Don’t pass on the Philippines


There are opportunities there for VET and HE

Last week was my first visit to the Philippines, as part of a delegation led by the Philippines Ambassador to Australia, Hellen De La Vega, who took a very active role in the design of the programme. It was excellent.

The delegation comprised approximately 50 Australian representatives from a variety of backgrounds, including the South Australian Minister for Tourism and Multicultural Affairs, Zoe Bettison, the South Australia Regional Director, ASEAN, Cathryn Carlson, and the Victoria South East Asia Commissioner, Rebecca Hall. Austrade officials and the Australian Embassy were also heavily involved.

Surprisingly I was one of only two education sector representatives, I say surprisingly because of the substantial opportunities for Australian universities and VET providers in the Philippines.

The programme included presentations from a range of Philippine government officials, and Australian business leaders operating in the Philippines. There were individual B2B meetings for delegates with prospective partners, and then visits to the freeport and special economic zones of Clark, Subic and Bataan.

What impressed me (among many things), and what is missing in a lot of Australian coverage of the Philippines, is the consistency of government economic reforms even through significant changes of political leadership.

For VET providers there are in-country opportunities (including skill sets and short courses) with major employers and with overseas companies based in the freeport zones, in business, engineering, IT, logistics, manufacturing, renewable energy, tourism and transport.

The Philippines government is looking for universities with medical faculties to partner with it in the Virology Institute they are establishing at Clark, and they have also been actively encouraging universities from the UK, US and Canada to consider setting up a nursing faculty there to help educate Filipino workers for future opportunities in overseas health care settings. Prior to the delegation they stated that they “hadn’t really thought of partnering with Australian universities.”

Finally I was pleased to also meet with representatives of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and learn more about their VET system (which draws on a number of features from the Australian system), as well as their regulatory approach. Notably they have had their own regulatory processes ISO-certified – an impressive achievement and one it would be good to see ASQA and TEQSA adopt (especially given reports that on this year’s APS employee survey ASQA ranks last across the public service on some key measures).

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector