Substandard education EDITORIAL

(The Philippine Star) Updated September 27, 2010 12:00 AM

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority has warned technical and vocational schools to shape up or face closure. The warning was issued amid reports reaching TESDA that several of the schools are operating without licenses and charging exorbitant fees, and their graduates could not find jobs for lack of the required skills.

The problem is similar to the one facing the Commission on Higher Education, which regulates colleges and universities. Over the years the commission has shut down or suspended the licenses of learning institutions whose graduates keep failing to pass professional licensure examinations. Those efforts were stymied several times in the previous administration by politicians who wanted to protect the businesses of campaign donors and political allies. It remains to be seen whether the same situation will prevail in the Aquino administration.

Many Filipinos believe that education is a ticket out of poverty and one of the best means to a better life. Poor families invest in sending at least one child to college or at least to vocational school in hopes that the child, upon graduation, will find a job with a pay decent enough to give a better life to the rest of the family.

Such hopes are dashed, and lifetime savings flushed away, when a student gets substandard education from a fly-by-night school and fails to get the skills necessary to pass licensure exams or get the hoped-for job. In recent years, CHED authorities shut down or suspended scores of schools offering medical, nursing and computer courses. These days even technical and vocational schools have been found wanting, and TESDA officials have vowed sanctions. They should not hesitate to carry out their threat.

Beyond sanctions, both the TESDA and CHED must boost their capabilities to monitor the quality of tertiary education throughout the school year. This is not only to prevent more students from being cheated of quality education, but also to ensure that the country’s workforce is prepared for global competition. In the age of globalization, Filipino graduates are competing with counterparts in other countries, and studies indicate that Filipinos are being left behind. This slide in competitiveness must be reversed.

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