Tag archive for "education"




No Comments 02 February 2014

I am not a fan of the American dream, but I’ve always been a dreamer. The thin line between optimism and wishful thinking becomes narrower when dreams fade into the background of reality. I left the Philippines in 2007 in search of greener pastures in the US. READ FULL STORY




No Comments 17 November 2012

By Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes

Labhan ang damit nang mabuti”, says a sticky note on the washing machine door. By the light switch, a sign says, “Patayin ang ilaw.” All over the house are little notes that serve as a reviewer. In the background, Sa Ugoy ng Duyan plays softly as my one-year-old naps. It’s all part of my campaign to make sure that my son grows up fluent in Tagalog and that my American husband is not alienated.

My Pinoy immigrant friends ask why that it is so necessary. It seems like they do not see the value in teaching their kids the native tongue when they can hardly use it on foreign soil. I can understand that to some degree, but it’s disheartening to know that many kababayans believe that their children can get ahead only if they are fluent in English alone.

Once during a visit to Manila, I asked my 6-year-old nephew a question in Tagalog. He looked at me quizzically and said, “Please speak English. I don’t understand.” It was interesting that a little boy could silence me. My brother explained that they’ve been conversing with the boy in English since birth. Even the maids do. Apparently, the maids were getting reeducated too. He admitted that it is turning into a disadvantage, because the child is now experiencing difficulty in his Filipino classes. So does countless other kids in the Philippines whose parents think that their children will be achievers if they make English their first language in a country that’s generally non-English speaking.

I grew up with these kids, classmates who were made fun of because they couldn’t speak straight Filipino. Is it their fault that their parents trained them that way? They were always behind in our Araling Panlipunan classes, and I do not judge them, because I too barely passed these subjects. Truth be told, I can write better in English. And I am not proud of that.

I grew up speaking Ilonggo at home. But the TV certainly talked to me in English. And so did my teachers and classmates four days a week. Mondays to Thursdays, we were obliged to converse in English only. Fridays were Filipino days. They must have figured that we did not need to practice Filipino more when we are after all living in a Filipino speaking country. Even our instructional language for major subjects like Science was English. I have to admit it’s practical that way. Try explaining E=MC2 in Filipino.

Even in addresses, streets are streets, not kalye. Similarly, majority of our advertisements, signs, and directions are in English. It’s not the case in many non-English speaking countries. If you can’t find your way around Korea or Vietnam, you would more than likely get lost in translation. I learned this the hard way, thinking that English would serve me well. When I got lost in the streets of Hanoi, I was greeted with quizzical stares when I asked for directions. Few Vietnamese know basic English and they don’t make apologies for it, because it does not make them lesser individuals, and inversely, to be fluent in English does not make them superior or royalty. How many Miss Universe hopefuls have taken the crown with only the help of a translator?

I can’t argue with the fact that there are advantages to being fluent in what is supposedly the universal language. Statistics show that English speaking countries are responsible for about 40% of the world’s GNP. That says a lot. But then it makes me wonder: why is Japan, largely a non-English speaking country, still way ahead of us in terms of technology and economy?  I guess language alone does not make a country, but language still speaks plenty.

Is this another case of colonial mentality? Should we blame it on the 48 years of American reign and the many borrowed words (tren for “train” for instance)? Have we fooled ourselves into thinking that to make the peso stronger, we need to speak the green dollar language?

The fact is, we’ve come upon times when it’s more convenient to say things in English rather than Tagalog. Thus the birth of “taglish” code switching. Unconsciously, when I converse in Tagalog, I would revert to an English word simply because it’s easier. Maybe it’s because there are more syllables to Filipino words. For me, it also sounds more fluid compared to the hard syllables of Tagalog. “Ang sweet” is easier and shorter than “ang lambing”.

Even the tambay will more than likely say “wow sexy” instead of “wow kaakit-akit”.  I had difficulty looking up “sexy” in the English-Tagalog dictionary. A website came up with mainam and balingkinitan, and they still don’t sound right. I looked up my English-Tagalog dictionary by Leo James English and came up with nothing.

