30 July 2019
Blitzkrieg ideation. Group distilling. Innovation pitch. A consensus to bridge the divide in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) among government, industry, education, and communities; equip teachers and schools; develop industry-aligned STEM curriculum standards; promote STEM among learners; cultivate a STEM culture andinstitute policies. These creative brainstorming sessions and initial agreements happened recently at the second Roundtable for Taking Action (RTA) at JP Morgan, Bonifacio Global City.
Organized by Unilab Foundation and hosted by JP Morgan’s Global Philanthropy in Asia Pacific, the event convened different leaders and practitioners from industry and education. The RTA’s industry participants represented different fields such as health care, utilities, financial services, transportation and logistics, telecommunications, and publishing, among others.
Due to rapid advancement in information technology, estimates show that 65% of learners entering grade school this year will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. In contrast, 60% of the jobs created in this century will require STEM-related skills. Out of more than 11,300 senior high schools in school year 2017-18, the Department of Education notes that only 26% of these, or less than 3,000, offer STEM. UNESCO data also shows the low number of Filipino scientists today: 189 per million population, about half the UNESCO-endorsed figure of 380/million, and way behind the country’s neighbors in Southeast Asia, like Singapore (6,700/million) and Malaysia (2,100/million).
To help address the gap, Unilab Foundation’s STEM+ PH program aims to nurture next generation scientists and innovators dedicated to serve humanity as well as ensure the pipeline for future-ready Industry 4.0 workforce. It convenes stakeholders, such as through the series of RTAs, trains teachers to provide quality STEM education, and encourages Filipino youth to pursue STEM.
The first RTA was hosted by the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) in November 2018. This came after previous efforts supported by Unilab Foundation, such as a STEM benchmarking program in the US facilitated by the STEM Leadership Alliance (SLA), and succeeding workshops around the Philippines hosted by the Department of Science and Technology-PSHS System and DepEd. The workshops aimed to foster globally competitive STEM education among Filipino teachers and learners.
With the theme “Creating and Nurturing Innovators for Nation-Building through STEM,” the second RTA aimed to situate industry-education initiatives on innovation, strengthen linkages to develop a pipeline of future-ready innovators and workforce, and enable participants to explore and agree on specific areas of collaboration. Representatives from education and industry shared their insights on how technology-driven and human-centered innovation and creativity contribute to inclusive national development and workforce readiness, and how government, industry, and education can ensure value and impact.
After innovation context-setting by Dr. Chris Monterola, head of the Asian Institute of Management’s Aboitiz School of Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, Ms. Jojo Santos, vice president of Unilab R&D, and Mr. Arvin Yason, managing director of Accenture, Mr. Alexander Avanth, director of innovation of PTC Holdings, reflected that, “People development drives business development. Human belongingness is critical as our human resources grow to become research and development.” Meanwhile, Dr. Ed Morato, president and chairman of Bayan Academy, emphasized the need to bridge the divide between technology and microenterprise: “We need to democratize technology, information, and knowledge. How do we make these inclusive for the 89% in our population from income classes D and E?”
The RTA proper was then led by Dr. Sheryl Monterola, head of the Center for Integrated STEM Education in the Philippines (CISTEM), using the design thinking process. In closing, Ms. Lilibeth Aristorenas, executive director of Unilab Foundation, invited the groups to deepen the collaboration by forming an alliance as the Philippine affiliate of the SLA based in the US: “Our game plan is to share current initiatives focused on integrated STEM, build a community of integrated STEM leaders that connects K-12 to real-world applications, create an evidence-based framework with each stakeholder’s roles, and cultivate integrated STEM leaders who will become champions and advocates in their region.” For the alliance’s first agenda, participants were invited to join the first Integrated STEM Leadership Summit in Asia set to happen on November 21-24, 2019 in Mactan, Cebu.