World Bank

Education Equality in the Motherland

Since 1925, the basic education system in the Philippines has been surveyed and reformed countless times. However, such reforms haven’t exactly proved to be successful. The current Philippine education system, which was modeled to reflect the K-12 system in the US, continues to face much critique. Some argue for a decentralization of the basic education system by installing school-based management, as to cater to the needs of each particular socioeconomic environment and other influential factors. According to the World Bank, Philippine primary school enrollment is relatively high. UNESCO reports that literacy rates are also high. However, the education system continues to struggle with lack of resources, understaffed schools, and managerial and organizational issues. Secondary school enrollment is usually lower. As of 2012, the Department of Education (DepEd) made school compulsory. Though enrollment may be higher than it has been in the past, there is a severe lack of employment opportunity for after graduation.

Many activists and reformers are pushing for efforts to revitalize the education system, such as Teach for the Philippines; they continue to work toward education equality throughout the PI. However, how can a nation create larger, systemic change to a problem that countries face across the world?


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967, is currently pushing for regional economic collaboration by 2015. Member countries include Brunei, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia , Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It is even a goal to use English as the primary language of communication, which is why there’s a major push for language acquisition across ASEAN. However, according to a 2008/2009 report, the Philippine Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) notes that the country has a poor performance of improving the education system, unlike many other Asian nations. This creates even further concern for the future of the Philippines.

In addition to primary and secondary school reform, there is also a call to address higher education. As ASEAN promotes the movement of goods, services and labor between its member countries, the Philippine Daily Inquirer raises and important question: “What does this mean for our students who will be graduating from universities in a few years and will then be looking for work?”

As employment opportunities are already scarce, not just in the Philippines alone, but across the Philippine diaspora, I wonder what will happen to my friends and family. The struggle to find work continues to grow more competitive. Some of my relatives and family friends, despite attaining a higher degree back in the PI, are now domestic helpers or working in retail, for example. How is this fair, when such hardworking individuals are forced to find work outside of their expertise or training?

Many Filipinos have migrated, leaving behind families in search for work. Something must be done to reverse this “brain drain”, and I believe should be continuous support and investment in education. We need the youth of the PI and the larger Pilipino community to know we believe in them by providing them with the tools needed to succeed in a global community, and not just for economic gain.

Emerging Leader: Pat Austria

399813_10150456022911958_1875795_n Current residence: McLean, Virginia Hometown: Alabang, Philippines Age: 21 College of William & Mary, 2013 International Relations and Process Management and Consulting (with a concentration in Entrepreneurship)

Meet Pat Austria, a driven Pilipina, ready to inspire the world. This wonder woman has worked for Development Gateway and the World Bank as a geo-coder and consultant. In the aid field, that means she has mapped out aid projects and overlaid it with poverty-related data, in hopes of promoting collaboration and accountability among agencies and organizations. As an intern for Project for International Peace and Security (PIPS), a she focused on solving international problems through innovative means. Her team presented their policy brief to individuals of the academic and professional political community.

“I’m an undergrad and I’m young. But I can make a lot of impact,” says Austria, after reflecting on her experience with PIPS. Austria also exhibits her tenacity and drive for making such an impact through her passion for youth issues.

“Children’s issues are pure and innocent [and] not clouded by politicization,” explains Austria. She fears that young people are  discouraged by economic situations, diseases and disabilities. As the Executive Director of William & Mary's Students for St. Jude, she saw this first-hand while visiting the hospital during the summer. Her experiences with Dreams for Kids and Buddy Ball have shown her how sports can inspire inner city, underprivileged and disabled youth.

“You don’t have to change the world, but you can inspire someone and maybe they can do it,” Austria adds, as she explains her hope for todays’ and future young people. Austria has also been involved with the Pilipino community.

“The Philippines is impoverished [but] full of love and excitement,” notes Austria. “People are willing to help each other when children [of other families] grow up together.” While working with Development Gateway in Summer 2011, she was granted the opportunity to pursue her own research on innovative technology and disaster management in the Philippines.

“Everyone has a cell phone,” Austria notes. “Maybe no TV or fridge, but they have cell phones.” Currently, Austria is developing a four-part platform to tackle natural disasters. It includes the utilization of an SMS alert system, victim map, road status map and donor map, all of which can be accessible by mobile phone. She hopes this crisis network model can be applied internationally. Her research is funded by a William & Mary Charles Center grant and entrepreneurship conference competitions. Though she receives positive feedback from both US and Philippine government officials and professionals, her social venture is going slower than anticipated. Nevertheless, she does not want to rush it. Should her venture be developed, it will be free and accessible to all.

Pat Austria may be young, but continues to addresses problems scaling from the international to the local level. As advice for fellow emerging leaders, Austria offers the following:

“Figure out what you’re passionate about and take initiative. If you don’t see anything that fits, forge your own path and put yourself out there. Believe in yourself.”

Photo credit: Pat Austria