KIDS IN THE WINGS

mercado-thumb“He who opens a school door, closes a prison,”   French author Victor Hugo wrote. By the end of this decade, two Asian countries, will account for four out of every 10 of the world’s young graduates. Sorry, we’re not one of them.

But China and India are. A third Asian country – Indonesia — will bolt to fifth place, says a new Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development study. Until now, Japan had as big a proportion of young graduates as India.  By 2020, China will account for 29 percent of the world’s graduates, aged between 25 and 34.

“This changing world map will see Brazil having a bigger share of graduates than Germany, Turkey more than Spain, the OECD study adds. In contrast, Russia’s share of the world’s graduates slumped by almost half, since 2000.

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`For the first time since the end of World War II, the US will trail at third place. Until now, “the US has been the university superpower — in wealth, influence and recently in raw numbers”, writes British Broadcasting Corporation’s education correspondent Sean Coughlan. He asks: “Is this an end-of-empire moment?”

“Each era has its own distinct geography,“ notes Prof Viktor Mayer-Schonberger of Oxford Internet Institute “In the information age, it’s not dependent on roads or waterways, but on bases of knowledge”.

The Institute’s map measures how populations churn information in the online world. “In raw numbers of undergraduates and PhDs, Asian economies are racing ahead,” BBC adds. But they still use Western mechanisms to publish results. They accept the filters.”

Shifting from “mass production to knowledge economy occupations” results in higher incomes. Look from the lens of science and technology-related occupations, OCED suggests. These jobs generate new types of employment. To date, these technology jobs are only a small fraction of the workforce in China and India.

Producing a bigger workforce and shoveling in more money were usual answers to address  the shabby state of Philippine science and education, says an articulate educator-gadfly: : Dr Flor Lacanilao.

After getting his Ph.D, ( comparative endocrinology) from the University of California at Berkeley, Flor Lacanilao  served as chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman,. He became chancellor of UP Visayas and later led the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Iloilo.

UNESCO data show Philippines had 7,500 researchers in 2009 against Singapore’s 28,000 Manila came up with only 178 peer-reviewed publications in 2005. Singapore produced 20 times more (3,609). UP Diliman’s College of Science doubled the number PhDs to over 90 in a decade. But the “number of properly published papers” slumped from 24 to 15 percent of total publications.

Department of Science Techonology’s research and development budget increased four-fold. Still, Philippine publications, in leading journals decreased from 185 down to 178, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand reported a two-fold increase.

“A major culprit is performance evaluation. Instead of objective, internationally accepted criteria with peer review, (it hobbles) on personal judgment, by often poorly published officials. The result is “gray literature” which doesn’t contribute to development.

“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money,” cubist painter Pablo Picasso once sighed. The system here keeps scientists or teachers on lean incomes but hogs benefits for an embedded elite.

.”Elite capture of traditional sectors, such  as agriculture, sea and air transport, power, cement, mining and banking” cripples growth,” is an understatement in Asian Development Bank latest study on Philippine industrial upgrading.

The eventually scuttled National Broadband Network, (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp, had been padded by over 120 percent, whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada told the Senate in 2010.  “Moderate your greed,” he counseled proponents.  Bubukol yan.

Despite odds, some do break out.  Named by Time magazine as one of the world’s top 100 scientists, Jurgenne Primavera probed mangrove ecosystems.  Romulo Davide won a 2012 Magsaysay award for ground-breaking research into nematode pests that wreck food crops.

There are others, among them Angel Alacala of Silliman University who explored marine depletion and fish reserves. Solita Monsod blazed the path for human development.  Ernesto Pernia worked on economic impact of population.

Make scientific work pay, Lacanilao urged.  UP publications bolted from 25 to 40 percent of the national total in a five year  after a modest P55,000 award per published paper in an international journal,  Seafdec offered a cash incentive of 50% of annual salary. Publication of the 50 all-Filipino research staff bolted sevenfold.

Policies entrenched by group decisions, result in flawed faculty hiring, promotions and award-giving. “They cut gains achieved by research incentives and objective criteria in performance evaluation.”

“If we have the wrong measures, we’ll strive for the wrong things.” Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz warned. To lay foundations for sustained growth two proven tools are: higher education and science.

President Aquino appointed the first national scientist his cabinet: -Arsenio Balisacan. More men of this caliber should be in PNoy’s staff.  The Primaveras, Monsods, Davides, Alacalas, Pernias of the next generation are now emerging from the wings. Support them. “There is no shortcut to progress”.  (Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)



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