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PHL schools need new curriculum to boost talent competitiveness

By Jenina P. Ibanez, Reporter

THE Philippines should improve the education curriculum to boost competitiveness of its future workers, business leaders said.

The Philippines inched up one spot to 48th out of 63 economies in the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s World Talent Ranking 2020, which the institution attributed to poorer performance by other economies.

The country continued to lag behind other Asia-Pacific economies after poor showing in criteria like educational assessment and public expenditure in education. It ranked 12th out of 14 economies in the Asia Pacific, with Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong taking the top spots.

“There should really be a public-private partnership relative to developing a business-centric or a technology-centric curriculum for the next generation of students so that when they graduate, they can hit the ground running and be aware of the requirements of the job market,” Willis Towers Watson Head of the Philippines James G. Matti said in a recent phone interview.

Mr. Matti said that educational institutions must develop programs that will enhance English-language learning and critical thinking, including programs in science and technology.

Filipino students had some of the lowest mean scores in reading comprehension, science, and math in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranking released last year. Included by IMD in its measurements, the PISA score placed the Philippines in 58th place in educational assessment.

“When it comes to critical thinking, there’s a huge skills gap there,” Mr. Matti said, explaining that those skills will be needed after pandemic accelerated digitalization and artificial thinking. “It’s very important for companies to invest in upskilling.”

He said the government and the private sector should develop a new curriculum that would help the talent pool keep up with the future requirements of business.

“(The curriculum) should be contemporized so that it will really meet the current needs and demands — so we can have at least a window that whoever graduates five to 10 years from now are still very competitive in the job market.”

The IMD report also measures the country’s appeal in attracting overseas talent. Under this factor, the country ranked 8th in effective personal income tax rate and 15th in cost of living. But the Philippines ranked 48th in quality of life and 50th in the justice factor.

The Philippines also took the 35th spot in remuneration for management, and 43rd for remuneration in services professions.

“You can always attract highly skilled workers from abroad if you pay more competitively and I think in fairness to the Philippines, pay has vastly improved compared to the last decade. But of course, we can’t compare ourselves to Singapore and Hong Kong in terms of top pay but I think we’re getting to be a bit more competitive,” Mr. Matti added.

He said the current environment should become more business-friendly by improving communications and electricity infrastructure.

Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECoP) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. in a phone interview said that good compensation compared with regional competitors will give the country an edge.

“At the end of the day, it will be the income that the companies here can offer,” he said.

Mr. Ortiz-Luis added the lifestyle and comfort in living in the Philippines would also help in attracting talent.

“Thailand is still more attractive because of the low cost of living and higher earnings. They have a better perception of peace and order in the media,” he said.

IMD said that investments in education at every level will be needed to improve the entire education sector in the country.

“In order to attract more highly skilled workers from abroad, improvements in attractive job opportunities, safety and the justice system would be needed,” the institution said.

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