Yes, I brought my L. English dictionaries with me to the states even though they were about a kilo combined. I could have relied on the internet, but L. English is the recommended dictionary of the literati. I had to take it with me no matter the cost (of excess baggage). The act was almost metaphorical. I was afraid that if I left that weight, I would completely lose my native tongue. I brought it along with several other materials like work books and OPM CDs all in the effort of making sure my boys learn the language.

Maybe we are not to blame for the decline of the use of our own language, but we are definitely responsible for teaching our kids to exercise their native tongue. So when my friends ask why, I tell them that bilingual children are better thinkers. They’re more flexible and divergent in their thought processes. They become proud of their self-identity, knowing that they are a culture bridge. And perhaps more importantly, I tell them that although my son has an Irish name and strong Irish-American roots, part of him will always be Finnegan the Filipino.

(The author maintains a travel blog – http://anaviajera.com).




No Comments 02 September 2011

Manila Bulletin columnist James Soriano draws attention to the reality of many middle-class, private-schooled young Filipinos who prefer English to Filipino as a means of communication because the former is perceived to be “the language of the learned.” READ FULL STORY


Current Affairs


No Comments 30 March 2011

By Pepper Marcelo

It’s graduation time again. In a country where one’s worth is often measured by his educational attainment, finishing college is one of the highly anticipated milestones. Never mind that the graduate is at the bottom of the class or that he came from one of those diploma mills. What matters most to many Filipino parents is that are able to send their child though college; whether the graduate gets to practice what he studied or lands a job afterward is another matter.

But the celebratory mood is short-lived. Soon after, reality sets in: many of the graduates will have a hard time finding decent jobs, much more jobs that are suited to their studies. Thus we see marketing graduates answering phones and filing records, or mass communication majors taking on contractual jobs hawking credit cards in malls. The luckier ones end up as call center agents and bank tellers, jobs that require only three to six months training in developed countries.

Clearly there is a mismatch between the types of graduates our schools produce and the kinds of skills that the labor market needs. As a result, years of studies and the concomitant cost of college education are wasted. Labor statistics show that roughly half a million graduate are unable to get work in their chosen field each year. Despite numerous vacancies, local and overseas employers often complain about the lack of employable college graduates. Phil-job.net, the official job search site of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), shows that some 125,000 local and overseas job vacancies are still open and have yet to be filled by qualified applicants. (See related story.)

A recent study by the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) of DOLE shows that 1.052 million, or 39.1 percent of the unemployed, are college graduates and undergraduates. “The large proportion (50.6 percent) of the recorded 2.6 million unemployed Filipinos are young workers aged 15 to 24 and are educated with a college diploma or are undergraduates,” the study says.

Unemployable graduates

In the nursing profession, for example, there are 80,000 nursing board passers each year, but there are only a handful of job openings, according to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates. Statistics on the total of unemployed nurses are estimated to number upwards of 150,000. Many of them have become call center agents due to the difficulty of finding nursing jobs at home and abroad.

Graduates of business administration, hotel and restaurant management, and information technology are in the same boat. Statistics show that only three out of every 100 new college graduates are hired yearly because of their failure to pass competitive qualifying exams. Thus many of the graduates – or at least those with a workable grasp of the English language – end up as call center agents or bank tellers.

“Even if they’re graduates, they might not have the qualifications, competency and experience that the job requires,” says Criselda Sy, Director of BLES. “A major concern is that we’re not educationally at par with the standards of the industry.”

Moratorium on popular courses

To address the oversupply of graduates in certain courses, the Commission on Higher Education (CED) has imposed a moratorium on the opening of new programs effective this year. The following undergraduate and graduate programs were declared suspended for an indefinite period: Nursing, Business Administration, Teacher Education, Hotel Restaurant and Management and Information Technology.

According to CHED, the top five major disciplines with the most number of graduates were Business Administration and Management related Programs (114,000), Education and Teacher Training (96,000), Medical and Allied Professionals (87,000), Engineering and Technology (63,000), and Information Technology (49,000).

The moratorium is the government’s response to the proliferation of specific programs, which if left unabated would further lead to the worsening of the quality of our graduates.  The mushrooming of certain courses, according to one study, has resulted in the weakening of the Business Administration and Teacher Education programs, as well as the decline in the passing rate in the Licensure Examination for nurses.

