 283 implemented tuition fee increases while 212 increased other school fees. Across all regions, the recorded average percent increase is 6.48 percent.

Besides the challenge of high tuition rates is the lingering problem of the country’s brain drain. Former Education Secretary Bro. Andrew Gonzales FSC described this and the interlocking conflicts and resulting problems of higher education in the country in a paper published many years back. Much of his observations then however remain true and relevant to our situation today.

One such observation is that our educational system produces first-rate graduates for certain professions and fields of specialization while failing to produce enough graduates in the unpopular fields of pure science, middle-level technician specializations, and graduate training for research and higher education. Likewise, he remarked that the few scientists and graduate degree holders trained abroad similarly migrate to other countries, making the shortage even more acute. For oversubscribed professions, graduates seek overseas employment. In the meantime, he said, the mismatch continues.

With 95 per cent of all elementary students attending public schools, the educational challenge in the Philippines is basically a crisis of public education. With an annual population growth rate of 2.3 per cent or about 1.7 million babies being born every year, limited educational provisions are expected to post greater headaches in the future if not given a responsive solution. The one-million peso question I guess is, if Germany has done it, why can’t we?

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