What an Ordinary Filipino thinks the Philippine Education System and Global Competitiveness of Filipino Human Resources

I am in the twilight of my life and had stuck to my conviction to offer all my time and skills to the welfare of my country. But maybe the real reason was not patriotism but pride. I consistently refused to swallow the humiliation that many Filipinos of high educational attainment had to endure when working abroad especially in the western economies.

Why do Filipinos with high educational attainment obtained in the Philippines swallow menial jobs in the advanced economies in the world?

Many opportunities for earning more outside the country have been doused by the stories from many relatives and friends who migrated to the “promised land”, about starting at the bottom of the heap upon starting out a new life in the US of A or in the other western economies. The common sad story was that despite their high academic attainment and expertise, they were relegated to low level jobs in their respective fields. My wife’s uncle, Tio Angeles was a prominent architect in Manila, who settled for a job of draftsman in California. My cousin Tony was a BSME graduate in Mapua Tech who up to now works as security guard in Texas.My friend Jerry was Corporate Communications Officer of San Miguel Corporation in Cebu but worked as night shift front desk clerk in a small pension house in Wellington, NZ. The more humiliating thing was that he was reporting to a Greek who was only a high school graduate in Australia but holds a certification of proficiency in English from the University of Cambridge. Many of the software engineers who were trained in my former IT company were happy to earn US$3,000 monthly in the Middle East but still felt underpaid knowing that they were reporting to a superior with much less experience but with an IT college degree obtained from a British university. Yet I remember my father and aunties all telling me when I was a boy to study well because a good education is a big edge for getting good jobs when I grow up. What went wrong?

Why is a good education in the Philippines not paying off well in the advanced economies of the world? Is it because the employers out there doubt the veracity of our diplomas as they might have been forged in C.M. Recto St. in Manila? They could easily check with Ateneo or La Salle or Mapua or U.P. that these diplomas are genuine. But why do they sweep aside the diplomas and academic credits from the Philippines? Many Filipinos who have migrated or worked abroad have gone to the conclusion that the only credential that enabled them to get their job there was their proven work track experience. Their academic credentials obtained in the Philippines did not matter at all.


I got the answer to my big WHY recently from Messrs. Google and Yahoo. My self-appointed research led me to these findings:

  • Singapore, Malaysia, India and most of the other former British Commonwealth countries have globalized their respective educational systems upon the onset of globalization. They have bridged the gap between their local educational curriculum and those of the advanced economies. Rather than just wait for transfer of technology by foreign investors, these countries enabled their citizens to obtain higher education in the developed economies, hoping that they come back to contribute their knowledge and training in the west to the development of their home countries. Probably the homecoming of Indians who were educated in the west is one factor that enabled India to obtain a huge share of the global software industry.

  • To bridge the education curriculum gap with the advanced economies, these countries infused into their educational systems internationally recognized British standards for secondary and higher education. The more widely accepted international standards are the IGCSE and Pre-University programs of the University of Cambridge and the International Baccalaureate Organization. This was facilitated through international linkages with internationally recognized certification institutions like the Cambridge International Examinations of the University of Cambridge, UK and the IBO.

  • The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is an internationally recognized qualification for high school students, typically in the 14-16 age group. The IGCSE subjects are taught in the international centres and schools examined here in the Philippines by CIE.

  • The Pre-University program, a two-year program in general education that prepares the student for higher education in notable universities in the west, had been infused into the higher education systems of Singapore, Malaysia and India, etc. or the use of A-Levels.

In practical terms, the moves of these countries mean that their citizens who finished secondary education in their local curricula and who wish to pursue university studies in the advanced economies might as well take their two years of Pre-University studies locally instead of taking them in the target country-university. This saves them a lot of money. But the better route is through the IGCSE if these are built into the local high school’s local curriculum. After graduation from high school and with good grades in the IGCSE examinations, these high school graduates can qualify for university studies in the top universities in the west requiring them to just take additional five (5) A-Levels instead of a two-year Pre-University program.

If these students decide to stay and work in the country where they complete their university studies, they have a good competitive edge in getting much better job positions than their countrymen who work in that country with much higher educational degrees but were obtained in their country of origin.

Now I understand why my contemporaries who migrated to the USA 40 years ago had been saying that their children who got their college degrees in the USA did not have to start their career at the bottom of the heap like they did when they landed in the USA. Now I understand why my cousin in Indiana who took her degree in Medicine in the USA, is very affluent compared to many relatives who were doctors in the Philippines but work as nursing assistants in the USA. Now I know why my cousin who was the Dean of the College of Dentistry in a Cebu university worked as dental assistant in New Zealand while another niece is a prominent dentist in Sydney after studying in an Australian university.

The sad discovery that hangs in front of my face and makes me really sad (and will surely make all of us sad) is that our educational system has not been enhanced to produce globally competitive Filipinos, while our neighboring countries have done that long ago. No wonder our economy has lagged behind our neighbors.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The good news that I got from national dailies, is that finally, our government agencies responsible for enhancing our educational system are now talking about this situation. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and its top officers are now reportedly seriously considering aligning our educational system to the Bologna Accord which will in effect add two years to our secondary education and link it up with the higher education system of the advanced economies of the world. But the news item also states that their timetable is six years. If these are true, then in the meantime Filipinos have to obtain their own remedies to the gap that exists between what the local educational system can offer and what the global education system and international employers require. President Noynoy has this golden opportunity to give substance and muscle to what his father stood and fought for. Rizal and Ninoy are both right. There are indeed structural systems that oppress and suppress our people.

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