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Philippines facing oversupply in IT graduates, STEM shortage

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THE PHILIPPINES is facing an oversupply in information technology (IT) graduates in 2025, but needs more students to go into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, a government think tank said.

Jose Ramon G. Albert, a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), said at a webinar Wednesday that the supply of IT-trained workers will likely exceed demand by 171,960 positions at the end of the period.

He said, however, that the undersupply in STEM-trained workers will be most apparent in the life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and statistics and engineering by 2025. PIDS estimates the supply-demand gaps in 2025 at 13,964 workers in the life sciences, 569,903 in engineering, 9,689 in the physical sciences, and 13,285 in math and statistics.

“While forecasts vary by industry and region, momentous change is underway. Governments have to cope with the risks of growing technological unemployment and inequality, and businesses with shrinking consumer bases. Our actions today will determine whether change will result in massive displacement of workers or the emergence of new opportunities,” Mr. Albert said.

Mr. Albert noted that the education system has to improve drastically in the wake of the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“Despite how much we’ve been spending on education, quality has deteriorated (as shown in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) results and other outcomes… It’s partly because we are unable to have enough role models in school,” Mr. Albert said.

The education sector needs “to recognize that we are already in a deep crisis because the quality of education has been poor and it’s likely to get even poorer because of the pandemic. I don’t think students are learning enough online, through TV or radio. That’s going to be a big problem for us. We will be having a generation of kids not learning enough in general, especially in science,” he added.

Laura T. David, who chairs the technical committee for Marine Biology at the Commission on Higher Education said the agency is monitoring Science and Technology training to check the schools have adequate facilities, quality teaching, and properly-trained teaching staff.

Ms. David said institutions are also struggling to fill vacant positions when their teachers are away to pursue the necessary advanced degrees to upgrade their qualifications, while funding is limited to hire substitutes.

“Government support is needed that will encourage teaching staff to pursue their PhD,” she said, suggesting that the aid might come in the form of helping institutions find substitute staff. She added that current initiatives like the Balik Scientist program can be tapped as well. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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