By Keith Richard D. Mariano, Reporter

On several occasions, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has suggested that Algebra and Calculus be taken out of schools’ required curricula.

The president’s suggestion — proposed during one of his many moments of levity — was based on his experience of spending seven years, instead of the usual four, in high school where he hardly passed any of these two subjects.

“I’ll take out calculus. You all went through high school — what did you learn from calculus, trigonometry? Algebra should be replaced by Business Math,” said Mr. Duterte, who managed to graduate from law school, pass the bar exam, and even become a prosecutor.

Although he appears to be cracking a joke, his proposal to do away with algebra and calculus may make sense in a country of jobless and underemployed people.

In a survey conducted in January, the Philippine Statistics Authority found 2.47 million unemployed Filipinos another 7.88 million underemployed. They accounted for more than a fourth of the country’s 42.5 million labor force.

“We are so obsessed that a person must have a four-year degree before he’s worth anything,” Philippine Franchising Association Chairperson Emeritus Samson C. Lim said in a July 7 interview.

Mr. Lim, dubbed as the father of Philippine franchising, runs the Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute in the Philippines, a vocational school that offers one-year diploma and one-month certificate courses.

“We can train the person and in one month, we can get him an on-the-job training in a five-star hotel and my student is practically preferred over students who graduated with a four-year degree from a university,” Mr. Lim said.

The vocational school boasts of meeting international standards, a selling point that came in handy with the foreign education brand Mr. Lim brought to the Philippines through franchising in 2011.

The Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute is a franchise of the Canadian Tourism College, a private college established in Vancouver in 1980 to offer hospitality, tourism, airline and adventure programs.

Currently, the vocational school has 150 students enrolled in diploma courses and 300 in certificate offerings.

Mr. Lim ventured into the education business with a question that may have — more or less — prompted Mr. Duterte to push for an education free of algebra and calculus.

“For a developing country, what are the needs, what are the types of people that we need, what are the skills that we need to teach them. I think we have to focus on that,” Mr. Lim said.

“So, when I send you my students, on day one he is working already. He can work, you can put him in a front office, you can put him in a restaurant, you can put him in housekeeping, in the sales, telephone and what have you.”

Win-win situation for employers, workers

The need to acquire skills rather than a college diploma is creating interest from foreign education brands to expand into the Philippines and, at the same time, providing opportunities for Filipinos looking to have a business.

The Philippine has around 1,500 local and international franchise concepts, about half of which are in the food and beverage sector, U-Franchise Sales & Management President and Francorp Philippines Senior Vice-President Sam Christopher Lim said in a June 23 interview.

“Food is food — people will always be interested in food — but education is the next wave,” the younger Lim noted.

Education franchise brands in Singapore, in particular, are looking to expand into the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, Franchising and Licensing Association (Singapore) Chairman Donna Lee said in a June 23 interview.

Ms. Lee, who founded the KinderGolf franchise, noted the franchise concepts are mostly in the area of enrichment aside from skills development.

“When I came back from Singapore, I found this seriously addictive math. It’s teaching math in a new way — they actually give you a certain item you can relate that equation to, so that instead of just using your mind, you are using your eyes and other senses,” Mr. Lim said. “The problem there now is because they’re teaching these new math systems now in [Philippine schools], the parents or the grandparents like us can no longer tutor them because we don’t know how that works.”

Businesses offering enrichment programs will supposedly become increasingly important. And a foreign brand will make it a profitable venture.

“Most of my students are children or niece or nephews of OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]. They see the value of vocational schools, the value of an international diploma,” Mr. Lim said.

Keith RICHARD D. Mariano (@kdmariano on Twitter) covers the Philippine Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission for BusinessWorld. On weekends, he tries to get some sleep and/or see controversial films.

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