September 21st, 2005Content-wise, Techie tips 0 Comments

There must be something in the food I ate the other night that hypnotized me to clean my office desk yesterday afternoon. If there is such a thing as a love potion, there must be some kind of cleaning potion mixed in that food.

Like most IT professionals, my desk is usually as cluttered as a fragmented hard drive. Don’t get me wrong. I’m actually good at organizing. It’s just that I want important things to be within my reach even if it compromises aesthetics.

While weeding out a stack of documents turned over to me by a resigned colleague, I ended up spending time reading a number of job applications and resumes mostly coming from individuals with computer-related degrees. I wondered why those resumes were set aside by my colleague instead of being forwarded to HR.

I don’t usually read cover letters since most of them are written anyway by persons other than the applicants themselves. I always consider a resume as a marketing brochure of a person. As such, I’d rather go through a resume than read a cover letter. So, I spent about an hour yesterday going through a bunch of them.

I was totally disappointed (or I should say embarrassed) to see the resumes of most applicants. For Pete’s sake, these applicants were supposed to be applying for overseas jobs. No wonder why these documents ended up in a stack of papers waiting to be shredded. A decade ago, it was still acceptable to see Lotus 123, Word Star, Word Perfect or dBASE in an applicant’s skills set.

Understandably, computer education in the Philippines was still then in its infancy. At that time, if you know Word Star, you’re considered good. If you can work with Lotus 123, you’re a computer expert. If you can write programs in dBASE, that’s when you earn the monicker “computer wiz”.

But those were the good old days. Technology has changed dramatically since then. Honestly, I didn’t expect to see this type of skills sets (i.e. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) these days in people’s resumes. I have been out of game for more than 10 years now. I thought that by this time the issue on the quality of ICT education has already been addressed.

Several years ago, I was asked to share my thoughts on how to improve the quality of ICT education in the Philippines. Full of youthful idealism, I stood up without knowing the impact of my thoughts on the participants (mostly ICT educators) and told them the factors which I believe are the reasons for the degrading quality of education; unqualified teaching staff, lack of resources and poorly designed curriculum.

Unqualified Teaching Staff

Just because you finished college with honors doesn’t necessarily qualifies you to become an ICT educator. It cannot be denied that many ICT schools in the Philippines employ fresh graduates for teaching positions (usually honor graduates). Unlike in most disciplines, ICT education requires a lot of industry experiences. Hiring somebody fresh from college is usually not a smart thing to do. ICT is a very dynamic field. Students need teachers who could well relate the lessons to the real world. This is a common problem in most schools. Teachers are not technically qualified to teach computer courses. On other hand, some ICT schools hire experienced IT professionals to teach. Experience alone doesn’t automatically qualifies a person to teach. I know of many brilliant computer programmers and engineers but they are the worst teachers I’ve ever met. Teaching isn’t their cup of tea. In ICT education, it takes both factors to effectively teach technology; knowledge (which includes industry-acquired experiences) and ability to impart that knowledge.

Lack of Resources

Whether it’s due to monetary constraints or because of the school’s perverted concept of frugality, the unavailability of proper resources inside the classroom creates a wide gap between what is taught and what is needed in the workplace. Often times, applicants are rejected not because they don’t know the technology but they just didn’t have the opportunity to learn it.

Poorly Designed Curriculum

I took 4 semesters of Spanish courses and all I could say these days are few Spanish words like “gracias”, “muy bein”, “buenos dias”. An applicant’s TOR states that he completed a course in technical writing but all he could write is an application cover letter and a resume. A course in “software applications in business” is actually just a dignified term for “Microsoft Office”. These are just examples of a systemic problem in the development of ICT curricula. Most ICT programs these days are unfortunately laden with many unnecessary courses. It’s not only a waste of time, money and effort. These curricula actually limit the competitive advantage of the graduates.

Final Word

I believe it’s about time for the government and private sectors to intervene. I understand that there are no existing mandatory licensure or certification programs that evaluate a person’s ability to teach ICT. The Philippines produces thousands of computer graduates each year. Sadly, only a few of these graduates are employable with respect to industry requirements. Am I pushing for a regulatory examination for ICT teachers? I don’t necessarily believe it’s important. But with the way we produce computer graduates, I’d rather go overboard in “screening” our ICT educators.

Intervention is also needed in making sure that an ICT school has enough resources to offer technology courses. I can’t imagine how a school could teach “database systems”, for example, without having a real database management system (i.e. MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, etc.). Most ICT schools teach web development, but only few have the resources to teach students how to publish their web pages to a web server including domain name registration.

It’s also about time for us to assess whether our ICT curricula are still relevant to the needs of industries. I agree that a curriculum must also include non-computer related courses like math, science, English, etc. These are important “minor courses” that can’t be eliminated. We also need to go deeper in evaluating these curricula. The course descriptions alone are not enough. Courses must be assessed down to the syllabus level.

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