In the Philippines, technical-vocational education has always been an unpopular choice among high school graduates due to the perception that a technical-vocational education is not glamorous as getting a degree. For many, there is no prestige, no recognition, no job security, and no professional status working in the technical-vocational field. In short, having a technical-vocational background is considered inferior compared to a university degree and only the ‘bobo’ enroll in these courses.
This kind of notion should be eradicated because “Hindi bobo ang Pinoy technical-vocational graduates.” If our technical-vocational institutes (TVI) are managed and monitored well, they will be able to produce world-class and skilled graduates who can compete strongly against our neighboring countries. Tech-voc graduates fill an important role in different industries in the country and overseas. And if our tech-voc graduates become job-ready and globally competitive, they could contribute a lot to the national income and economy. One industry that is in dire need of skills and various technical know-how is the service industry, and we are talking worldwide here, what a big void to fill!
Highly-industrialized countries like Japan, Singapore, and Korea have made necessary advancements in their educational system, focusing on academic excellence and technology innovation. These progressive countries teach their citizens to become productive, income-generating and contribute to the national coffers. They put emphasis on the quality of products and service and really invested in technical training. These countries believe in the strength of their manpower and their role in the national economy.
Tony Galvez, President of Technical and Vocational Schools and Associations in the Philippines or TEVSAPHIL-National and an expert in the technical and vocational education and training industry in the country once said: “Philippine TVET ang pag-asa para sa kinabukasan ng mamamayan at ng bayan, kung maayos at maganda ang programa.”
Noted for his strong advocacy of technical vocational professionalism for global competitiveness in the Philippines, Galvez also said: “Magagawa nating umangat at umasenso ang pamumuhay ng ating mahihirap na kababayan kung mabibigyan natin sila ng kahalagahan at maiaayos ang posisyon ng technical vocational education and training ng bansa. Hindi lang ang hangarin ay upang maging isang simpleng manggagawa. Kung hindi, tulungan natin silang linangin bilang mga tunay na eksperto sa iba’t-ibang larangan ng industriya upang ang lahat ay maging kapaki-pakinabang at mapabilang sa pandaigdigang kompetisyon na makapagpapalago ng ating ekonomiya.”
It is therefore time to put an end in the fairy tale that a four-year course is the only avenue to attaining a decent lifestyle. The technical field is very, very wide, uncharted and not yet competitive, which is a far cry from the competitive, dog-eat-dog corporate world.
A Need for Framework Revision
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, CEO of Ayala Corporation, one of the country’s top corporations and a staunch advocate for the importance of technical skills in our society, once expressed that a vocational or technical degree should be given a prominent position in our country’s educational framework. The curriculum should be wider and the accreditation status should be improved significantly so that it will produce young graduates with specific skills that match the market needs.
In the Philippines, the two main agencies tasked in providing basic education in the country are DepEd or Department of Education for the academics and TESDA which stands for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, which is mandated to provide direction, policies, programs and standards towards quality technical education and skills development. The two bodies should complement each other so that there will be no overlapping of roles that could create conflicts in the implementation of their programs. However, it seems that the curriculum from these two bodies have created some challenges for both of them. Eversince K-12 curriculum has been implemented, DepEd has gotten some resources from TESDA because the tech-voc curriculum should be handled by experts in the technical field and not by a regular teacher. So this phenomena, which was unseen as the would-be effect of the K-12, needs to be resolved.
During the recent Sonshine Media Network International [SMNI] News presidential debates, University of the Philippines professor, Clarita Carlos remarked: “Education is so pivotal to the life of the nation. Why in heaven’s name did we divide our education system into DepEd, K-12 and ChEd? At kung bobo ka diyan ka na lang sa tech voc. There’s something so brainless about those divisions.”
Even Governor Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu appealed to DepEd and TESDA to focus on their respective mandates. She stated that the Department of Education should focus on basic education and in the students’ academic performances and TESDA can take care of the technical skills.
Give TESDA Free Rein
TESDA should be given complete responsibility by the government for technical and vocational training, a separate agency from DOLE, DTI and DepEd. However, TESDA needs to go beyond providing instructions and training. Skills assessment should be thorough and must meet globally-competitive criteria. And lastly, granting professional license to successful graduates would give them the recognition that would elevate their status from merely a tech-voc graduate into a professional practitioner of their chosen skill. Possessing a license gives graduates a sense of pride and achievement. Licensing should be the goal that each tech-voc graduate must aim for because acquiring a license would give them a right to demand a higher salary and compensation for their services. And most of all, they can be at par with the technical graduates of progressive countries. The licensure tests “is the final ‘quality control’ check before tech-voc graduates are allowed to practice a profession which depends on the lives of people or safety of buildings like carpenters, cosmetology and culinary graduates among many other service-oriented fields.
