February 24, 2018, 10:16 pm
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Human capital

CRITICISM immediately greeted President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s opening salvo—his approval of the distribution of contraceptives among students. With an expressed view of improving the country’s human capital, this contentious move has attracted a mixture of applause and jeers.

“They’re barking at the wrong tree. They way to address poverty is to invest in education. They should treat education exactly the same way they treat infrastructure,” said University of Asia and the Pacific, economist Bernardo Villegas, one of the staunch critics of contraception dissemination in the Philippines. 

“Frankly because we have to think of the future, the moment we start to plant contraceptive mentality among the masses, we will face exactly the same issue as Singapore, Korea, Macau. All these countries neighboring us are born dreaming of having babies. So they actually have not been thinking of sustainable development,” he would add. 

“There are many other ways in solving poverty than planting the contraceptive mentality. Addressing the problems of today without harming the future generation,” Villegas also said. 

While the contraceptives issue is quite a sensitive topic in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, the protest against the initiative appear to shroud the other commitments the government has made to further improve the citizenry’s economic value in the marketplace. 

In his inaugural speech, Duterte committed to further invest in human capital so as to further Filipinos’ situation under his 10-point socio-economic agenda.

Agenda number seven commits the president to invest in human capital development including health and education systems, and match skills and training to meet the demand of businesses and the private sector.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, said all 10 points spells out “what needs to be done between now and 2022 that will enable the Duterte administration to bequeath to the next one a country that is much safer and an economy that is even stronger and more inclusive for the benefit of all Filipinos, especially the poor and underprivileged sectors.

“These sweeping initiatives are for us in Government to carry out and for Filipinos and private business to give their full backing to in order to guarantee a sustained high—and inclusive—growth for all,” he said.

A review of the Duterte administration’s draft Philippine development plan (PDP) that will run between 2017 and 2022, shows that the Duterte administration is committing to further pour government resources to expand the government’s services in the sector of health and education, while improving the standards of the two as well as the skills of those already in the field.

On the aspect of health, the government looks to a) guarantee services that provide care for all life stages and by addressing the triple burden of diseases; b) ensure the accessibility of these services in functional service delivery networks; and c) sustainably finance these services through universal health insurance. 

“These will be supported through increase investments in the sector which is expected to redound to improved life expectancy of Filipinos,” the government said. 

“Specifically, attention will be given to: first 1,000 days, reproductive and sexual health, maternal, newborn and child health, exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, food and micronutrient supplementation, immunization, adolescent health, health screening, promotion and information,” it also said. 

The government also commits to address communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and Malaria, while working to eliminate certain diseases. 

“Intervention will be on cancer, diabetes, heart disease and their risk factors. Moreover, all Filipinos will be protected from the triple burden of disease,” the government said. 

In order to improve access to health services, the government also looks to hire more staff and improve facilities, transforming hospitals “into mega-hospitals or hospitals with multi-specialty training capabilities and reference laboratories.” 

“Health facilities with maternity and newborn services will be converted into facilities that fully protect, promote, and support rooming-in, breastfeeding and other mother-baby friendly practices. Measures to improve access to lifesaving interventions and reduce exposure to risk factors for premature deaths and disability will be enforced. Health promotion and surveillance and response will also be improved,” the government said. 

Duterte’s administration also looks to increase further the 92 percent PhilHealth coverage in the Philippine to 95 percent during its term. 

“Lifelong learning and the development of lifelong learners” meanwhile is the goal under the education push where “students will be equipped with 21st century skills and provided with opportunities to develop to their full potential.” 

“Further, education will be made accessible especially to vulnerable groups and those not reached by formal education,” the government said. 

Among the thrust includes the delivery of early childhood programs, implementing a developmentally-appropriate curriculum, that develop their pupils’ physcial, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. 

The push hinges on the successful implementation of the K-12 program, providing adequate “education inputs” like school infrastructure, quality learning materials including assistive devices, while improving competence in science and technology, ICT, innovation, and creative imagination to allow students “to keep pace with the knowledge and information age.” 

“Equally important is an effective and transparent monitoring and evaluation system that will help facilitate timely and appropriate response to issues and challenges,” the government said. 

The government also noted the need to develop and improve interventions to keep children in school such as providing school-based “feeding programs, counselling programs, remedial classes, and a conducive learning environment can keep children in school and complete basic education.” 

Alternative Learning System will also be intensified and expanded to allow those not reached by the formal system to complete basic education and acquire lifelong learning. 

“Further, provision of education inputs should focus on areas with poor education performance; targeting the need of the hard-to-reach learners or the most vulnerable (such as street children, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, children-in-conflict with the law (CICL), and children in conflict areas),” the government said.

These initiatives are expected to further improve the current level of school completion and cohort survival rate at elementary level which stands at 83.43 percent and 87.07 percent respectively as of school year (SY) 2015-2016 compared to 72.1 percent and 74.2 percent respectively in SY 2010-2011. 

The secondary level meanwhile has survival rate of 80.75 percent from 79.4 percent for the same period respectively while completion rate was at 73.97 percent, down from 75.1 percent for the same periods. 

Drop-out rates was at 2.7 percent in SY 2015-2016 from 6.29 percent in SY 2010-2011 in the elementary level while the secondary level saw drop-out rates at 6.65 percent from 7.79 percent.

Drop-out rates for males was at 0.65 percent and 3.32 percent in the elementary and secondary levels, respectively, while drop-out rates for girls was at 0.36 percent and 1.64 percent respectively. 

