Saturday, March 24, 2007

700,000 high school students unfit for college

By Rainier Allan Ronda - Phil Star
More than half of the 1.3 million graduating students in public and private high schools are unfit for college, the Department of Education (DepEd) admitted yesterday when it released the results of the National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE) administered last Jan. 17.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said that the NCAE results merely validated previous annual results of achievement tests given to fourth year high school students.

The assessment showed that a majority of high school batch 2007 are not fit for college and should take the technical and vocational track, but instead want to be "dancers and actors."

National Education Testing and Research Center (NETRC) director Nelia Benito yesterday said that out of the 1,305,211 examinees who took the NCAE, 777,236 or 59.55 percent garnered low scores in the general scholastic aptitude test of the exam which made up the biggest part of the test.

The DepEd shied away from saying that the majority of the students flunked the test, stressing that there are no passing or failing marks since the examinations are meant only to guide students in their career choices.

Only 49,066 or 3.76 percent got high scores while 478,909 or 36.69 percent showed a "moderate aptitude" for college.

Instead, the NCAE results showed a big percentage of the students have a "high aptitude" for technical-vocational education. Tech-voc education
In the Technical-Vocational Aptitude (TVA) test, DepEd officials said that examinees scored comparatively better.

A total of 711,526 or 54.51 percent got scores indicating a high aptitude for tech-voc programs; 468,901 or 35.93 percent had moderate aptitude; while 124,780 or 9.56 percent showed low aptitude.

Lapus said that the NCAE should spur students and their parents to consider "tech-voc" education and training as an alternative to college after graduating this March, to take advantage of the thousands of blue collar jobs currently available.

"The tests supports our theory that a lot of our students are better fit to take the technical-vocational track. And it supports the shift in our policy directions for education," Lapus said yesterday. Job mismatch
DepEd under Lapus has vigorously pushed for the strengthening of "tech-voc" education and training in the 261 "tech-voc" high schools under the supervision and control of the department.

The move came with the gathering of government figures which showed that there were more than half a million blue collar jobs not being filled due to a shortage of skilled workers in the country while millions remain unemployed.

"We have to address what we call as the ‘job mismatch’. Out of the 2.6 million unemployed Filipinos, around 1.1 million are college graduates.

"But at the same time, we have 650,000 tech-voc jobs available in the local market, and we cannot fill in the vacancies because our tech-voc job applicants lack the required tech-voc skills," Lapus said.

Lapus expressed the DepEd’s hope that students and parents will take advantage of the NCAE in charting their future after high school graduation.

"Students need to be given career counseling support and parents need to be informed and re-educated to appreciate viable alternatives to the college diploma," Lapus said. Dancers and actors
However, the test results also showed that many are interested in a career in "the arts" after getting their high school diploma.

"They want to be dancers and actors," Lapus observed.

From the answers given to a series of specific questions in the Occupational Interest portion of the NCAE, 427,116 or 32.72 percent were shown as having "artistic" occupational interest.

Benito said that examinees who were counted as inclined to the arts showed that they enjoy or had preference for activities that "look at the artistic side of things" such as forms, designs and patterns.

Those considering occupations in this area want to be singers, dancers, musicians, radio/TV announcers, directors, make-up artists, poets/lyricists, fashion designers, interior decorators, graphic designers, landscape architects, painters, sketch artists and photographers.

A far second in the preference of the graduating students was "social" activities or pursuits with 185,886 or 14.24 percent of the examinees showing such an inclination.

Examinees who fell under this group were seen to be interested in pursuing activities that assist other people and promote learning and personal development.

Those who go to "social" occupations, the DepEd said, become nurses/caregivers, teachers, law enforcers, judges, counseling psychologists, religious workers, health educators, business managers, community workers, news reporters, librarians, and ushers and lobby attendants.

On the other hand, only 11.18 percent or 145,925 of the examinees showed interest in "mechanical" occupations.

The NCAE had four major components that sought to determine the aptitude of examinees in general scholastics, technical-vocational, entrepreneurial skills, and non-verbal ability. The test also had a fifth part that questioned examinees on their occupational interest.

Aptitude for college was mainly measured by the general scholastics aptitude (GSA) test of the NCAE which carried 220 items. The technical-vocational aptitude (TVA) test had 50 items, the entrepreneurial skills (ES) test had 30 items and the non-verbal ability test had 30 items.

Pay hike for gov’t workers approved

By Marvin Sy - Phil Star
President Arroyo has signed an executive order that will increase the monthly pay of government employees by 10 percent starting this July.

Executive Order No. 611, signed by the President last March 14, also provides an increase in the subsistence allowance and hazard pay of military and uniformed personnel.

"There is an imperative need to improve the morale of the civil service through a more competitive compensation system that supports the economic well-being of government personnel," the order stated.

Around P10.3 billion has been included in the 2007 General Appropriations Act for the salary increase of state workers.

The 10 percent increase will include all civilian government personnel whose positions are covered by the Compensation and Position Classification System.

Instead of granting a fixed amount of increase across the board, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said that a percentage-based increase was adopted "to avoid distortions in the pay scale."