Licensure examination is but one wheel in the big cog of Philippine Qualifications Framework. The said framework supposedly sets multiple criteria that measures quality assurance principles and standards of the Filipino professional, technician and craftsman.
Performing this mandate would mean for TESDA to do a much needed review of their services and offers. What could TESDA offer to their future enrollees to attract more of them in the future and in order for TESDA to be an effective arm of the government for manpower development?
It is proposed that TESDA curriculum be two tracks: meaning the courses offered will be either service oriented or product oriented.
These two classifications will serve different purposes and will be monitored differently as well.
|Product-Oriented Tracks||Service-Oriented Tracks|
|No pre-requisite||Pre-requisite: HS graduate|
|Only product quality control||Customer and Practitioner’s Protection Service|
|Do not require higher academic achievement||Service-Oriented professions are measure by quality of service thru customer satisfaction|
|This is measured only through quality control||It promotes respect, prestige and protection to the client and also the practitioner|
Product-oriented tracks are designed in order to alleviate poverty and provide income-generating projects to barangay folks like stay-at-home moms, out-of-school youths, drug dependents, seniors/retirees, jobless folks, and surrenderees. Some of these product-oriented tracks are called cottage industries and can be done in the backyard or in a factory for SME. Some of these are:
The training package for this track must include:
Salesmanship/Entrepreneurship, managerial, marketing and bookkeeping. These livelihood trainings are best for barangays and provincial training through Barangay Kasanayan para sa kabuhayan at kapayapaan (BKKK) set by TESDA. TESDA will also provide for the necessary tools and materials as well as equipment for this skill training.
The Service Oriented Sector/Industry are the following:
The above mentioned are all professional tracks and require a high school diploma as a basic requirement. Tech-voc service-oriented profession is not just a simple trade and all service-oriented tracks will be identified by specific specialization based on the industry qualification.
President Rodrigo expressed in one of his speeches, “Kaya ang Build, Build, Build, medyo atrasado ng konti. Walang trabahante. We are lacking in experts like in carpentry, in welding and other technical skills. We have a lot of jobless because they are not qualified even in vocational, especially construction.”
As of now, joblessness and lack of experts in vocational and technical skills is really a big concern, but if TESDA will be given free rein, TESDA can perform its main mandate faster and more efficiently.
In the COVID-19 recovery phase, there are opportunities for smart investment in tech-voc education and training to “build back better” programs and systems. Tech-voc may be able to cater to students who dropped out during school closures and reskilling or upskilling those who have become unemployed. Tech-voc can also facilitate the development of skills necessary for the adjustment to structural changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continued focus on ensuring acquisition and development of foundational cognitive and socioemotional skills, such as empathy and resilience, which have become increasingly valued in the current circumstances, will improve employability and other human development outcomes for tech-voc students. Moreover, investment in learning technology and digital skills of tech-voc instructors and students can ensure lifelong access to learning opportunities and future workforce adaptability.
To conclude, if our TVETs follow global standards and are just competitive with that of our Asian neighbors, there will be fewer OFWs because TVET graduates can establish their own businesses and can get better-paying jobs locally.
TESDA should be independent from other government agencies in terms of providing technical-vocational training and education. However, other agencies can complement because agencies like DepEd, help in the basic education of children, while DOLE and DTI give assistance in the employment and livelihood programs respectively.
Good, high-paying jobs await qualified tech-voc grads. If only they’re given proper incentives, multisectoral support and a supportive policy environment, the tech-voc track can also be a viable alternative for young Filipinos who wish to lead productive lives.
We may still have a long way toward strengthening our tech-voc ecosystem in the country, but with a little help and support from the government, industry and academe, we are making crucial inroads that lay the foundation for the future. As we promote tech-voc to the youth to undergo tech-voc training, we hope that tech-voc professionalism and licensing will soon be implemented as well.
And hopefully in the coming years and decades, the state of tech-voc education in the Philippines would further be improved so that when we ask Filipino children what they want to be when they grow up, we hope many of them will also answer that they would want to take the tech-voc path and become a carpenter, a forklift driver or a farming technician. And by then, these children would no longer be laughed at nor looked down with the career choices they’ve made.