It is also expected to further improve achievement rates among elementary and secondary students which as of the last review have remained low.

Between 2009-2013,  the average overall national achievement test (NAT) mean percentage scores (MPS) for Grade 3 was at 59.28 percent, the government noted. Between 2009-2014, meanwhile, the average overall NAT MPS for Grade 6 and Fourth Year High School was at 67.48 percent and 49.52 percent, respectively. 

The government concludes that these low achievement rates “indicated low quality of education,” noting that the nation’s education system is beset with “lack of competent teachers, high student-teacher ratios, absence of basic facilities (e.g. electricity and water supply), and the quality of classrooms.”

The enrolment on special education (SpEd) likewise showed that SY 2015-2016 had the government hiring 2,571 SpEd teachers, funding 37 pure SpEd centers and 278 regular schools with a SpEd center catering to about 150,000 students with special needs in public schools.

Apart from upgrading the teaching standards, technical vocational education and training (TVET) area coverage is eyed to be expanded to include community-based training for special groups, to address the disparities and uneven development across regions, provinces and sectors.

“This will be promoted through the identification and supply of the specific skills requirements of different barangays. It will use community-driven approach to training delivery and continuous consultations and collaborations at the grassroots levels with other government agencies. It will serve as a driving force for change and upliftment of the lives of the Filipino people, contributing to the socio-economic development of our nation as a whole,” the government said. 

Expansion of access to higher education at the same time will be implemented through the availability of financial assistance to students, among others, while steering curricula towards 21st century skills. 

“Government shall ensure the full implementation of the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act (RA10687). UniFAST harmonize the various student financial assistance programs of all national agencies into three modalities,” the government said. 

“It shall promote the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP), Ladderized Education Program (LEP), and Distance Education. These programs are intended for working students and/or “school leavers” who have partially completed but did not finish their studies and would like to earn a degree. It shall devise policy that will rationalize tuition and school fees,” it said.

“In an era of remarkable speed and dynamism in the knowledge-driven global economy, Philippine higher education should also be positioned as one of the major drivers of economic competitiveness. In consideration of these pursuits, government shall advocate purposive investments that (a) steer career interest towards science, technology, engineering, agri-fisheries, and mathematics which are the building blacks of the knowledge economy, (b) foster a health and vibrant relationship with industry as well as small and medium scale businesses, (c) accelerate local and global inter-university research collaborations, (d) establish institutional scientific-technological niches and economic centers, and (e) create an innovation ecosystem among many others,” it added. 

The government also plans to promote among structured partnerships of higher education institutions with the community, business and industry stakeholders to integrate “formal” research and innovation efforts with “informal” grassroots knowledge and innovation. 

“Normative and reasonable allocation of hours for teaching and research and to operationalize extension as part of the applied research engagement shall be formulated,” it said. 

These efforts are seen to further improve the current labor pool in the Philippines. 

The government noted that skilled workers who had undergone competency assessment now stands at 1.4 million compared to 835,000 in 2011. Certification rate increased to 91.1 percent in 2014 from 84.2 percent in 2010, equivalent to 9 of 10 workers assessed getting certified. 

College and higher education graduates meanwhile stood at 602,000 in 2014. But despite the proliferation of higher education institutions (HIE) in the country vis a vis its neighbors, at 10 times more than neighbors, the country’s lackluster performance in producing innovators (74th of 128 in the 2016 Global Innovation Index), researchers (81 researchers per million population versus 205 in Indonesia and 115 in Vietnam), and knowledge producers (28 out of 777 journals or 3.6 percent are listed under Thompson Reuters, Scopus or both) reveals the kind of quality that accompanied the expanded access, it noted. 

“Hence, in spite of the large number of HEIs, the country has lagged behind many of its ASEAN neighbors in producing the knowledge builders, researchers, innovators, job creators, solutions seekers and solutions providers needed to effectively function in the knowledge economy,” it said. 

To further enhance meanwhile the value of those already in the labor market, the government said there is a need for continued retooling of individuals and support to new entrants to the labor force.

“Asistance to workers entering the labor market, especially for the first time, will be strengthened. Career advocacy, coaching and counselling will be enhanced, both for those seeking employment locally or overseas.... There is a need to capacitate LGUs to respond to the challenges in their respective areas. In particular, Employment Services Offices (PESOs) need to prepare for the needs of Sr. High School graduates and the differently-abled, and be aware of opportunities beyond their localities,” it said. 

The government likewise is looking a improving accessible labor market information (LMI) to effectively facilitate job search, like its web-based PhilJobNet. 

The PhilJobNet should be further enhanced to ensure that it is able to meet the LMI needs of the more vulnerable group of workers. Reengineering of the PhilJobNet system to cover to just job matching facility, but to make it as the labor market information portal of the Philippine Government, capable of housing the critical supply and demand database systems will be pursued,” it said.

There is also a need to expand internship, apprenticeship, and dual training programs that facilitate school-to-work transition, it said.

The government likewise continues to support the implementation of a two-tiered wage system in the Philippines “as an approach to minimum wage setting and as a strategy to tighten the link between wage and productivity growth by encouraging and capacitating workers and enterprises in fomatting productivity-based incentives schemes.” 

“As mandatory minimum wages shall continue to be set, enterprises shall also be encouraged to adopt productivity based pay schemes to accelerate productivity growth and ensure commensurate growth in wages,” it said. 

Lastly, the government is pushing for the passage of a unemployment insurance law “to improve the capacity of workers to maintain a decent standard of living for themselves and their families, even when transitioning form job-to-job.”
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