Have you ever gone hiking with friends through the forest and the person in front of you lets fly with a branch that hits you in the face?
That's what visiting some web sites is like.
There is the forest, there are the trees, and there are the web sites that obsess over the branches. The trees cannot be seen for the snapping branches and the idea of a forest is beyond comprehension.
Some seem to confuse detail with capability.
Today I was researching TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). I tried to upload their plan but it was 50 megabytes and my computer died about 40 megs in. That figures. The web site is the most confusing jumble of non-information imaginable. It was written by people who understand what they do. It is NOT for people who do NOT understand what TESDA does. Working that site is a time warp, surreal, like being high on LSD. THEY know what they are talking about but damn if I could figure it out. The statistics are for 2006, which is like a century ago in internet time.
Now there are a couple of ways to look at TESDA.
- Number one is the tree; they are responsible for running training schools to help people get skilled jobs that pay more.
- Number two, the forest; they are responsible for the overall quality of skill-labor in the Philippines, from certifications to actual performance under the certificates, including the training of skill workers.
I'd give an off-the-top opinion that TESDA does a mediocre job as a tree and a really poor job as the forest.
Maybe TESDA isn't even responsible for overall standards of technical work done in the Philippines. I wonder who is? Who is responsible for the national condition of "slipshod", which is a nicer term than "crappy".
The slipshod zoning and slipshod construction and slipshod enforcement of traffic regulations? The slipshod drainage and water and electrical systems? The slipshod pollution controls?
Is each part of the bureaucracy responsible for its own slipshod? Who sets slipshod as a standard that everyone seems happy with? No one can break out with quality? Citizens even follow the clock in a slipshod manner, arriving late no matter how much inconvenience it imposes on others.
It's like there is no awareness, or if there is awareness, no concern, or if there is concern, no one can figure out how to do it in a non-slipshod manner. That is, how to do it in a quality manner.
I wandered the insane TESDA site and finally found a list of some 250 technical jobs that TESDA certifies through its training programs. Below is a small excerpt.
SHIELDED METAL ARC WELDING NC II
SLAUGHTERING OPERATIONS NC II
STRUCTURAL ERECTION NC II
SUBMERGE ARC WELDING NC II
SUBMERGED ARC WELDING NC I
TAILORING NC II
TECHNICAL DRAFTING NC II
TILE SETTING NC II
TINSMITHING OPERATION NC II
TOOL AND DIE MAKING NC II
TOUR GUIDING SERVICES NC II
TOURISM PROMOTION SERVICES NC II
TRAINER QUALIFICATION LEVEL I (TRAINER/ASSESSOR)
TESDA was established in 1991 to pull together a variety of different Philippine technical training programs in one place. I fear the integration has not yet occurred because TESDA is a mammoth hodgepodge of training methods, places and subjects. It provides training through the following locations:
- School based program (TESDA operated schools; agriculture, fishery, trade schools)
- Center based program (TESDA training centers)
- Community based program (in government offices)
- Enterprise based program (at the workplace)
- Language skills institutes (Arabic, English, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese , Spanish
- On-line courses (computer hardware servicing, cell phone servicing, room attendant servicing)
You'd think with this variety of programs they'd be training up millions. No. A few thousand each year. I think. To be honest, I couldn't read the wee-small font on the exhibit showing training output, even under magnification. It was a slipshod chart.
The on-line program was introduced in May of 2012 and interest in that program has run very high (19,968 registered users in one month).
The TESDA effort would seem to be critically important for the Philippines to both certify competencies in certain skill jobs, so the customer can have certain assurances of competency, and to train non-skilled people for jobs that require technical skills. I really can't get a grip on the beast, however, and can't help but think it deals more with branches than tree. And the forest? Part clear-cut, part smothered in vines.
Education in the Philippines
Let's step back and consider public education in the Philippines. The nation is big on education, pumping kids through primary schools and colleges like water down a damn spillway.
Unfortunately, at the bottom, there is no river. And the public schools don't teach kids how to swim, intellectually. Just recite this and memorize that and obey authority.
The idea is right. Education is good. It makes for a better democracy. Healthier people. One would think kinder people, but we'd have to debate that.
Georgetown U. professor Dr. Angel C. de Dios in a recent comment referred Joe Am's readers to the World Bank report on education. The report cited that nations which focus on the QUALITY of college education fare better than those that focus on QUANTITY by having a lot of institutions. They did not flood their labor markets with mediocre people. They elevated it with high-quality people.
Well, the Philippines aims for quantity. There is some idealized high value assigned to a college education, even if it is a watered down (dare I say slipshod?) education, and in a major that has about zero practical application in real life (Hotel and Restaurant Management). Many government departments require a college education for their employees. The police, for example.
Well, that is in part because high school education really doesn't amount to much in the Philippines, falling far short of what is required to get into, say, American universities. Extending the time in school two extra years will help, but Philippine public primary education remains broad and shallow.
One is inclined to ask the Department of Education, why have you developed this massive beast of public education that is NOT REALLY WHAT THE NATION NEEDS?
So what we have is an educational system, both primary and technical, that pumps out a broad and shallow mass of people and floods the market with mediocrity.
Fundamentally, I think we are looking at it wrong. We are looking at the economy and the job markets as "fixed".
The economy right now is a "poor man's economy" with low wage scales. This brings overseas businesses to the Philippines where they can reduce costs (call centers) but pushes top Filipino people (doctors, engineers) out because they can't earn what they are worth here.
Perhaps we should start looking at the Philippines, not as a fixed "poor man's economy", but as a nation on the move toward modern practices and higher wage scales. Then try to ANTICIPATE how to get there in a quality way. Here's one possible way to look at it:
- High schools prepare young people on tracks toward four labor markets: (1) professional (doctors), (2) technical (computer repair), (3) skill (welders and service workers), and (4) labor.
- Colleges provide degree certifications for professional jobs.
- TESDA provides coursework certifications for all professional, technical and skill workers.
- The internet becomes a primary instruction delivery method in all arenas to reduce the burden building classrooms and move budget to teachers and equipment.
- A new government agency is created that is responsible for quality standards nation-wide. It is empowered to levy criminal charges and/or fines on people who claim to be certified, but are not, or who do not live up to certification requirements (agreement to fix defective work).
Presumably one of the first new courses TESDA will add to its modern curriculum will be web site design and management.