“Higher level education is the key to inclusive growth,” says UP President Pascual.
The country can produce the high-level human resource it needs to catch up with its neighbors if the next government adopts the right set of policies.
According to UP President Alfredo E. Pascual, the study—which he calls “a road map to inclusive growth”—can form the basis for a comprehensive review of Philippine educational and human resource development policy, particularly in research and development.
The study notes that despite increasing government investments in education, not enough money has gone into research and development, and into producing and supporting more top-level researchers. This is why the Philippines has been left behind by many of its ASEAN co-members and continues to suffer from high income inequality and poverty.
“We still spend only 3 percent of GDP on education, compared to an average of 5-6 percent in the rest of ASEAN,” the paper noted, sounding the alarm. “This is why even our best universities lag behind their global and regional counterparts. In 2014, the University of the Philippines ranked only 8th out of the top 10 universities in ASEAN. In 2012, the Philippines ranked 92nd in the global Knowledge Economy Index, far behind Singapore, which placed 23rd.”
“Expenditure on research and development (R&D) by government and industry is low. So our level of technology remains low in quality and scale, and concentrated in sectors that are not considered high-value. To catch up and move ahead faster, we need to raise our technological knowledge and skills, which only advanced education and training can address.”
Put together by some of the national university’s brightest minds, the study notes the importance of research and development (R&D) in achieving growth in this era that is driven by scientific and technological (S&T) advancement. Now, the country’s knowledge capital is the key to achieve and sustain inclusive growth that reduces inequality and poverty. S&T innovation supports the manufacturing sector which generates jobs for the poor. And higher level education and training enable people to create new knowledge, innovate products and processes, and improve productivity.
Innovations can spur new economic activity and growth in both urban centers and the countryside.
But to strengthen Philippine R&D, the government will have to send more Filipinos abroad for advanced studies, as well as encourage more foreign-based professionals to return. Leading international experts and educators should be hired to help bring their local counterparts up to global standards and to introduce new ideas.
The government will also need to map out a network of “hub-and-spokes” that will involve schools, government bodies, businesses, and civil society organizations throughout the country, tapping local expertise.
“Beyond building infrastructure, we need to build the suprastructure of economic growth,” said Pascual. “That means harnessing the intellectual and creative energies of our people through more rationalized and responsive education. We need to ensure that enough of our best minds stay in the country to drive innovation and help develop the rest of our labor force. It is also not enough to be satisfied with the country’s current success in mainly voice-based business process outsourcing. To really get ahead and add more value to the economy, we need to develop more software engineers and other technology experts.”
The study was undertaken by the Center for Integrative Development Studies, UP’s think tank, in coordination with the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
“We hope that all our presidential candidates will read this paper and respond to its findings and recommendations in their platforms,” added Pascual. “We will welcome their ideas, and are inviting them to share those ideas with the University community and our people at large.”
On March 20, the University of the Philippines campus in Cebu will host a presidential debate, and education will be among the key topics on the agenda.