Press Releases Archived (May 2016)

image

Inaccuracies in recorded nutrition status such as age, height, and weight measurements of children in public schools are among the major constraints that state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) encountered in assessing the effectiveness of the Department of Education's (DepED) School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP).

In her presentation at a seminar organized by PIDS and the Cordillera Studies Center of the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio, PIDS Consultant and UP Professor Ana Maria Tabunda noted that there were inaccuracies in documenting the date of activities undertaken as part of the feeding program as well as the height and weight measurements and nutritional status of children before and after the feeding program. She added that there were also errors in the entries for birth dates and ages.

"Glaring errors include inconsistent recorded heights such as children having lower post-feeding height than pre-feeding height and missing post-feeding weight or height measurements. These inaccurate data in school documents as well as those obtained during the survey by PIDS researchers constrain proper assessment not only of the initial nutrition status of would-be program beneficiaries but also of the improvement in such status," Tabunda explained.

Thus, for proper documentation of progress, she recommended that all schools, including nonbeneficiary schools, must be provided with the recommended weighing scales and height measurement equipment.

"All schools need to be provided with these equipment, since nonbeneficiary schools also need to submit accurate nutrition status reports, which serve as the basis for determining which schools should implement the feeding program," she explained.

Tabunda also suggested that school heads, school nurses, and teachers must be trained on the proper use of such equipment and instill in them the importance of proper documentation of the pre-feeding, feeding, and post-feeding phases of the program. Accurate documentation, according to Tabunda, help in the proper selection of beneficiary schools and beneficiary pupils, as well as in monitoring and evaluating program outcomes. In addition, she suggested that DepED should provide schools with an application program such as Microsoft Excel to help them correctly compute a childs age to the nearest month.

Given that the administration component of the budget has been increased, it was also recommended that food budget allocation must be increased. Likewise, the effect of inflation should also be considered in food budget allocation.

Finally, the Tabunda suggested that DepED should review its basis for the 70-percent nutrition target for the SBFP, which has since been increased to 80 percent in the school year (SY) 2015-16 implementation.

The link between malnutrition and poor performance in school such as absenteeism, early dropout, and poor classroom performance of school children is well established in the literature. Likewise, evidence shows that school-based nutrition and health interventions are effective in improving school performance. Thus, the DepED has been conducting conditional food transfer programs since 1997.

DepEd's feeding program was first offered as the Breakfast Feeding program in 1997 to address short-term hunger among public school children. It eventually shifted focus to addressing undernutrition or malnutrition after SY 2008-2009. In 2012, it was renamed to its current name SBFP as feeding time was no longer limited to breakfast. For SY 2014-15, the national government targeted all the 562,262 severely wasted children enrolled in kindergarten to Grade 6 in public schools for the SBFP, or about 3.8 percent of approximately 14.9 million children enrolled in public schools. Previously, DepED had been targeting only a fraction of the total number of severely wasted pupils due to budget constraints.

The SBFP provides food to severely wasted children or those whose weight-for-height measurements are below the minus-three standard deviation cut-off established by the World Health Organization for well-nourished populations. It is conducted in schools over a period of 100 to 120 feeding days for a given batch of program beneficiaries.

According to the PIDS paper jointly authored by Tabunda, PIDS Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert, and PIDS Consultant Imelda Agdeppa, the SBFP was generally implemented well, with majority of the school heads, teachers, and parents expressing appreciation for the program and with many of them expressing a desire to see the program continued, and if possible, expanded.

Although the target goal of having at least 70 percent of beneficiaries attain normal nutrition status by the end of the feeding program may have not been attained in SY 2013-14, the paper noted that these are caused by problems beyond the control of program implementers.

Meanwhile, the goal of improving school attendance by beneficiaries to at least 85 percent for the entire school year had been attained. However, the authors pointed out that children who are not beneficiaries of the program also have good school attendance records. They added that the feeding program appears to help improve attentiveness in class and sociability of beneficiary pupils.

The PIDS study, which surveyed about 7 percent of the total number of severely wasted pupils enrolled in the public elementary schools for SY 2013-14, aims primarily to assess the outcomes and impact of the SBFP in terms of its stated educational and nutritional objectives. It is part of a research project by PIDS to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts of key government programs and projects. Spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management, the impact evaluation (IE) studies were conducted to promote greater transparency and accountability in government. IE is a special type of research that allows policymakers and program implementers to ascertain whether a particular program is achieving its objectives and whether the results are attributable to the intervention. ###

If you wish to know more about this study, please visit this page.

image

Despite the increasing contribution of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly in terms of job generation and contribution to gross doemstic product (GDP) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, experts argue that they remain one of the region's untapped resources.

In a recent forum organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Department of Trade and Industry, Management Association of the Philippines, and Financial Executives of the Philippines, experts concurred that a lot can still be done to unleash the potential of SMEs.

Currently, SMEs comprise the largest number of firms in the ASEAN region. They generate the majority of jobs and substantially contribute to ASEAN's GDP.

