Only one in eight of the 2 million Filipinos who turn 18 years old each year land themselves with a job upon tertiary graduation, Grace David, chief marketing & partnerships officer of education technology platform Edukasyon said at TechNode Global’s ORIGIN 2020 conference held on Nov. 18.

“We found out that those employed are not actually applying their learnings from school to the very job that they have right now,” she said. The job mismatch phenomenon reflects problems of the education system. The curriculum has to be relevant to prepare students with the necessary skills for future economic demands, she added. 

David spoke at a fireside chat on Philippines’ education system with Joseph de Leon, founding member of Manila Angel Investors Network (MAIN).

Empowering Filipino youths

Young people in the Philippines need to prepare for a rapidly evolving future of work, David said. Acquiring soft skills such as problem solving, creative designing thinking and agility will be critical for the economic development of the region. “But Philippines’ youth should not only think about how they can make ends meet, but what their purpose in life is,” she said.

“Once you have figured out clearer personal and career ambitions, you marry them with the economic outlook information to make better informed decisions,” said David. Educational curriculums should ensure that young people are equipped with the social and emotional skills employers will demand in the future.

With this context in mind, for the Philippines to thrive, education must undergo a radical shift. 

The very concept of in-person education and teaching style will likely change. “The pandemic has pushed everyone to embrace it [online learning]. It’s no longer a matter of ‘do I go digital?’,” said David. 

However, in the Philippines, digital literacy rates are low, which poses a challenge for online learning tools. 

Bridging the digital divide

The country is facing alarming internet access disparities with only 55% Filipinos and 26% of public schools connected to the internet.

 “Let’s be conscious that our older generations of teachers need support. There should be no digital divide amongst teachers regardless of social or geographical conditions,” she added. 

In her view, students and teachers’ needs should be at the core of any edtech strategy instead of just providing them with digital gadgets. She cited an example of how some teachers she spoke to had difficulties connecting to Wifi, even before tackling the teaching software itself.

The Philippines needs to take some basic steps to improve its online learning capabilities, and key stakeholders in the government and the private sector should work together to make sure no young people are left behind, David said.An important practice is for key stakeholders to share experience, information, and tacit knowledge from previous attempts at digitization. “We want to learn from other industries to allow for accelerated innovation in our education space,” she said.