Is formal education still relevant in the age of disruption?

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When U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Michael Klecheski announced last week that the U.S government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Philippine Business for Education (PBed), will be pouring Php1.7 billion for a workforce development project in the Philippines, the elephant in the room was this: in the age of disruption, is formal education really still crucial for success?

After all, Klecheski’s country itself has given birth to innovators like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs—all of whom are not only famous for changing the world through technology, but also for dropping out of college.
But here’s the truth. Game-changers are only one in a million, and people like Gates, Zuckerberg and Jobs are more of an exception than the rule.

“There are people that are able to come up with brilliant new ideas without a college education,” Klecheski said at the sidelines of the launch of YouthWorks PH at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. “It’s admirable but there are people that can’t do that. When you go to school, you do not merely absorb the facts, you also hone the ability to think creatively and critically,” he added, “and learn how to learn.”

YouthWorks PH is a five-year project that will connect out-of-school youth to training and employment opportunities. USAID and PBEd will implement the project in seven cities in the Philippines: Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga, General Santos, Iloilo, Cebu and the National Capital Region.  The project will train 4,100 youth and enhance the skill sets of at least 40,000 Filipino youth over five years, so that they better match with workforce needs. Trainees of the company will be recruited by PBEd with the help of various organizations and relevant government agencies. In addition, allowances will be provided for them.

Through YouthWorks PH, USAID and PBEd will engage Philippine government and private sector partners to provide youth with work-based training positions. Universities and training institutions will complement these positions with classroom-based skills training and competency certifications. Youth participants will also receive life skills training to prepare them for the workplace.
Trainees will benefit from Intensive life skills training such as readiness skills, wherein modules and guidebooks on work habits, conduct, leadership, communication and many others will be supplied. The project will also shoulder other training-related costs such as uniforms, equipment, and supplies.

At the same event, PBed Chairman Ramon del Rosario, Jr., the country’s former secretary of finance who has at one point or another made the Forbes list of richest businessmen in the Philippines, also emphasized that education is the best investment. Under his leadership of Philippine Investment Management (PHINMA), Inc., the company has acquired universities in various provinces.
“That’s why we made it our mission here to make education respond to the needs of the economy so that the output of our educational system are people with the skills and the values and the training needed so that they can be employed productively,” he said.

“Not everybody is designed to be a leader,” he added. “But for those who have the qualities of leadership, a good quality education is a significant plus and advantage as well.”