ADB's Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susanto stressed in his keynote address the importance of opening access and opportunities for micro and small and medium enterprises.

To help SMEs play their role in the domestic, regional, and global production networks, Susanto suggested that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) must build the physical connectivity of SMEs, raise their labor productivity and skills to standards of global value chains, and improve their access to finance.

Meanwhile, PIDS Senior Research Fellow Erlinda Medalla and ADB Advisor Ganeshan Wignaraja discussed how to improve SMEs' access to market and investment opportunities in the AEC.

"SMEs play a role not just as a vehicle for poverty reduction but also as an engine of growth," said Medalla. She emphasized the sector's employment and value added contributions to the Philippine, which peaked at 65 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Across Southeast Asia, Wignaraja noted that SME employment makes up 74 percent of all jobs, and contributes 41 percent of the GDP of ASEAN economies.

Yet, Wignaraja lamented that these contributions are not yet reflected in international trade. Wignaraja observed that high-performing SMEs make up only 21 percent of direct exports across ASEAN economies.

Many factors obstruct the growth of SMEs, but one of the oft-cited problems is the lack of access to finance and credit. Wignaraja explained that the current banking and credit structure does not know how to deal with SMEs. Bank requirements on collateral and business and finance plans are strict. Unable to comply and lacking financial literacy, SMEs are often forced to rely on informal resources.

SMEs simply do not have access to the capital they need to expand or participate in larger business and trading activities. According to Wignaraja, total credit gap, or the difference between formal credit provided to SMEs and estimated SME financing needs in ASEAN, amounts to as much as USD 52.8 billion.

Wignaraja also pointed out that as China begins to slow down and move out of labor-intensive industries, firms in countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand will have more business opportunities as suppliers of a range of products.

"International trade itself has fundamentally changed in the 21st century and is no longer about direct exports. Instead, trade increasingly means global supply chains where different production on stages are located across geographical space and linked by trade in intermediate inputs and final goods," Wignaraja pointed out.

Meanwhile, Medalla said the Philippines does not have much of a choice whether or not it wants to partake in this new landscape. In an increasingly economically integrated ASEAN, she said, "SMEs have to work within a globalized setting."

However, she added that "not all SMEs can export, and they do not need to. The goal should be for them to have all the opportunities to participate and engage in business in order to help them grow and contribute in sustaining the expansion of the economy."

To do this, Medalla enumerated a number of factors that the Philippines has to address to encourage SMEs to participate in value chains. She reiterated Wignaraja's point about addressing the lack of access to finance and credit, but added that enabling the environment for SME firms to develop competitiveness and connectivity must be prioritized as well.

While Wignaraja believes that much of the work must be done by business and private sector in boosting labor productivity, improving the investment climate, raising infrastructure spending, improving information and communication technology infrastructure, and increasing financial access for SMEs, both experts are in agreement that the government also has a critical role to play in SMEs' success.

"Government's role is to enable and facilitate the linkages and access to markets, finance, and technology, and to remove various barriers to entry and exit. The role of the new Competition Law will be very important," Medalla said.

Policymakers should also concentrate on enhancing strategic opportunities. Medalla said the kind of policies needed depends on which SME sector policymakers intend to help. She recommended policies that would raise SMEs' capability to comply with AEC standards, such as developing the halal industry, improving trade facilitation, and identifying standards to enable them to access a "duty-free" ASEAN market.

She also recommended helping each sector gain competitive advantage through industry clustering, sharing services facilities, and developing industry roadmaps.

"The opportunities are there in the supply chains," said Wignaraja. The business sector has to adopt smart strategies to capture opportunities to participate in the production networks, and policymakers must create the enabling business environment for SMEs to thrive. ###

image

Information and communication technology (ICT) services in the country remain one of the most expensive in the Asia-Pacific Region. Worse, Internet speed is not proportional to the costs.

A recent study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) concluded that this problem is primarily caused by the lack of comprehensive policies on ICT development, which, in turn, results in unequal distribution of digital dividends or the development effects of ICT.

The study, authored by PIDS Senior Fellows Jose Ramon Albert and Ramonette Serafica, and former PIDS Research Analyst Beverly T. Lumbera, asserts that there is a direct relationship between increased ICT access and economic growth. A World Bank study likewise concluded that for every 10-percent increase in high-speed Internet connection, economic growth increases by 1.3 percent.

"ICT, especially the Internet, promotes inclusion. Micro and small firms can connect with potential buyers in another country through Internet and social media. They can also gain knowledge and skills to trust a new business partner based on information gained from the Internet," the PIDS paper stated.

Thus, the authors argue that for the Philippines to sustain its good economic performance and boost its growth, government must invest in building a reliable, accessible, and affordable ICT infrastructure. Maximizing the benefits from ICT, according to them, requires formulating and implementing policies that would boost ICT development, promote competition, and further interconnectedness.

