Tech executive qualifies standard of IT education in Mindanao
“There is a huge demand for skilled IT professionals from the country, especially from offshore. More and more IT work, especially software development, is moving from India, Eastern Europe and China to the Philippines because of the growing reputation of Filipino IT professionals for quality, dedication and professionalism. However, we are increasingly challenged to meet this demand because the vast majority of colleges and universities offering IT-related courses are no longer meeting even the minimum standards of IT education set by CHED”, said Calen Legaspi, CEO of a local software development firm.
Legaspi has been championing educational reform in fields of Information Technology and Computer Science, a cause which involves active participation of the company he co-founded, Orange & Bronze Software Labs (O&B).
O&B, as part of its corporate social responsibility program, has been organizing or participating in programs that support the Philippine academe since 2007. The Filipino software development firm provides free training and seminars to teachers, usually through partnerships with government and non-government organizations and industry groups, as well as other programs aimed at enhancing the knowledge and skills of educators.
Legaspi believes that “the private sector needs to realize that it has a huge responsibility to the local IT community. It is important to facilitate mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and challenges, because the future of their businesses relies heavily on the academe. These are the same people who will develop and mold their future workers, managers, and leaders.”
He also serves as the Technology Director for the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA), a role that provides him more opportunities to implement changes -- changes that are essential to ensure that the Filipino software engineer is highly employable and able to compete against his overseas counterparts. His responsibilities in the PSIA include working with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as the official representative of the Technical Committee on Computer Science.
His most recent project with CHED is a sojourn to different universities and colleges in Mindanao, part of an initial series of school visits that will cover the whole country. There are currently a total of 1,200 schools offering IT-related degree programs in the Philippines, and CHED has visited less than 100 of these institutions in 2011.
“The various assessment teams have only visited around 80 of these this year, but we are hoping to visit a much larger number in the coming years. We’ll be involving more volunteers from the industry in order to be able to visit and assess more schools.”
Legaspi joined the assessment team in Region X - though the task was gruelling, with members of the team travelling to remote locations for hours on rough roads, he believes that the benefits hugely outweigh the inconveniences.
“We evaluated five colleges in Region X located in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental. We used a rating system based on the CHED Memorandum Order 53 (CMO 53) issued in 2006 specifying requirements for the offering degree programs in Computer Science, Information Technology and Information Systems to assess the instructors, curricula, technology and resources available in these campuses. The same was done by other assessment teams throughout the country. Unfortunately the vast majority of schools visited, not just in Region X but all over the Philippines, do not comply with CMO 53.”
On a positive note, Legaspi added, “Occasionally though, we would find some rough gems - schools with faculty and administrators determined to serve a high level of academic excellence in IT education to their communities. These schools are often unexpectedly found in remote towns in the country. It is heart-warming and encouraging to see the sincere efforts of these educators, despite the many difficulties in doing so. For these schools, CHED and the PSIA offer their support programs, such as CHED’s ‘Center of Development’ program and PSIA’s Industry-Academe Linkage.”
He said that “institutions that are serious and determined to provide proper education to aspiring IT professionals are doing their communities and the entire country a great service. On the other hand, those institutions that are not committed to providing even the minimum level of education stipulated by the government are doing a great disservice to the country and to the families of students investing their hard-earned money in their children’s education. The most frustrating and often infuriating part our work, for myself and for the other assessors, has been finding out that most schools fall into the second category.”
As a final message, Legaspi called for greater participation from the industry in supporting the educational system. “I’d like to encourage more IT companies to be involved in the various initiatives of both government institutions and of non-government organizations to support the academe. The academe is the foundation of our industry and if we let it fall apart, so goes our industry.”