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Submitted by Beth King on

The changing needs of labor markets and the greater role of technology in production are putting more pressure on education systems to produce better-trained graduates. Students graduating from high school at 16 or younger, with two fewer years of schooling than their counterparts in other countries, are disadvantaged when they enter university or the job market. The current reform goes in the right direction and is way overdue.

Manny Jimenez and I recently compared the economic growth prospects across countries in Asia and we conclude that "[t]he role of human capital in the growth narrative among the successful economies in East Asia and the Pacific — especially the so-called East Asian “Tigers” — is well-known and is a formula that other countries have tried to emulate" (http://www.eastasiaforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/PAFTAD-37-Emmanuel-Jimenez-and-Elizabeth-King.pdf). Although more years of schooling does not guarantee higher skills (since schools don't often succeed in teaching students what they are expected to learn), we can hope that the increased instructional time promised by this K-12 reform will work towards that. Several years ago, I invited several high-level administrators of universities in the Philippines to a meeting and they unanimously bemoaned the poor preparation of high school graduates who were entering college. Because of this poor preparation, the first year of university is spent largely in equipping those students with the writing, communication and math skills required to do the work. In other words, the first year of university serves mainly as a remedial program, so effectively short-changing the time for education at the tertiary level. For those students who drop out before college, a high school diploma doesn't mean very much in many jobs; hence, families and high school graduates feel the pressure to muster personal resources to attend college.

The Philippines must stand firmly behind this major reform it has begun. It cannot hope to compete with its neighboring economies in the future unless the duration of schooling of its students increases. It also cannot hope to compete in the future unless the quality of that schooling improves--but that is another discussion.