Interview: Irene Isaac
How can the technical vocational component complement basic education curricula?
IRENE ISAAC: The Philippines has always exhibited a strong preference towards higher education, with all parents wanting their children to get a professional degree from a college or university. To reverse this bias, there is a move to promote education as a lifelong endeavour. When the K+12 project was conceptualised, it had a technical-vocational education (tech-voc) track for senior high school (SHS) that would enable high school graduates to attain employment, acknowledging that not everyone would or should go to a university. From its inception, it was decided that the technical vocational livelihood track (TVLE) of senior high school would follow the training regulations of TESDA and the industry-prescribed standards for competencies for work. There is a Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) in the country where the first five levels are tech-voc, with SHS only covering the first two levels and allowing high school graduates to be employed and eventually go into higher levels within tech-voc. The PQF is outcomes-based, with certificates specifying what has been assessed and performed. Higher education has traditionally been more academically focused; however, there is a worldwide trend towards outcomes-based education, which immerses students in their respective fields and strengthens employability.
The ladderisation law will also allow students to eventually go to college afterwards, therefore not interrupting family dreams of their children getting a college or university degree. However, students need not go all the way to university at once: they can get national certificate level one (NC1) and two (NC2) at first, go to work, acquire more competencies and then get a certification level to validate the competencies they have attained at work. For example, if one is a welder under an NC1 or NC2 level but one’s supervisor sees potential and gives additional work at a higher level, the worker can go to TESDA. TESDA then puts them through an accredited assessment centre, and after passing the worker will be given a certificate that confirms he or she has attained levels of competency and units for a higher level. As long as the worker has demonstrated competencies during the course of their work within industry-prescribed standards, he or she can be an awarded higher units of competency. We are also working with the Department of Education to train instructors, namely teachers, as they learn their TVLE from schools, and have not worked in the industry. Therefore, we help trainers acquire a national certificate in what they teach.
In what ways can the Philippines develop a qualifications framework comparable to that of its regional neighbours?
ISAAC: The PQF is the product of a long study of qualification frameworks from around the world. Since its inception, TESDA has maintained the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) framework, awarding its certificates on the levels included in TVET. Accordingly, national certificates (NCs) have been categorised as NC1, NC2 and NC3, and this has served as the diagram for the development of the PQF. The PQF has eight levels: five levels for tech-voc, followed by baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate or masters, and doctorate level, all of which are platformed on grade 12. Each level has a descriptor, and these have been compared to other frameworks around the world to allow for comparability. NC1 is an operator level, where the worker will be given instructions to follow, while NC2 allows the worker to have a range of options for decision-making, and if something goes wrong then a supervisor is called. As a result, NC2 for pastry production, for example, would be comparable for most level twos in ASEAN. There is also an ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework which facilitates in making comparisons.
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