EDITORIAL - Falling behind

Students prepare for graduation this month amid the release of the results of an international survey on higher education institutions. The results, as in previous similar surveys, are not encouraging for the country. No Philippine university made it to the top 10, or even top 100, or even top 200 in the world in the 2011-2012 World University Rankings drawn up by the Times Higher Education, or THE.

In the survey, THE ranked California Institute of Technology as the best in the world, followed by Harvard University, Stanford, Oxford and Princeton. The rankings were based on five headline categories: the learning environment which carried a weight of 30 percent, research (30 percent), citations (30 percent), industry income and innovation (2.5 percent), and international outlook including staff, students and research (7.5 percent).

Perhaps the results wouldn’t be too disheartening for the Philippines if universities in other Asian countries fared just as badly. But Asian universities made it to the top 50, with the University of Tokyo at 30th place, University of Hong Kong at 34th, National University of Singapore at 40th and Peking University at 49th. Other higher learning institutions in China, Japan and South Korea made it to the top 300 in the survey.

Surely it is no coincidence that the countries that host those leading universities are also the economic leaders in Asia. Universities in the United States and Britain have a head start of several centuries over those in other countries, competing with each other for excellence in the quality of their education and facilities. Governments particularly in Asia, recognizing the importance of education in global competitiveness and economic progress, have invested heavily in education in the past decades.

In contrast, the Philippines, which used to be a regional center of learning, has progressively lagged behind its neighbors in competitiveness and quality of education. Last year the country’s top universities also saw their rankings slip in a survey conducted by a London-based organization, with no Philippine university making it to the top 300 in the world.

Questions about the methodologies and criteria in such surveys have been raised. Still, there is no question that more must be done to improve the quality of Philippine education. The THE survey is just the latest reminder that the Philippines has fallen behind its neighbors and needs to do a lot of catching up. - (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

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