HAVING a college degree — or at the very least a high school degree — has always been regarded as an employment potential equalizer for entry-level jobs in office, administrative and skilled trades.
“While public schools offer ‘free’ education (the free part involves only the tuition subsidized by the Philippine government), when the recurring costs of going to school for the full 10-to-12-year term are factored in, the cost of education becomes daunting.”
On average, Edukasyon.ph shows it would take parents at least P4,560 a year for fees covering Parent-Teacher Association dues, books, school supplies, uniforms and other instructional materials. More than half is for transportation costs — P2,400.
In the school year 2011-2012, the dropout rate for high school students was 8.2 percent (after the first year), or 551,300 who either transitioned to out-of-school youth, either working or helping out in family affairs.
In 2021, there were 2.0 million status dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24. The overall status dropout rate decreased from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 5.2 percent in 2021.
Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) and from Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian’s office show that “out of the 100 learners who entered Grade 1 in the school year 2010-2011, only 60 went to Grade 10 and 58 completed junior high school.
The reason for the high dropout rate?
Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2019 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey, 41.9 percent of youth ages 12 to 15 and 28.3 percent ages 16 to 17 identified the lack of personal interest as a primary reason for not attending school, followed by insufficient family income from among 14.4 percent of youth ages 12 to 15, and 15.4 percent of those aged 16 to 17.
College education is more expensive both in terms of tuition and related expenses (again, transportation would be a significant portion). A bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the country’s premier public university (University of the Philippines) is P31,500 plus P5,743.50 in miscellaneous fees.
For the lucky, persistent and can-afford high school and then college graduates, what does the future hold?
From assignments to schedules
For the 2021 academic year, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) reported a total of 2,154 graduates under the Expanded Tertiary Education, Equivalency and Accreditation Program (Eteeap). For non-traditional college students without a degree, Eteeap “allows individuals to attain an academic degree through an assessment process that recognizes, credits, and gives equivalencies to knowledge, skills, and prior learning gained from relevant formal, non-formal, and informal training and work experience.”
In addition, data from various official and verified sources (CHEd, PSA, PNA) show at least another 500,000 college graduates will transition from fresh graduates to new entrants to the labor market.
A report from Business Online in June 2022, citing government media, states that “more than 1.6 million students will graduate from 200 state-run higher education institutions nationwide, worsening the country’s job situation.”
Online job search engines (Indeed.com, talent.com, jobstreet.com, Glassdoor) show entry-level salaries from 15,239 to 19,363 a month. For highly skilled professionals such as IT graduates, the average monthly pay is P26,500 to P36,783.
On the expense side, a single person would need P31,238 a month — excluding rent. With an average monthly rental of 14,000, even an IT’s salary (on the high side) would not be sufficient.
Fast forward two years.
The clerk or admin assistant would be receiving 25,000 and the IT specialist 45,000.
Meanwhile, an Eteeap who pursues a two-year diploma program in Canada to further hone his or her skills for a chosen occupation would have been earning P12,277.77 a week, or P49,110.80 a month since international students are allowed to work 20 hours a week during school days and 40 hours when on school breaks, the ETEEAP grad would be taking home a minimum of P413,696 for eight months.
For the four-month aggregate where the Eteeap graduate can work full time (40 hours a week), he can pull in another P413,696 for a total of P785,772.00 in the first year. The income would have increased an average of 10 percent in the succeeding years.
Back home, the two-year admin assistant is getting P250,000 a year.
Why study abroad?
Most Asian students in wealthier countries (Japan, China, India) pursue global education for the prestige and significant value-added to a person’s marketing competitiveness at home or worldwide.
Filipino students, on the other hand, put a premium on the ability to work and experience real-world work experience and the culture of another country. A Canadian graduate diploma, for example, compares favorably among the 200 higher education institutions ranked by Times Higher Education in 2023. Canada’s higher education system was ranked 7th in the world (Universitas, 2020).
Last year, Canada issued 25,270 study permits to Filipino applicants, a hefty increase from 14,350 in the immediate post-pandemic year. (https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/)
Cost of studies international students
ApplyBoard, the world’s biggest online platform for international student recruitment, reports that the Philippines “has cemented its position as a major source market for international students in Canada, surpassing China and France to become the country’s second-largest source market in 2022.”
In absolute numbers, the US leads the other five Desti-Nations in international student admission.
The Institute of International Education (IIE) November 2023 report found “1,057,188 international students in the US higher education system during the 2022-23 school year, up nearly 12 percent from the previous year. Not since the late 1970s has the total grown that much in one year. These students bring global perspectives to campuses and account for more than 5 percent of post-secondary enrollment in the United States.”
Yet, even though there are more than 4 million Filipinos in the US, the Department of Homeland Security reported only 4,848 Filipinos were issued student and exchange Visitor visas in 2021. Last year, the number of F and J visa holders more than doubled to 9,797, but still a far cry from Canada’s 25,270 in the same year, 17,976 in Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), and 3,310 in New Zealand. (https://www.immigration.govt.nz/documents) and 2,640 in the UK (IDP Philippines).
Why Filipinos choose Canada
Canada ranks in third place globally for the best quality of life (US News & World Report, 2022). International students benefit from the same rights and freedoms that protect all Canadians: respect for human rights, equality, diversity, and a stable, peaceful society.
In contrast with a Divided United States of America (left and Alt-right and a vanishing center), Canada is an open, safe and culturally diverse society.
With affordable tuition fees (generally lower than colleges and universities in Australia, the UK, and the US (QS Top Universities, 2022), Canada is also the only OECD country that has a direct and viable pathway to permanent residency for international students.
Canada’s post-graduate work permit (PGWP) enables an international student graduate of a two-year diploma course to stay for up to three years without losing student status yet working full-time. Even better, the spouses or partners of students are authorized to work full-time for the duration of the spouse-student’s academic program.
One year of lawful employment in Canada qualifies the student, spouse/partner to qualify for permanent residency under the Canadian Experience Class. In addition, a job offer, improved English proficiency and residency options under one of Canada’s provincial nomination programs improve the chances of being invited through Express Entry, Canada’s immigrant selection program.
With the 49 states of America just across the border, visiting relatives or friends in the US is easy on a student work visa, especially after getting a Canadian permanent resident status.
Sweet music to graduates and new entrants to the Philippine labor market?
Studying abroad may not be for everyone, but for those who have done their homework, a world-class education leading to higher income potential and competitiveness in the world job marketplace is sweet music, particularly for fresh graduates or new entrants to the labor market.