The ‘one ASEAN’ policy opens a lot of opportunities but it also poses a lot of challenges, particularly among highly skilled professionals. In the Philippines, an engineering school has been preparing its curriculum, and its students, to be at par with ASEAN standards since 2009.
The Technological Institute of the Philippines (T.I.P.), an engineering school in the country, believes that the implementation of the ‘one ASEAN’ policy is an opportunity for Filipino engineers to shine.
“Filipino professionals will have to compete with foreign workers from other ASEAN-member nations like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. That is why we have to make sure that our graduates would be able to meet the demands of the industry,” Angelo Q. Lahoz, assistant vice president for administration of T.I.P., said. “The school, as a whole, has the global standards as benchmark for the education we provide in order for our graduates to be ready for the world.”
Signed in 2007, the proposed economic integration calls for a single economic bloc wherein the 10 ASEAN member states, including the Philippines, will observe freer trading of goods, services, and skilled labor within the region by the end of 2015. Dubbed as the ASEAN Economic Community Framework of 2015, the policy has a labor clause that will allow borderless employment.
As early as 2009, the technological university benchmarked with the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), which shared its outcomes-based teaching and learning (OBTL) approach done inside the classroom. At the institutional level, it also adopted the outcomes-based education (OBE).
This required its faculty to focus on student outcomes rather than teacher’s approach and inputs. In a simpler sense, the OBE approach gives focus on the desired knowledge, skills and attitudes that students must possess at the end of the course. Upon graduation, a graduate must be able to apply knowledge in science, mathematics, and engineering and solve complex engineering problems and situations.
Lahoz noted that by adopting OBE, T.I.P. helps bridge the gap between what employers and the industry generally need, and what the students can offer. Aside from Hong Kong, the OBE education model is also implemented at varying levels in Malaysia, Australia, and the European Union, among others.
To make their graduates desirable workers in the global arena, Lahoz shared that T.I.P. has also started offering affordable programs that are accredited by the US-based Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
ABET, Lahoz explained, is considered as the global gold standard in accrediting college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.
Securing such accreditation, however, is no easy feat, Lahoz said. It required the university to undergo periodic evaluation by professionals from various industries, the government, and the academe.
In the Philippines, T.I.P. has so far the most number of ABET-accredited programs at 20. The second university with such programs has about half.
Lahoz said that by offering ABET-accredited programs, the graduates are more easily employed since more and more companies are recognizing the benefits of the accreditation. Graduates of ABET-accredited programs, he explained, can also confidently apply for scholarships and international certifications.
“We are proud to do our share in preparing Filipino students for the employment challenges of the ASEAN economic integration by offering affordable ABET-accredited programs that enhance their competencies and skills, making them more competitive in the global workforce arena,” Lahoz said.
The school’s move to adopt international standards is complemented by constant upgrades in its infrastructure, including classrooms and engineering laboratory facilities. Just recently, it completed the construction of its administration building, the 10th building inside the 3.3-hectare Cubao campus.
TIP, he said, earmarks a substantial chunk of its earnings to improve school infrastructure. For example, there are about 3,000 computer terminals in both the Manila and Quezon City campuses and they are upgraded every two to three years.
“These are all done to ensure that our students and graduates develop technical skills that are tailor-fit and responsive to the needs of the workplace,” Lahoz said. "It's not anymore about landing a proper job in a good company that requires an engineer. We have to go and step out of the shadows, and say, 'this is us, and this is what we are known for.’”