(First of two parts)
The Philippines has a lifelong learning (LLL) poverty crisis — perhaps even worse than the widely discussed learning poverty gap at the primary school level. Both must be addressed now if we are to remain competitive and provide a “socially cohesive, fulfilling, inclusive and sustainable future for all” as the Marrakech Framework for Action for Adult Learning and Education (adopted on June 17 by UNESCO members) states.
The primary school case was documented by an updated cross-country 2022 report of the World Bank on the subject, where we ended miserably on the development indicator on reading (the learning poverty indicator indicative of the ability to read a simple text with comprehension by age 10), writing, mathematics, and global citizenship by Grade 5.
WHAT LLL CRISIS?
On the other hand, the indicators of a LLL poverty situation in the country had been and may continue to be equally dismal:
1.) Poor performance of professionals in licensure examinations. The latest data: about 56% of first-time takers pass the licensure examinations while 38% of graduates across disciplines pass licensure examinations, which House of Representatives Technology and Higher Education Committee Chairman Mark Go noted in the Sept. 8 Joint General Membership Meeting (GMM) of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP);
2.) Relatively low enrollment in adult learning compared to our neighbors in the region which the International Labor Organization (ILO) documented as early as 2007, e.g., participation rates of the population aged 15-64 in vocational education and training: 1.9% in the Philippines, compared to 33.4% in Singapore, 14.6% in Hong Kong, and 5.9% in Korea. These could have been alleviated by lowering structural barriers in the employers and employee training costs; and,
3.) Many areas for improvement in the major management concerns (skills for critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity; English language proficiency, digital and technical competencies, people skills) where we now have very much appreciated global linkages (BPO, maritime, nursing, tourism) and potential products from a marine archipelagic nation.
The review of the national education system through this new education commission — EdCom 2 — was the subject of a recent MAP GMM.
The new commission may give us a long-term set of concerns and vision beyond AmBisyon 2040. However, in the medium-term, we may succumb socially through a destabilizing confluence of factors. These include geopolitical forces, social technology misuse/abuse, and climate change that damage supply chains, profitability, and investment attractiveness which our much-vaunted people assets may not be able to answer for due to the gravity of the compounded problems.
Traditional monetary and fiscal policies may not be able to mask long-term real factors shaping the structural problems of the economy intertwined with ESG (environment, social, and governance) principles. Over-reliance on these financial policies triggered balance-sheet recessions in Japan and the US in the past decades, although this time it can be the damaged asset bases of human and natural resources/green capital rather than physical property/grey capital of the Philippines. In complex adaptive systems, scenario plans should accommodate the possibility of balance-sheet recessions and stagflation. It is better that we be prepared rather than be surprised.
CALL FOR LLL BY ILO
In 2007, the ILO released a study on the Philippines which contained the recommendation that the country must pursue “an integrated action plan (for lifelong learning which is)… multi-sectoral, multi-period, and go beyond the boundaries of the nation.” The context was the magnified archipelagic insularity of Filipino mindsets arising from the first commission that re-shaped the independent Philippines’ post-WWII education (EDCOM 1) that unfortunately splintered education policy implementation into three separate bodies.
EDCOM 2 should come into the picture now with the 2007 ILO study recommendation that “LLL in the Philippines must address not only socio-economic considerations but political matters as well since… welfare enhancements… are defined, for example, by changing international standards of governance.” Many education leaders are calling for the de-politicization of the education system.
“Cradle to grave” lifelong learning was advocated as an education strategy some 50 years ago. National laws were in place as early as the 1970s in France and the USA, and in the following decades in Japan, Germany, Sweden, Canada, etc. Adult education was integrated into LLL even in developing economies, with the 1976 Nairobi Conference commitment for its extension to “all aspects of life and all areas of skills and knowledge.”
By the new millennium’s second decade, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 2030 indicator No. 4 was designed to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
Indeed, the “right to lifelong learning” was reiterated at the June 2022 5th UNESCO Conference on Adult Learning and Education (ALE) and the ensuing Marrakech Framework noted in the opening paragraph above. However, the global reports on ALE do not capture the essence of individual country challenges because of the paucity of LLL system-wide data, the Philippines included.
URGENT NEED FOR A LLL NATION
Yet, the ILO 2007 study on the Philippines, antedating the UN SDGs, was based on an extensive review of and data analysis on “the quality of schooling, the high unemployment rate in the face of the skilled human resources that can be made competitive with accompanying investment in science and technology, the mismatch in schooling-employment, general resource misallocation partly due to financial disincentives to parents, school owners, and employers, and the many good practices in lifelong learning in the Philippines that can be scaled up across firms, communities and disadvantaged sectors, not only for domestic but for global markets as well.”
While the 2007 study was initiated by the Department of Labor and Employment, no action was ever taken by the agency, nor any other government body thereafter for a system-wide understanding of what to measure and thus what to manage for a LLL nation.
Part Two of this article discusses some specific approaches for various LLL stakeholders to discuss in depth, while EDCOM2 considers the possible research agenda for the government agencies tasked to assist it in its priority issues.
(To be continued.)
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP.
Federico “Poch” M. Macaranas is co-chair of the Sub-Committee on Lifelong Learning of the MAP Management and Human Development Committee. He is author of the ILO Monograph on Lifelong Learning in the Philippines (2007).