Improving education

CHED is focused on ensuring that Philippine educational institutions are developing a national qualifications framework to improve tertiary education. It is pushing for schools to attain proper accreditation. Although CHED prescribes schools to attain the minimum requirements, it nonetheless encourages and evaluates institutions to go above the minimum targets so as to make their standards comparable to foreign standards.

CHED is working in collaboration with a technical panel of experts from the academe, as well as business and industry leaders, via their Policy Standards and Guidelines (PSGS). The multisectoral panel shall formulate academic development plans and make recommendations for specific disciplines.

“That’s our mechanism,” says Vitriolo. “Before you offer a program you have to comply with established policies and standards, which are formulated by the panel. Aside from that, there is a public hearing process, where we invite everyone, including students and parents, to attend the forum. After that, we finalize these standards for schools to follow.”

CHED has designated Agriculture, Mining Science, Aeronautics, Geology and Software Engineering as undersubscribed collegiate programs for which there is a big demand for qualified graduates.

Jobs of the future

In 2010, DOLE held a forum with business executives and “captains of industry” to discuss future business trends and their corresponding requirements for the next ten years (2010-11). Some of the critical concerns raised in the forum included the need to improve the analytical and communication proficiencies of students and their corresponding information technology skills, as well as honing the managerial skills of college graduates.

Through consultation and research, the government and the private sector identified 12 Key Employment Generators (KEG): Agribusiness, Cyberservice, Health and Wellness, Hotel Restaurant and Tourism, Mining, Construction, Banking and Finance, Manufacturing, Ownership Dwellings and Real Estate, Transport and Logistics, Wholesale and Retail Trade, and Overseas Employment.

In Agribusiness, for example, some of the specific in-demand occupational titles include Animal Husbandry, Agricultural Economist, Aqua-culturist, Coconut Farmer, Entomologist, Horticulturist, Plant Mechanic, Veterinarian and Pathologist.

Career guidance needed

“The problem is even if we do that, it largely remains a choice of the students,” says Vitriolo. “For example, there are very few takers in agricultural education, because they don’t find it as something as attractive [as nursing]. There are few people now taking that, but we need it, because we’re an agricultural country.”

DOLE recommends that there needs to be an intensified focus on information dissemination regarding hard-to-fill and in-demand occupations, including college degree  courses with an oversupply of skills, so that students are able to make informed decisions about their career choices.

“The business community should alert the educational sector about its labor requirements, and figure out how to attract enrollees in those areas,” says Sy. “That’s where career guidance and orientation come in. A student should be aware of what is going on in the labor market and make an informed career decision, so that after graduation, they will know where they should go.”




No Comments 08 September 2010

Amid the grim education scenario in the Philippines, a bright light shines from the remote town of Jagna in Bohol province.  There, husband and wife Christopher Bernido and Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido, both physicists, introduced a way of teaching and learning that has produced amazing results. READ FULL STORY


Current Affairs


24 Comments 21 February 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

It used to be that the Philippines’ biggest competitive advantage in the global job market is the proficiency of our skilled workers in the English language. This advantage, however, is fast being eroded by rising competition from other countries coupled with declining mastery of the English language by our college graduates.

Recent language test results released by the IDP Education Pty. Ltd. Philippines, an accredited group that administers the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to Filipinos seeking to work and migrate abroad, showed that the Philippines is no longer the top English-speaking country in Asia.

With an overall score of 6.71, Malaysia is now the No. 1 in English proficiency in Asia. The Philippines placed only second with 6.69, followed by Indonesia (5.99), India (5.79) and Thailand (5.71). This was gleaned from IELTS results in 2008, during which some 35,000 Filipinos — 70 percent of them nursing graduates applying for jobs abroad — took the language exam to evaluate their English proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

During a conference on English organized by the Centre for International Education (CIE) in Manila, Andrew King, country director of IDP Education Pty. Ltd. Philippines warned that the continuous decline in Filipinos’ English proficiency could affect the growth of the call center industry which provides thousands of jobs at home and abroad.

English still rules

In an interview with Planet Philippines, King stressed that English remains the lingua franca or default language of international business and diplomacy.

