Forget your college diploma

"Filipinos are ill-prepared to capture those jobs, thanks to our diploma mills."


In the 2018 tests conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA for 15-year-old students from 77 countries, Filipinos scored last in reading, and second to the last in both math and science.

PISA was intended to test the teeners’ ability in reading, math and science to meet real life challenges.

Among Asians, the Filipinos were of course last in all three—reading, math and science. At 15, everyone is supposed to be part of the labor force.

The PISA results indicate Philippine schools are producing stupid students, after six years of elementary and three years of high school. If you produce stupid high school students naturally you also produce stupid college graduates. The fruit cannot fall far from the tree.

Our youngsters do not have adequate skills in reading, math and science to solve day-to-day problems and indeed live like decent and educated human beings, like the rest of humanity. Our colleges and universities produce people with diplomas which have no value in real life.

If you produce stupid college graduates then you have stupid citizens. Naturally, stupid citizens elect the wrong-quality leaders—incompetent, corrupt, tyrants, no matter how populist they are. The consequence is stunted economic growth and among the most corrupt government regimes in the world.

The Philippines does not produce the right workers to fill the job needs of the 21st century Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda sums up the problem succinctly: “No jobs for the unskilled. No workers for skilled work.”

The Fourth IR builds on the digital revolution which is transforming entire systems of production, management, and governance.   It builds on the Third IR, the digital revolution, and fuses technologies in nearly every field—the Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing.    To acquire skills for these technologies one does not need a college diploma.

The Fourth IR has disrupted labor markets as robots, AI, and machines take over the jobs used to be held by humans.   This could mean massive unemployment and its dire consequences.    

Salceda’s solution is a reboot of the TESDA, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority which trains a million technical and vocational workers. TESDA was established under Republic Act No. 7796, the “Technical Education and Skills Development Act of 1994,” signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on Aug. 25, 1994.  

RA 7796 aimed to encourage the full participation of and mobilize the industry, labor, local government units and technical-vocational institutions in the skills development of the country’s human resources.

Salceda’s proposal seeks to elevate TESDA into a cabinet department, enlarge its impact, give it more funds, plus police powers to impose sanctions and penalties on erring firms. At present, the TESDA chief already has a cabinet rank. TESDA gets only 2.3 percent of the education budget.

A Department of Technical Education and Skills Development (DTESD) could potentially benefit up to 50.54 million Filipino workers, 34 million of whom are currently jobless.    The 50 million could be trained in vocational and technical skills. Under the Fourth IR, skill or talent is more important than money or capital.

The 50.45 million jobless Filipinos include the more than 3.8 million jobless as of October 2020, most of them because of COVID-19; the 31 million who are under-employed or those who are overqualified for their present job; and more than 15 million jobless but yet are not reckoned to be part of the labor force (defined as anyone above 15) simply because they are not looking for a job.

Some 74.3 million Filipinos are 15 years or older.     Yet, only 58.7 percent of them or 43.62 million are considered part of the labor force, leaving out 30.68 million potential workers but who are jobless.  

The 30 million are not counted as part of the labor force because they are not looking for a job.   They include housewives and the uneducated or half-educated young who have stopped looking for a job out of frustration.    

 Of the 43.62 million labor force, 8.7 percent or 3.8 million are considered unemployed.  

If you add 30.68 million not counted as part of the labor force and the 3.8 million officially declared unemployed, the total realistic unemployment could be 34.48 million or 46.4 percent   of the 74.3 million population who are 15 and above and should be employable.    

Conversion of TESDA into a cabinet department is part of what the Albay congressman calls his Comprehensive Education Reform Agenda (CERA).   CERA seeks to open educational opportunities to the uneducated and the unskilled as well as to the miseducated so that they can have the mind, mindset, and skills needed by 21st Century industries brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the Fourth IR).   

Among vocational and technical skills in demand, the top ten are:

1) robotics engineer; 2) cybersecurity specialist; 3) customer success specialist; 4) data scientist; 5) sales development representative; 6) full stack engineer; 7) development operations engineer; 8) data engineer; 9) java script developer; and 10) cloud engineer.

Filipinos are ill-prepared to capture those jobs, thanks to our diploma mills.      

In the 10-member ASEAN, the Philippines has the highest unemployment rate—8.7 percent—or nearly five million workers out of work.  

Gradual reopening of the economy has reduced joblessness somehow.   But four million workers denied work through no fault of their own is unmanageable and unimaginable.

Salceda’s answer to the crisis: CERA.   He calls it quality education for all.  

“COVID-19 and the emergence of the new economy have brought to the fore the weaknesses of a labor force not built to be competitive in a skills-based, digitally-based economy,” Salceda observes wryly.   The high unemployment, he points out, “demonstrates how fragile the country’s job gains were – primarily in low-skill service sector jobs driven by our consumption-based economy.”

There are few jobs left for the unskilled, while there are few workers eligible for available skilled work,” winces Salceda.   “We are ill-prepared for value-adding work in a globalizing and digitalizing economy.”    He is sad that “little of our labor force is employed in “21st    century jobs” that require hard and soft skills.”

“We have more managers,” says Salceda, “than skilled workers.”

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Topics: Tony Lopez , Program for International Student Assessment , PISA , math , science , Rep. Joey Salceda , TESDA
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