According to the International Telecommunication Union's ICT development index, the Philippines placed fifth among countries across Southeast Asia in terms of the number of people who have access to the Internet. Internet access or Internet penetration has grown the most in the last six years, from 9 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2010. By 2014, the Philippines is expected to have 40-percent Internet penetration.

The Philippines improved its performance ranking in the global ICT ranking from 105th in 2014 to 98th in 2015. This can be attributed to the increase in access to mobile phones and broadband subscription services. However, policymakers should look beyond widening access, the authors said.

The Philippines' connection speed according to the Akamais State of the Internet Report on Asia Pacific is at 2.8 megabits per second (Mbps), the second lowest in terms of average connection speed. The global average is 5.2 Mbps.

To maximize digital dividends, the authors urge policymakers to target ICT development, widen access, and promote competition and further interconnectedness.

"Part of ICT development should improve regulations regarding Internet exchanges. Telecommunication companies exact fees to let other companies pass through their physical networks; in turn, this racks up the costs of providing connection," they explained.

The authors lamented the fact that despite the high cost paid by consumers for poor quality connection, there is little action from government. Effective implementation of rules and regulations is also lacking; thus, telecommunication companies have gotten away with providing a lot less speed than advertised.

With the passage of the Philippine Competition Act, the authors are hoping that these would give regulators more legal ammunition to address anticompetitive practices and bad performance, and hold telecommunication companies accountable.

"The responsibilities lies with the National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Trade and Industry. They need to reform some regulations and rectify penalties that are no longer effective to prompt better competitive practices," the paper suggested.

Other policies being monitored include the Data Privacy Act of 2012, which covers the protection of personal privacy and data, cybersecurity, and digital literacy. The paper noted that access is a good priority, but making sure access remains open and safe is equally critical.

The authors noted that the quality of the national Internet backbone is so bad that 70 percent of domestic Internet traffic runs through Hong Kong. The lack of a national broadband policy makes Internet services expensive yet slow. Meanwhile, the foreign equity restriction of 40 percent dissuades capital and expertise from coming into the country to help improve the ICT sector.

In conclusion, the authors emphasized that the government and the private sector have to work together to address the bottlenecks that impede ICT development. ###

If you wish to know more about this study, you may download the Policy Note here and the full Discussion Paper here.

image

Despite the significant gains in primary education participation rates, learning gaps remain high among primary and secondary level students. Increased government spending in education, as well as the implementation of the K to 12 program are important education sector reforms that set the stage for improved access and better education outcomes for the Filipino youth. However, while these reforms are significant, much is still needed to be done in improving learning outcomes for primary and secondary learners in the Philippines.

On May 24, 2016, the Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Philippines hosted a policy forum on "Evidence in the Education Sector" at the PIDS Conference Room in Centris, Quezon City, to disseminate among key decisionmakers how impact evaluation and evidence can be useful in achieving improved learning outcomes.

Around 60 participants attended the forum from various government agencies, international organizations, academe, and nongovernment organizations.

In his keynote speech, DepEd Assistant Secretary Elvin Ivan Uy stressed that education should enable each person to maximize their potential. He highlighted the need to actively promote the use of evidence within DepEd and that the agency itself should be an active producer of evidence. Meanwhile, NEDA Deputy Director-General Rosemarie Edillon mentioned the pivotal role of evidence in policymaking at the national level. She maintained that each evaluation should address present and future needs in the education sector.

Roundtable discussions as well as panel presentations on topics such as stakeholders in evaluation, enabling learning, and secondary and technical-vocational education comprised the policy forum. Dr. Gilberto Llanto, in identifying champions in impact evaluations, with panel members Dr. Vicente Paqueo, visiting research fellow at PIDS, and Mr. Roger Masapol, director of the DepEd Planning Service, highlighted important issues such as the usefulness of impact evaluations in preserving effective programs, the need for greater appreciation of evaluations among all levels in government, and the value of having data publicly available.

IPA Philippines Country Director Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri moderated the panel discussion on enabling learning where Dr. Aniceto Orbeta, Jr., PIDS senior research fellow, and Assistant Secretary Uy of DepEd presented some critical issues in achieving improved education quality. Discussions were centered on the importance of context of the education system, the possibility of having complementary programs for better outcomes, the role of programs (and evaluation of these programs) in learning, and the need to consider noncognitive competencies.

A panel discussion on technical-vocational education was moderated by NEDA Deputy Director-General Rolando Tungpalan and included presentations from Dr. Emily Beam of the National University of Singapore and Director Catherine Galapon from Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. Key topics include the role of education in building skills, employment, and better quality of life, as well as the value of testing different interventions in order to understand what works and what doesn't work.

PIDS President Gilberto Llanto emphasized that the use of evidence generated by rigorous evaluations will definitely play a significant role in moving the country forward, especially in vital sectors such as education. His closing statement, "The unexamined policy intervention is not worth implementing," captures the importance of evaluations in a nutshell.