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Education is a treasured legacy of many families, considered as the path to a better life for many. It is a known fact that poor families “invest” on a child who has the biggest chance of finishing higher education so that he or she in turn will help put to college another member of the family. The sob story when a child whom the family painstakingly sent to school meets an unfortunate death is that “the hope of rising from poverty” is now gone for the family. “Siya pa naman ang inaasahan na maka-ahon sa amin sa kahirapan”.
Such a value may not be one of the “choicest moral values” among Filipinos, but it is something that a poor family clings to. This is the reason why the eldest member of the family has a special role - which is to take over the family leadership when the father fails to do so. I have known many children who work not for their own nuclear family, but for their brothers and sisters who depend on them to finish an education. One of the reasons why there is often an “old maid” in the family is because on her shoulders lies the burden of sending the siblings to school. But the present economic situation is going against this noble practice. Finding work after graduation is increasingly difficult. Gone were the days when nursing and engineering graduates are “hauled” by groups to work abroad. Now, parents are faced with the specter of unemployed children who had to stay at home for lack of jobs.
For this reason, there is an urgent need to channel our education program into areas where graduates can immediately find jobs. However, there is a time delay in bringing updates on lucrative jobs to the educational sector. This is evidenced by the number of nursing schools that will have to phase out at present due to the decrease in demand for nurses. Can we not have a more accurate projection of the kind of jobs that may be open four or five years from now? This saves the economy the additional expense of taking second or third courses for job-seekers. If we can predict who will win in the elections, why can we not predict the kind of jobs that would be open for our graduates? Hopefully, the K-12 program of DEP-ED will address this deficiency.
Jobs-skills mismatch is the leading cause cited for the unemployment situation in the country. The National Statistics Office said the number of jobless Filipinos remained the same in July, 2012, compared to a year earlier. The July, 2012, Labor Force Survey showed that unemployment rate in July was 7 percent or 2.8 million, practically unchanged from 7.1 percent jobless rate in July, 2011. This year 2013, there will be additional graduates entering the labor force. Will they find employment after graduation?
The officials seeking election or re-election this May should have a concrete platform for generating jobs which will match the skills offered by the education sector. The economy has identified the need for entrepreneurs to lead the way. How many entrepreneurs do we have? Are these entrepreneurs assisted with access to capital? At one time, we encouraged the start of cottage or small family industries, but the excitement for these fizzled down with the entry of cheaper imports. Should we just close our eyes and give globalization as an excuse? For once, we should have the political will to enforce our economic plans.
Eva Kimpo-Tan is the editor-in-chief of The Mindanao Cross, the oldest Catholic weekly in the southern Philippines.