“Things like international treaties, business contracts and so on, are written in English, because it’s an exact language,” he says. “You have to have people that can speak, read and write it well. To operate at high levels, you need very good English.”

He states that employers in today’s global market want people that have not only international experience and good qualifications that are recognized all over the world but also high proficiency in spoken and written English. “English has less elasticity and flexibility so you can say exactly what you want to say and not argue about the meaning. If you get your tenses, plurals and prepositions wrong, then you’re not going to be accurate.”

He adds: “Here and around the world, people are asking for better competency in English. Being able to get by is not enough.”

King says proficiency in English is a huge advantage for every job seeker, even those who have no plans of working overseas. Foreign companies in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, he notes, locally administer their contracts in English. “A foreign company won’t enter into a contract that’s not of their language.”

For business consultant Peter Wallace, who also spoke at the CIE English conference, comprehension is the problem. “Do you understand what you’re hearing? Do you understand what it means when you say that? These are the issues.”

BOP takes action

The biggest obstacle for the ever-growing BPO industry sector is recruiting enough capable graduates with the required English skills. Industry observers estimate that only three in every 100 applicants are able to gain satisfactory employment. In certain cases, the BPO industry has taken it upon themselves to train prospective employees so that company growth will not be impeded.

“The formal educational system is hard-pressed to train young Filipinos in proper grammatical English, so the private sector has taken the lead,” says Frank Holz, CEO of Outsource2Philippines.

Observers have attributed the decline in English skills to budgetary constraints and lack of proper infrastructure in the country’s educational system. “In fairness, the Department of Education is trying its best, but unfortunately, this generation of teachers does not have the capability,” says Wallace.

King attributes the decline in English to the poor quality and training of local schoolteachers, as well as the continuing use of outdated or erroneous textbooks. “Students are not being taught correct English and the resources and materials they’re given is incorrect.”

Bilingual policy

Another problem, and a continuing topic of debate, has been the educational system’s bilingual policy, adopted 35 years ago which compels schools to use English and Filipino as medium of instruction. “People use the excuse that there’s ‘Filipino English.’ Filipino English is English as long as it’s correct. If it’s incorrect English, it doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s just being an apologist for people’s mistakes is wrong,” King points out.

The incorrect use of the language on local TV newscasts and English-dubbed cartoons, also contributes to the decline in English proficiency among Filipinos. “Everyday, on virtually all television and newspapers, you hear incorrect use of prepositions,” adds King.

He cites the words “in” and “on” as examples. “You hear the car was driving on the lane, which would mean on top of, rather than in, as in within the two lines.”

He also blames technology such as the internet and SMS messaging (texting) on cell phones, which favors speed and levity but fosters poor written skills. “We use abbreviations in chat rooms, and we have created a whole new language, and texting on cell phones has created a short language.”

Even cultural prejudice and ignorance is an issue, King laments. “Snobbery – you’re a snob if you speak English. No, you’re a person that’s committed to learn more than one language.”

Gov’t response

In response to IDP’s released test results, the government assures that it remains committed to improving the quality of teachers in the Philippines, particularly in public schools. Malacañang cites a number of ongoing projects to improve the English proficiency of teachers and students in public schools, such as the “Project Turning Around,” “Every Child A Reader Program,” and the National English Proficiency Program. Officials also said the government is allotting P1.1 billion to train nearly 400,000 teachers in Math, Science and English skills.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos said he brought up the problem during one Cabinet meeting and top government officials agreed to do something about it.

“We are part of the global community and there is economic competition among countries in the world. Let’s face it, English is still the number one language in the entire world,” said Santos.

King says that the problem could be traced to the prevailing social and political conditions in the country. “One of the issues is that there are too many children for teachers to cope with. You can go back to population control, so there are so many that you can’t manage within the education system. But that’s a whole different argument.”

One possible solution he suggests is to import external people to analyze the English curriculum and resources, and try to identify the issues that are affecting the ability to communicate accurately.

Another solution, adds Holz, is to use the internet in English training. “More work needs to be done on this, but eventually there won’t be as great a reliance on instructor-led training,” he says. “Rather the entire process from assessment through delivery through final validation will be able to be done online.”

Whatever the solution, King says it’s going to take time. “You’re not going to magically turn around a generation of people whose English has been taught incorrectly.”




