Duck! TESDA, a branch in the eyeball.

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 siteis 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. 
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.
14 Responses to “Duck! TESDA, a branch in the eyeball.”
  1. TESDA illustrates how much economy drives education in the Philippines. It demonstrates how passive the country is in shaping its future, relinquishing all of its free will to what it sees in its present and past, no future. Even the high population growth is dictated by some twisted view of economy. Children are regarded as source of labor and future income. There was a nursing boom so everyone took nursing and tons of nursing programs opened. The new K to 12 curriculum is driven by the economy. The problem is that all of these look only at the present conditions with certainty that the future will be exactly the same. Being driven solely by what is currently perceived as financially rewarding lacks vision and innovation. There is no movement forward, only a full surrender to circumstances. As a result, the programs are of low quality.

  2. That confirms what I saw on the web site. And you raise the key point: is education supposed to LEAD the economy, or follow it about like a pig on a rope.

  3. Under the new TESDA director, over 434,000 have been trained under the Training for Work Program and 5000+ certified specialists trained under the Specialista Technopreneurship program are now earning more than P500 daily wage.

  4. With regards to nurses, they are being deployed to communities under the RNHeals program. As of today there are about 30,000 nurses and midwives under this program. Then there are more than 10,000 that coordinate with Community Health Teams. So those "excess" nurses are now being utilized to serve communities. Deployment is coordinated with the Philhealth program which will eventually, if all goes according to plan, provide universal health care, a program that most civilized countries in the world have.

  5. chohalili says:

    I went to Facebook page of TESDA, lots of photos, Secretary Joel Villanueva with personalities and celebrities, cutting ribbon,shaking hands,helicopter transporting the sec there and here. But I was looking for a success story like someone learn how to use a welding tools without blowing himself up. I like the pics everybody looks happy ( lots of partays), but a lot of post with questions as to where can they take the course. BTW Mr.Joe what is the meaning of NC II? non-certified? A snippet: The congressional committee on Education said it all in 1990: taking the most popular courses in the Philippines Universities and colleges does not guarantee the new graduate a job after school. Every year the graduates of the country's numerous college and universities end up swelling the army of unemployed, among other reasons, said EdCom, because the courses Filipinos take are not the country needs.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hey Joe, I'm a product of the public school system myself (I went to UP). I'd say i didn't turn out so bad after all :)Anyway, I think the K-12 approach is a step in the right direction, assuming it all works out well in the implementation. As with any change management effort, getting buy-in and support at the start are often the more difficult hurdles. I hope DepEd has some good change management practitioners helping them out. But first, like TESDA, they also need to get someone to work on their website! Went there to get more background on K-12 plans and curriculum but got nowhere.I did find something interesting on the curriculum from an Official Gazette publication, instead. There is a subject line called "Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao" threading through kindergarten to Year 12. I'm not sure what the official translation will be but the literal translation would be "education in being humane". The material I got my hands on was also in Tagalog (and was not easy to read even for me!) but what I gathered is that it would cover Ethics and Career Guidance. I'm not sure if this is entirely new or already In the curriculum prior to this K-12 changes. I do know they weren't around in my time. And again, assuming it's implemented well, I would hope it addresses some of the gaps that we all keep harping about in terms of developing thought processes leading in to the common good in our culture.Cha

  7. Good to know. I like the young guy's enthusiastic style and hope it continues to grow this organization into a skill-set of its own, the ability to rigorously and steadily train capable workers. It is just as valuable as college.

  8. That's good to know, too. Thanks.

  9. Cha, well, you are the shining light that shows why we critics of public education say that with some innovative thinking the public schools could be turning out a lot more shining lights.In this day and age, the web site is the front door of the institution. What it looks like says a lot.Ethics and career guidance would be excellent subjects. Along with confidence and aspiration and competition, you know, "the drive to succeed" and not just listen to the boss. It;s good to know there are people thinking about how to teach what is needed, rather than what has always been taught.

  10. JoeHere is DepEd's K to 12, according to Cong. Palatino (Since he is a member of Congress, he actually has access to all of the K to 12 documents of DepEd):"DepEd has to explain why it distributed teaching modules which teachers can only use for two grading periods. The release of unfinished teaching guides reflects the hasty and haphazard implementation of K-12. Worse, the prefabricated learning materials were designed by ‘experts’ in such a way that the only creative task required of teachers is to unpack them, follow the specific instructions in the kit, and then grade the students. Even the learning guides already contained exact examples and details of course content, teaching methods, and test sheets which teachers are required to use inside the classroom. Under K-12, teachers are subjected to a ruthlessly efficient reskilling and deskilling process."-Angel

  11. Fascinating. So the teachers are treated just as many students are treated. Sit down, shut up, and follow my instructions.I do think going K-12 is not easy. It sounds like a program that was implemented without really thinking it through first.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Aah yes, confidence and aspiration – the cornerstones for success in life; along with hard work and the possession and cultivation of some knowledge or skill useful to society.Just a few thought on confidence … I don't think you can develop confidence in a Filipino child when all he hears is how disdainful and abhorrent it is to be a Filipino. That sets him up for a life of self doubt and shame as you've basically told him there is something fundamentally wrong about who he is. That is why I cannot stand my fellow Filipinos who summarily condemn and dismiss their own countrymen at the drop of a hat. Makes me wonder how their own children are faring in life.And that is why a lot of Filipinos end up tripping all over each other emulating and proclaiming the Filipino-ness of the likes Jessica Sanchez et. al., because it makes them feel a little better about themselves, it negates what they have been made to think and believe all along …that it sucks to be a Filipino.I will stipulate that there is much about us as a people that needs to change if we are to move forward as a country but for heaven's sake, let's have some self respect. Everytime we disparage our country and our people, we are really belittling ourselves and our own children. By all means, let's give it to those who rob and pillage our country. Let's do everything within our means to expose and get some retribution for the deeds of those who do us wrong but c'mon, have some consideration for the good and hardworking few (or many) who are simply doing the best they can with whatever little they have. Let's call a spade a spade but let's also call it a damn good shovel when it happens to be one.ChaCha

  13. Very well said. To move forward is the goal. Not to condemn and wallow in that which is not constructive.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Education. The Philippines has the broad educational infrastructure in place to make a difference. It needs to tailor a curriculum that teaches aspiration rather than memorization so that graduating students are motivated to look for, and know how to create, their own opportunities. Teachers need to be paid more and pay should be tied to the quality of their teaching. TESDA is a very important bridge between basic education and skill jobs that can support a family. We should take another look at this organization. A couple of years ago, we did and were not impressed (“Duck! TESDA, a branch in the eyeball“). […]

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