Depending on the length of service of the government employee, the 10 percent salary increase would be equivalent to varying amounts for every pay grade under the step increment rule contained in the joint Civil Service Commission-DBM circular.

Government employees covered by the salary increase are civilian officials and employees of national government agencies, including state colleges and universities, government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs) and local government units.

In the case of the military and other uniformed personnel, the EO provides an increase in the subsistence allowance from P60 to P90 per day. The hazard pay was also doubled from P120 to P240 per month.

Apart from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), uniformed personnel from the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Coast Guard and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority would also get allowance and hazard pay increases.

In the case of the GOCCs and GFIs, the funding for the increase would be sourced from their respective corporate funds, while the LGUs should source it from their respective local funds.

If GOCCs, GFIs or LGUs do not have sufficient funds to pay for the compensation increase, they would be allowed to partially implement the adjusted rates, provided that there would be a uniform percentage increase for all positions.

Aside from the year-end bonus and fixed personnel benefit contributions, there would be no increases in the allowances and benefits of government employees.

The last legislated salary increase for civil servants was granted in July 2001, which was equivalent to five percent of their basic salary.

In 2006, a P1,000 increase in compensation was approved by Mrs. Arroyo through an administrative order.

"When we embarked on our mission to put our fiscal house in order, we asked government workers to toil with us. Now that we have turned the corner, the comprehensive pay increase once foregone can no longer be postponed," Andaya said.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

World Water Day

March 22 is commemorated as World Water Day, as coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on behalf of the 24 agencies and programme members of United Nations — Water. This year’s theme is "Coping With Water Scarcity".

In the Philippines, more and more people are buying bottled water. Years and years ago in Europe, I was astounded that people had to buy drinking water due to its scarcity. About 20 to 25 years ago in the Philippines, bottled water was considered a luxury. The only people I saw using bottled water are foreign expatriates and workers doing business in Metro Manila. Now, a large percentage of Filipinos prefer the more expensive bottled water than getting water from their faucet. It is quite ironic that our country consists of 7,107 islands surrounded by water, water everywhere, but with not a clean drop to drink for many, especially in the rural and urban slum areas.

Starting late 2006, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has reduced its daily supply of water for households and businesses in Metro Manila. They said that the water level in Angat Dam, which supplies more than 70 percent of Metro Manila’s water as well as irrigation for Central Luzon, dropped to its lowest level due to El Niño. Because of this, most households and business establishments commonly experience no water from the faucet at certain periods during the day everyday, forcing everyone to conserve and ration water, which is good. But this will mean only one thing, as water gets more scarce, it will become more expensive, as the law of supply and demand would predict.

We are fortunate that in our country, simple technologies like piped-in water and flush toilets are available, while in the rural communities, irrigation pumps and deep wells provide water for everyday use. In some parts of the world, women have been reported to spend as much as eight hours a day going to and from distant and polluted sources, carrying up to 41 kilos of water on their heads or hips in order to provide for domestic needs. Overall, we are lucky that there is sufficient water but not enough in highly populated areas, especially during dry season.

If we don’t take care of using water, food production, like cultivating rice for one thing may become difficult. Much of the country’s water resources are threatened by misuse, pollution and effects of abnormal weather conditions like El Niño. Last December the President appointed Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes as water czar and placed the National Water Resources Board under him to unify the government’s water use and conservation program. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would take care of water resources in the face of a supply shortage being experience by almost a million Metro Manila residents. We note the ongoing construction of Laiban Dam in Tanay, Rizal, which would eventually supply water to Metro Manila. Water is a life and death commodity that must be conserved and protected.
ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces PhilStar

Friday, March 02, 2007

DOE issues new auto-LPG rules

The Department of Energy (DOE) issued yesterday its new rules on the auto-LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) strictly setting standards to institute safety codes in the fast-growing industry.

Specifically, the guidelines will govern the business of supplying, hauling, storage, handling, marketing and distribution of LPG for automotive use, in order to protect the consuming public.

Before engaging in the auto-LPG dispensing station business, the DOE requires an applicant to secure a standard compliance certificate (SCC) upon submission of a set of documentary requirements.

These requirements include details of business activities, permits and licenses from government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Product Standards, Department of Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Fire Protection and the concerned local government unit prior to engagement, commencement of construction and operation of any auto-LPG business.

To date, there are about 4,000 auto-LPG vehicles nationwide, with privately-owned and some government-owned vehicles converted to auto-LPG.

Auto-LPG dispensing stations have also flourished with 20 service station-based, 11 stand-alone stations, five refilling/bulk plant-based and five garage-based, all in Metro Manila.

In the Visayas, there are at least 20 dispensing stations with seven stand-alone stations and 13 garage-based stations while eight dispensing stations are located in Mindanao .

Conversion shops have also flourished with nine auto-LPG conversion companies in 14 different locations in Metro Manila while more shops are expected to open in other parts of the country in the coming months.

"Consumer protection is our main consideration here. Anyone found to be engaged in illegal practices and services in auto-LPG business will be sanctioned and penalized," Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said.

He said that filling of household LPG cylinders in the auto-LPG dispensing station is strictly prohibited.
By Donnabelle L. Gatdula - The Philippine Star