No Comments 24 January 2010

By Juan T. Gatbonton

The Jesuit educator, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, describes government’s neglect of elementary education as “our immense and largely invisible failure.” The fact is that education is not the only basic chore we’ve forgotten to look after. We are a country of immense and largely invisible failures: Our nation is like the proverbial frog inside the kettle on the stove—swimming blithely in water that is coming to a boil. READ FULL STORY.




1 Comment 24 January 2010

A young Filipino educator who set up the “Kariton Klasroom” to bring education to poor children has been named CNN ‘Hero of the Year.’

Efren Peñaflorida was declared winner over nine other nominees from around the world in ceremonies at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California, last Nov. 21.

Anderson Cooper, one of the top anchors of Cable News Network (CNN), presented the award to the 28-year-old teacher from Cavite City. Peñaflorida was selected after getting the highest number of online votes, which reached 2.75 million in seven weeks.

Peñaflorida received $100,000 cash to continue his work with his group, Dynamic Teen Company. The cash prize is on top of the $25,000 bonus that Peñaflorida received after he was included in the top 10 CNN Heroes.

He said 90 percent of his prize will go to his group while 10 percent will be donated to his church.

“Nothing for me. I was here to represent the poor children (of the Philippines),” Peñaflorida said. For him, seeing the smiles of the children who rush to meet him when they see his pushcart is enough reward for his efforts.

He said the real heroes are the 10,000 volunteers of Kariton Klassroom who are now helping in educating more than 1,500 kids in depressed areas in Cavite.

“Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry,” Peñaflorida said in his acceptance speech before an audience of about 3,000.

Peñaflorida urged the crowd to “be the hero to the next one in need” and called on them to “serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve.”

“As I always tell to my co-volunteers… you are the change that you dream as I am the change that I dream and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be,” he said.

Peñaflorida vowed to continue his work and offer himself as an example of an underprivileged kid who fell victim to violence driven by poverty and yet found a way to lift himself up.

Upon his return from the United States, Peñaflorida was conferred the Order of Lakandula by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang. The Order of Lakandula, one of the highest honors given by the Republic of the Philippines, is conferred on those who dedicate themselves to the welfare of society, perform meritorious political and civic service, and lead lives worthy of emulation.

Peñaflorida’s triumph came exactly one week after boxing champion Manny Pacquaio made boxing history by knocking out Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto to become the first boxer to win seven titles in seven weight divisions.

When CNN early this year announced its annual search for Heroes, Peñaflorida was nominated by Club 8586, a youth group in Cavite that financed his elementary and high school education.

CNN’s Blue Ribbon Panel sifted through 9,000 nominees from over 100 countries, and soon narrowed down its choices to 28. On Oct. 1, CNN announced its top 10 finalists for its Hero of the Year. Peñaflorida made it. The finalists were selected by a panel that included former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, philanthropist and CNN founder Ted Turner, actress Whoopi Goldberg and singers Shakira and Sir Elton John. The winner was chosen online by the public, with nearly 3 million votes cast.

Peñaflorida said his inclusion in CNN’s Top 10 “gave Filipinos a breath of fresh air, a brief moment to cheer and celebrate,” since the Philippines was still reeling from the floods and devastation wrought by storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

As a child, Penaflorida chose education over gang life in Cavite City and vowed to create a way for other children to make the same choice. He was occasionally bullied and beaten by street gangs, which prompted him to decide to come to the aid of street children and rescue them from poverty and neglect through education.

Peñaflorida created a program that brought books to children in slums and on the streets, and the 10,000 members of his Dynamic Teen Company have brought reading, writing and hygiene to 1,500 youngsters. (See related story.)

“My message to children of all races, please, to embrace learning and love it for it will embrace and love you back and enable you to change your world,” Peñaflorida said.

Peñaflorida’s group was first recognized after it won the Bayaning Pilipino award for its heroic work in bringing education to poor children in Cavite.

Since 1997, more than 10,000 volunteers are now helping in educating more than 1,500 kids in depressed areas in Cavite.

The group later launched the “Kariton Klassroom,” an innovative way of bringing the classroom to the children in the depressed areas.

