Poor investment in education

Posted November 18, 2020
There is yet another global comparative survey that was released recently where, again, the Philippines performed poorly. This survey is the Talent Ranking Report 2020 conducted by the Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Center. The Talent Ranking Report, in sum, measures the competitiveness of each participating country’s human resources. Combining all the measurement factors, the Philippines ranks 48 out of 63 participating countries, a ranking which is far lower than the median of 32 and the lowest among all the five participating ASEAN countries. 
The ranking evaluates three major factors: investment development factor where the Philippines alarmingly ranks 61 out of 63; appeal factor, 31 out of 63; and readiness factor, 33 out of 63.
The readiness factor includes as a sub-factor the participating countries’ performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), of which sub factor the Philippines ranks 58 of 63.
The most worrisome segment is therefore the investment development factor where the Philippines is ranked at 61 of 63. Of this segment, there are seven sub factors, three of which the Philippines scored very badly: expenditures on education measured as a percent of GDP, ranked at 61; and pupil-teacher ratio – for primary school and for secondary school, both ranked at 59.
Given that the Philippine government expenditures on education has the highest allotment in the Philippine fiscal budget for 2020 and also in 2019, Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of Buklod National Movement, commented that it appears paradoxical that the Philippine ranks very poorly on the investment development factor measured as a percent of GDP. He said further that it would appear that the Philippine government has to spend much more on education in order to  improve to a decent level the country’s competitiveness in human resource talent.
While this is true, the Philippines’ present fiscal resources would not have the flexibility to invest much more in education, without sacrificing the much needed funding of other pressing needs, such as public works infrastructures.
If so, this means that the country would be stuck in its present poor state of human resource competitiveness.
If we don’t want to be so stuck, Punongbayan said, we will need to increase the country’s ratio of taxes to GDP which in 2019 is 14.5%, which is really low compared to countries with higher GDP. To increase such tax ratio, we need to improve our collection of existing taxes or increase existing taxes, or both. Doing so will also provide funds for investments in additional areas other than education.  While this is a difficult choice, our government needs to face up to that challenge, Punongbayan said.
The other worrisome issue that the Talent Report has brought up again to the surface is the performance of our students in the first ever PISA assessment that the Philippines participated in a year or two ago.
According to Punongbayan, it will be recalled that in that PISA assessment, the Philippines is at the very bottom of the list of 100 or so countries which participated. However, this is a problem that may not need much more additional funds to fix.
“We have to reexamine the present teaching methodologies and change them to a system that requires much more thinking and research studies on the part of the students. Of course, we also need to retrain our teachers, not only on the subjects that they teach, but especially in teaching communication.”
Punongbayan also expressed that another solution that will automatically improve the quality of Philippine education (although intended primarily to improve the country’s political and economic developments) is the urgent need to choose and put in place a common or universal language for use in the entire Philippine society: government, business and the entire citizenry. The choice can be limited to either Pilipino or English. Of course, this is a fundamental change that requires a longer time to implement, he added.

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