State U asks new administration to invest in science and technology

THE national government needs to ramp up public spending in science and technology (S&T) to boost the competitiveness of local industries, said the country’s state university.

In a policy document by the University of the Philippines (UP) on nation-building postpandemic, the country must boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning under the new administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., based on its #PILIpiLUNAS2022 Governance Agenda.

Likewise, it calls for the government to support university-industry partnership in research and development (R&D).

The Philippines is still catching up with its R&D investment, as revealed in its gross expenditure on R&D-to-gross domestic product ratio of 0.32 percent—lower than its peers in Southeast Asia, and 356 researchers per million population in 2018.

This is reflected in the dismal academic performance of the Filipino youth compared with their counterparts abroad.

The “2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science” study, for instance, cites that Filipino students ranked lowest among all 58 participating countries in Grade-4 mathematics and science.

This was preceded by the lowest scores of 15-year-old Filipino learners in reading, mathematics and science in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment by the Organization of Economic and Cooperation and Development.

UP Diliman College of Science Dean Giovanni Tapang traced the relatively low enrollment and number of graduates of science and engineering programs in local universities to the low priority given to STEM in the country’s basic education.

The industrial policy states the required state funding for university-industry tie-up in R&D efforts to help heighten the performance of the local S&T community.

It mentions the importance of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) programs in developing such partners, despite the fact the agency has an allocation of only P24.268 billion in 2022—P919.8 million lower than last year’s.

Meanwhile, only 24 percent of S&T graduates nationwide are engaged in activities or employed in the said field.

Per the “Women in Science” study of DOST-Science Education Institute which used the 1990-2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 76 percent of those who finished S&T courses landed in non-S&T professions, or jobs unrelated to their field of study. Among 3.7 million S&T programs graduates, some went abroad.

These are the realities of under- and mismatched employment being faced by the S&T and engineering graduates in the country, as highlighted in the paper.

While the curriculum may be considered as one of the concerns due to its unresponsiveness to the needs of the industry, the kinds of training needed by scientists and engineers to adjust to the changing industry must be identified, the policy document further stated.