The pushcart classroom is now complete with teaching aids, blackboards and even folding tables and chairs to allow children to sit and read materials provided in a mini-library – a far cry from the humble effort of loading the books and school supplies in large plastic bags.

Peñaflorida now earns a living as a public school teacher in Cavite but still continues his pushcart classrooms on weekends where volunteers have started teaching the street urchins of Manila.

Peñaflorida recalled that he and other volunteers had to endure discrimination and even being branded as “trash collectors” with their pushcarts whenever they carry out their noble mission.

Emanuel Bagual, DTC chief executive officer, said the group’s newfound international fame had brought it many positive changes. Before, DTC members had to sell old bottles and newspapers to earn money and sustain operations. But after DTC was featured in the media, the group started receiving private donations, enabling it to increase the number of its pushcart classrooms from two to four.

The sweetest recognition, however, came in the form of replication: Other youth groups in Davao, Metro Manila and Zamboanga approached DTC, asking permission to implement the project in their own areas, Bagual said.

One group put up a pushcart classroom in Kenya. The DTC willingly gave the groups its modules, Bagual said.


Current Affairs


No Comments 23 January 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

 With so few resources, a worthwhile dream has taken shape which has transformed the lives of some of our country’s youth. Through the compassion and dedication of Efren G. Peñaflorida Jr. and his group, Dynamic Teen Company (DTC), teenagers from Cavite are being provided with much-needed education, school supplies and a support system to help them overcome their poverty and realize their potentials and goals.

“I discovered in the lives of many successful individuals that the doors of opportunities opened when they embraced the love for learning. They used education to free them from poverty and slavery,” Efren tells Planet Philippines in an interview.

For more than a decade now, Efren – nicknamed “Kuya F!” – and his volunteers at DTC have been educating street kids by traveling to depressed areas via a pushcart packed with books, pens and a blackboard.

 The group was founded by Efren and several of his teenaged classmates in 1997. Efren himself came from a poor background; his father was a tricycle driver and his mother a laundrywoman. As a poor kid growing up in a depressed community, Efren’s high school days were marked by gangs and gang-related violence.

“Being bullied, persuaded to join gangs and experiencing social discrimination, my heart grew cold and I became bitter beside the fact that I was really scared too,” he says.

Despite the insistence of some of his schoolmates to join their gang, Efren steadfastly refused, bravely choosing at an early age to help others that were caught in the same predicament. He says he was influenced by a mentor who worked in Club 8586, a Christian volunteer mission designed to help street kids and jail inmates.

“He taught us to lead other people to become better. He taught us every principle he knows by exemplifying it to us all,” he says, adding, “I copied him and he aided me. I enjoyed the feeling and the fulfillment I’m getting.”

Efren and his friends initially brought food to the children, but quickly saw a need to go beyond their need for food. There was another deprivation they saw – hunger for learning. That’s what pushed them to conduct literacy classes to out-of-school youths.

Their early efforts were greeted with skepticism by those around them. “Before we were used to being ridiculed for what we stand for, we were being discouraged by our own families, teachers and peers. Making a stand then was very hard.”

His family was especially not excited about his project. “You are just wasting your time,” he recalled in interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer.

What began as a modest gathering of 20 or so of his friends seeking an educational alternative to gangs, eventually grew to hundreds of members teaching more than 1,500 children. The group works in the depressed areas of Cavite city, specifically the Cavite City Public Market, Himlayang Caviteño Cemetery, a former city dumpsite, and an area where the Badjao tribes congregate.

DTC has three pushcarts, amusingly nicknamed Kari, Toni and Trio. Their “K4” project consists of four facets: Kariton, Klasrum, Klinik and Kantin.

The Kariton is the pushcart, or pedicab, itself; the Klasrum contains a modest library, chairs, tables and chalkboards, packed with school supplies and educational toys to be used in teaching; the Klinik is hygiene orientation project run by registered midwives and professional nurses who are DTC alumni that provides supplies like soaps, towels, toothbrushes, combs and shampoo; and the Kantin which provides food supplies.

They recently added another “K” – Komlab, for science and computer learning.

Admittedly, raising money to sustain such a burgeoning endeavor can be difficult. DTC members and alumni organize events like recycling drives and performances to sustain their organization. They also rely on other charity groups for support.

