Improving STEM education program must be directed towards local industry development


IMPROVEMENTS in the Philippine education system’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs must be geared towards the development of local industries and not just produce laborers for other countries, a lawmaker said.   

“It is true that the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program needs to be further developed but with the objective of molding the youth and being able to build industries,” ACT-Teachers Party-list Rep. France L. Castro told BusinessWorld through a Viber message.   

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has said that around 800,000 to one million skilled workers in engineering, architecture, and construction are needed to address the labor shortage this year.   

“With the current curriculum, it’s obvious that there is a mismatch with the strands that students pick due to the lack of work they can find in the Philippines,” she said.   

Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said strengthening the STEM programs will give the Philippines an opportunity to compete with countries with lower wages.  

He added it would also allow the country’s technology and outsourcing sectors to contend with more developed nations.  

“This would better help the country position in the higher end of the global supply chain and as an alternative investment destination for high tech industries,” Mr. Ricafort said through a Viber message.   

He said the country could strengthen its position as a major supplier of semiconductors and other components for electronics.   

“Thus, increasing the supply of high-tech professionals would offer opportunities for the country as an alternative to Silicon Valley,” he said, adding that global companies would benefit from a greater supply of labor at a lower cost compared to developed countries.   

The country’s unemployment rate was 5.3% in August, equivalent to about 2.681 million jobless Filipinos, according to estimates by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).   

The PSA noted that job quality deteriorated in August with 7.031 million classified as underemployed, up from 6.482 million a year earlier. The government classifies as underemployed those seeking more work.   

Ms. Castro also said the government needs to address shortages in schools to “be able to effectively develop the quality of education in the country as a whole, not just the STEM program.”   

“These shortages are endured every day by teachers, other school personnel, parents, and students which were highlighted and have been worsened by the pandemic,” she said.   

The opposition lawmaker said President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s administration will not solve the skills gap if they do not address the education infrastructure issues while also creating additional jobs and raising the base salary of laborers. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo

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