This month, millions of students nationwide started the new school year in the Philippines. Good education is key to a successful life and an important driver of economic growth.
In the Philippines, it is not unusual for families to pawn their last asset to support their child’s education. But with education costs rising and the job market uncertain, returns to education are not necessarily viewed as being commensurate to education-related investments.
Families and policy makers alike are looking to understand how to better invest in education and maximize positive outcomes. To support this effort, ADB partnered in 2017 with the Philippine Department of Education to conduct the Youth Education Investment and Labor Market Outcomes Survey (YEILMOS).
The survey examined factors that influence the youth’s education choices and investments. It analyzed 3,750 randomly selected Grades 9 to 11 students and their families in Metro Manila, Ilocos Sur, Eastern Samar, and Davao del Sur.
The survey yielded several interesting findings. Immediate family and social contacts were the primary source of information for educational investment and career planning decisions. Parents are the main source of career information for students and take the lead when it comes to decision making.
Interestingly, guidance counselors do not rank high when students were asked to identify their major sources of information when making education choices.
Findings from the survey also suggest that education decisions are made with a high understanding of the person’s own needs but little insight into the realities of how much an education might cost. Partly as a result, many parents significantly under- or over-estimated the cost of sending a child to higher education. Parents and students cited financial difficulties as a main reason why some students do not proceed to higher grades.
Also, respondents reported a lack of high-quality jobs for people with college degrees and higher educational qualifications. While formal education, particularly a college education, is regarded as important, almost half of working household respondents indicate that they were overqualified for their jobs.
The YEILMOS survey proposes 5 ways these challenges can be overcome.
First, enhance the quality of career guidance programs. This entails understanding the students’ interest, abilities, aptitude, preferences. It also means providing critical information to make informed decisions, including labor market information such as skills demanded by industry/businesses in the area, availability of education institutions for their preferred course/track, among others.
Information on financial assistance programs, which is cited as an important consideration in plans to pursue postsecondary education, and labor market information should be made accessible. Those providing career guidance information should use simple language that can be easily understood by students and parents.
Second, parents need to be at the heart of career counseling, and the process must start early. In the Philippines, parents typically make post-secondary educational investments for their children and therefore have a bigger say in the educational outcomes. Therefore, career planning and guidance activities should include parental participation as early as possible to ensure that they are able to provide reliable information to their children.
Third, while higher education institutions are traditionally reliable sources of career guidance information in other countries, their important role is yet to be recognized and applied in the Philippines. Given their close proximity to employers, universities and colleges are well placed to provide more information on admission standards and course offerings along with insight into the labor market outcomes of their graduates.
Fourth, technological innovations can enhance the impact of career guidance programs. However, those in the urban areas use technology in career guidance more than their rural counterparts. Given the potential of technology to provide scale and cost-efficiencies relative to in-person counselling, closer examination to understand how it could be used for career guidance more efficiently is warranted.
Fifth, focus on creating more high-quality jobs. The survey results show that many Filipino families still prefer their children to take up college education rather than technical and vocational education and training, in the expectation they will get better-paying jobs or earn more.
Education investments should be complemented by investments in job creation. A conducive environment for businesses and industry promotes the creation of productive jobs, especially for youth. Decent work should also be made available to those without college or more advanced degrees.
Education is important and education investments are necessary. The YEILMOS survey brings to the surface key issues and challenges but at the same time suggests important solutions.
The hope is that more people will ask these practical questions to arrive at an equilibrium where the amount of money families and governments invest in education aligns with the resulting economic rewards.
Co-written by Glenita Amoranto, Lilac Florentino, and Jude David Roque.