Still, Efren is proud of the fact that such a young group comprising mostly of teenagers lacking the necessary funds can accomplish so much. “They seem more organized and more effective than some professionals in public service,” he says. “They are propelled by their passion for change and their compassion for the impoverished kids who were like them.”

Efren and DTC have gained numerous awards and attention in recent years, including the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Samahang Pilipino Award in 2007; Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) by the National Youth Commission of the Philippines in 2008; and the Outstanding Volunteer Award given by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the United Nations Volunteer Program (UNVP), also in 2008.

Last February, Efren achieved his biggest citation yet: being named as one of CNN’s Heroes, for “people driven to exceptional achievement in service to others.” Efren’s story was featured on the international news network, and was himself interviewed by popular talk show host Larry King.

Efren was happy for the worldwide recognition of his and DTC’s hard work. “Now, after CNN exposure, many of our critics became our admirers. The skeptics became believers. It’s funny though, how things turn around with media exposure and write ups.”

He hopes that the publicity will have a positive impact on the portrayal of the Philippines in the global media. “What I wish to receive as benefits to this international recognition are that more youths no matter how poor they are will be given fair chance to succeed in life, and that the Filipinos will no longer be stereotyped and be seen as ‘a nation of compassionate servants’ pushing for positive change!”

Currently, Efren works as a teacher in a private school to support his own family. He serves as DTC adviser, mentor and trainer and conducts weekly consultation and volunteer upgrading training. The 28-year-old visionary has plans of transforming their trademark pushcarts into a more stable, grander foundation for learning.

“Our mid-size dream is to be able to build our own educational center and haven for children so they could be rehabilitated and reformed,” he says.

Specifically, he dreams of having a center with wide grounds, plenty of bedrooms, a studio, a play/activity center, a big library, a clinic, a chapel and an auditorium, and a garage to park their K5 pushcarts. “We would like the children to experience having a place to exercise their rights freely and learn life-changing principles.”

Efren believes that the DTC is a catalyst for a “new revolution,” where anyone, no matter the age and background, can make a significant change in society.

“You can help us in a million ways, only your imagination can limit you,” he says. “Help by adapting the system, tell our story, be inspired and inspire others too, put up your own cart of learning, send us stuff we can use, help us build our dream center, and many more ways. Remember that you are the change that you dream and together, we are the change that this world needs to be.”

(For more information about DTC, visit http://dynamicteencompany.org)




5 Comments 23 January 2010

By Leandro Milan

The country’s education system continues to turn out college graduates whose training and skills are not attuned to the needs of the labor market both at home and abroad. This is the lament of human resources and labor recruitment officials who decry the continuing popularity of glamorous and white-collar courses that produce diplomas but not well-paying jobs.

The criticism had been voiced many times in the past by business leaders and politicians but both government and the private sector have failed to institute meaningful and concrete measures to correct the mismatch between skills and jobs. The issue gains added urgency in view of the government’s inability to provide jobs and its continued dependence on the overseas job market. Problem is Philippine education is not well suited to the requirements of the global economy as well.

“Many overseas employment opportunities abound in sub-specialties of various occupations but the Philippine education system is either ill-equipped and/or unprepared to offer corresponding courses to the demand but rather do a ‘one course fits all’ mentality,” says recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani.

This, he says, has led to “a disastrous oversupply of unemployable graduates.”

“In-demand careers like respiratory therapists, cardio technicians, laboratory, ct-scan, are often passed over in favor of more high-profile careers like nurses, says Geslani.

 Serious gap

 Lito B. Soriano, president of LBS-E Recruitment and executive director of the Federated Associations of Manpower Exporters, Inc., observes that there has always been a “serious gap” in the education system that persists in having curriculums that are “unsuitable” in providing their graduates with the possibility of employment.

In a study titled, The OFW Economic Engine, Philippine Reality and Required Reform Arising from the Global Financial Crisis, Soriano noted: “Of the one million college graduates annually, only five to ten percent are employed in jobs consistent to their course, only 30 to 40 percent will find any employment. The vast majority of graduates will remain unemployed.”

He says the country is producing too many nursing and tourism graduates who are unqualified to be hired abroad.

