Added Title

DLSU - AKI Policy Brief 2023-09-009

Document Type

Policy Brief

Publication Date


Place of Publication

DLSU-Angelo King Institute, Room 223, LS building, 2401 Taft Avenue, Manila 0922


ONCE upon a time, the Philippines was praised for its relatively well-educated labor force. Not anymore. The situation seems to have reversed: policymakers and commentators single out education as one of the primary causes for the country’s poor performance (lack of competitiveness) and the unemployability of many of its workers.

To put the discussion in the correct context, I will start by arguing that the relevant measure of progress for a developing nation like the Philippines is productivity. Without productivity increases, there cannot be increases in income. Productivity in the Philippines is low in general. Is education the key to increasing productivity? I will argue that it is not.

The public debate on education is oversimplified, and probably many assumptions about its relevance have no basis. Education, understood as the process of receiving (for a student) systematic instruction, especially at a school or university, matters more for political reasons than for its contribution to productivity and growth. Education is the means through which societies acquire political philosophies based on individual rights. These rights are necessary for political and social developments that overcome the privileges of special interests and satisfy individual and consumer desires better. Education is necessary to understand the complex political systems necessary for advanced economic performance. It’s possible that poor countries today will not get out of poverty traps without political changes. Those political changes may only be possible with broader education. While this is an important issue, it differs from the emphasis on education in the public debate.



Behavioral Economics | Education Economics | Growth and Development | Labor Economics


poverty; productivity; education; Philippines

Upload File



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.