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Bill Prioritising ICT Competitiveness in Education Passes Philippine Congress

Some would say it’s long due. However, this speaks of the need to meet the rising global demand for digital-ready human capital in education starting with legislation.  A measure establishing Public Schools of the Future in Technology (PSOFT)  to advance digital technology and innovation has passed the final reading approval at the House of Representatives.

In a plenary session, a total of 221 lawmakers voted in favour of House Bill No. 10329, or the PSOFT Act. The bill is aimed at putting ICT competitiveness in education. It seeks to harness technological innovations, processes, and instruments in facilitating teaching and learning processes that would enhance the performance of students and teachers.

Of note, not a single vote was cast against the bill nor abstained from voting. In short, the bill was unanimously passed. The author of the bill, Albay Representative Joey Salceda disclosed that it aims to ensure that there is adequate investment in digital and technological infrastructure for the country’s public schools.

Education and technology can no longer be separated. We need technology in education, and this has been made much clearer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Joey Salceda, Congressman, Albay Representative

Moreover, the bill also improves the country’s basic education framework to allow for expanded online learning. Of course, these changes would require investment in teachers, which this bill also hopes to secure.

To that end, the bill enables the cooperation of other government agencies. Thus, it includes a provision that mandates that the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), and Philippine Space Agency (PSA) shall immediately include in their respective programs the implementation of the proposed law. Also, the funding of which shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Salceda said education reforms are critical especially as the country is facing an expanding skills gap. He also stipulated that there shall also be courses for higher-order skills from emerging industries such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and other Emerging Technologies

The lawmaker emphasised how greatly the digital needs of the world have increased.  He disclosed that the global economy has become skills-based and highly interconnected. Most of the global wealth is now information-based. In his presentation to the legislative body, he argued that knowledge is now the wealth of nations. That means citizens will now have to be able to go toe-to-toe with citizens from other countries.

Unfortunately, the Philippine pool of talent could fall short to meet such rising demands. He noted that measures of the global competitiveness of Filipino learners show “disappointing” results. To back his assertions, he cited the results of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealing that the Philippines scored 353 in Mathematics, 357 in Science, and 340 in Reading. These results were all below the average of participating OECD countries.

This apparent lack has also become more pronounced in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. To date, Salceda disclosed a slew of top management in the Philippine BPO industries complained about a lack of skilled workers. As a result, BPOs have vacant seats because they could not hire enough Filipinos who can deliver more than a good English accent and actually solve user problems. That truly shows that the skills gap is also reflected in the makeup of our labour force. Concluding, Salceda detailed that Philippine education should not focus on just diplomas but on real ICT skills.

Indeed, the digital transformation of the Philippines is taking off the ground as the need to change for the better has become more pronounced by the day. For one, the Supreme Court has acknowledged the need to be digitally ready and tech leaders in the country are involving technology focus for the country’s next leaders with the May 9 national elections set this year.

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