“Over 2,000 nursing schools have an annual total enrollment of over 420,000 students and each year, 100,000 new nurses take the board exams yet only 40 percent are able to make the grade,” Soriano points out.

According to him, there are also few job openings for nurses in the country since local hospitals can only absorb less than 5,000 nurses each year while overseas opportunities are very limited.

“Hospitals abroad have very strict requirements like two to three-year experience in specialty or clinical wards with large hospitals having a two hundred bed-capacity,” he explains.

 Soriano adds that there around 400,000 licensed nurses who are not gainfully employed and there is an estimated 80,000 board-passers joining the ranks each year. Many of them even end up paying for a job in a desperate attempt to obtain the necessary work experience.

POEA data

 Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show only 10,000 nurses are able to work in the Middle East, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada every year.

At the same time, the country generates more than 120,000 hotel and restaurant management (HRM) graduates every year, says Soriano. Most of the HRM graduates also need additional skills training to be able to qualify for employment overseas.

Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda Baldoz confirms that nursing and HRM courses post the biggest number of graduates for the past years. She says many of those who took up HRM and nursing courses want to go abroad but they cannot immediately qualify for employment overseas due to lack of the necessary experience required by foreign employers.

To curb the growing number of unemployed graduates of nursing, HRM and so-called glamour courses, human resources and labor recruitment specialists urge the concerned government agencies to undertake immediate reforms.

Soriano suggests that non-performing and sub-standard nursing schools be required to enforce necessary measures to improve their performance or face suspension.

For his part, Geslani challenges the colleges to evaluate their current course offerings and make them relevant to the needs of the global economy.

“Producing non-employable graduates of courses for which there is no demand could be viewed as unethical and merely a method of generating cash dividends for stockholders or owners,” maintains Gerslani.

The POEA meanwhile should regularly provide the current global job information so Filipino students could be properly guided in choosing marketable careers. Two examples of in-demand jobs in the Middle East are medical technicians and therapists.

Go voc-tech

Geslani and Soriano urge college and high school graduates to go to vocational and technical schools if they want to improve their chances of landing jobs. The government, they say, should provide more vocational and technical training opportunities to the youth.

According to Geslani, strengthening the training programs of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) will give more unemployed Filipinos opportunities for local and overseas jobs.

He and Soriano have been batting for massive training programs for the one million graduates from college and another million from the high school ranks, pointing out that blue-collar jobs are the wave of the future.

Lito Soriano, president of LBS-E Recruitment, said high school graduates should consider taking technical vocational courses at this time if they want lucrative job opportunities.

“The Philippines can take advantage of the pressing need for skilled workers in trillion-dollar projects in the Middle East if many of our high school graduates will shift to schools offering tech-voc subjects like auto servicing, technical drawing/drafting, building wire installation, shielded metal arc welding, machining, pipefitting, metal craft, and carpentry,” Soriano points out.

Demand outstrips supply

He says the country is unable to meet job orders abroad due to the shortage of workers with vocational skills.

“Recruitment companies are already competing with each other for the very few skilled workers for their job orders mainly from the Middle East.”

Most foreign employers, he adds, are looking for highly-qualified construction workers such as welders, flame cutters, pipe fitters, and carpenters due to construction booms in various countries abroad.

“Recruiters are hard pressed to supply qualified skilled manpower for the multi-trillion dollar projects in Saudi Arabia and Qatar whose development plans have not slowed down despite the rock-bottom prices of crude oil,” says Soriano.

In Saudi Arabia alone, there are job orders for housekeeping, gardeners, equipment technicians, water treatment, civil technicians, plumbers, painters and all maintenance positions on top of the 4,000 Filipino health workers needed there.

According to Tesda Director General Secretary Augusto Syjuco, about 22,540 plumbing and 20,687 welding job opportunities are available in countries such as in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Australia and South Korea.

Skilled workers, such as welders and plumbers, receive higher salary overseas.  Syjuco cites a welder who receives as much as $6,000 or P293,070 a month abroad.       

“The growing mismatch of workers’ skills and the need of the industry have resulted in numerous overseas job vacancies unfilled by OFWs,” says Soriano. “It’s a matter of choice for students who might want to start a career abroad.”


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