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PSIA Study: 52% of IT Students Are Not Hirable

By Wilson Chua

Updated

“Not surprising. A euro friend tried to hire local programmers and NONE could code a simple Hello World. So he went back to hiring Eastern European workers.”- Bt Metz 

That’s the sad reality. Out of the 10 students we’ve screened about only 2 – 3 know how to code properly- Henry Ong 

This was sadly my experience hiring Filipino programmers. As a half-pinoy programmer I wanted to hire from the country of my birth, but unfortunately, the quality was not what I could use with paying clients (I had to re-write most of it myself after they did it). All the people I hired had degrees in programming and at least – according to them – 2 years of experienceRaymond Blakney

Let’s face the ugly truth. We always knew there were bad apples in the system. We just never knew how bad it really was….until the Philippines Software Industry Association (PSIA) came along and assessed senior level students on their skill sets.

The PSIA conducted the landmark assessment of the Entry-level programming skills of students for the period from Oct 2015 to September 2016.  The infographic shown below features the Philippine results in red and global results in orange for comparison and benchmarking.

1

According to Joey Gurango, ex-President of PSIA, founder of Spring.PH AND local distributor for Proxor: Proxor 1 is the highest rating while Proxor 4 is the lowest rating. At proxor 4 you can code but it is no better than anyone who has learned to code on their own. Software companies would like to hire PROXOR 1 and 2 level people, but since there are not many of those, most settle for PROXOR 3 and 4. No one will hire any Unrated’s.”

This means that over half (52%) of those tested will not be hired for any coding. Cynics noted that the remaining 43% (Proxor 3 and 4) do not need formal education at all and are better off doing self-study.

The dismal results coupled with declining enrollment figures (by as much as 90%) foretell of a hiring crunch in the coming 2 years. The software development industry will face a tough time finding suitable recruits to scale their operations with. Does this spell the doom for the industry?

Wait. What is wrong with the system?

Is it the curriculum?

Lito Averia The problem started a couple of decades ago. There are still schools that teach outdated languages like Pascal. Students are taught the language rather than programming logic which can be applied in any language. Save for colleges and universities that enjoy autonomy from CHED, the curriculum is not constantly updated to keep up with the times. TechVoc schools too produce programmers who are not qualified. TESDA should also look into this.

Jerome Auza Maybe the curriculum should be adjusted not to try to make students learn several languages but rather to learn about programming itself which can just be applied on any language.

Ray Anthony Uy Pating When your standard curriculum teaches VB6, Turbo C and outdated C++ syntax, and refuses to adopt DevOps and teaching algorithms and not syntax, then yes, this is what you get.

Amante Alvaran We may need to reform our curriculum to compete with others, thinking “global approach”.

 

Is it the way schools are run?

Eudz Silang believes some of the reasons are:

  • Schools (most schools) are not practicing “selective admission” everybody can enroll in an IT, IS or CS course
  • Parents and children think that as long as you know how to use a computer, you can take the computer courses

Armando Jr Durante adds some possible reasons:

  • IT/CS prof / teachers are not updated with the new technologies
  • Universities / Colleges / Schools do not have enough technology to support every students

Calen Legaspi Most schools can’t or won’t invest in hiring qualified teachers. The big schools have to offer 2X industry starting salaries plus scholarships to compete. It’s more because most schools don’t pay profs enough to compete with industry.

Dads Cuison Caronongan … please include passion in teaching. Ideally great but in reality, only few teachers fit in to these qualifications/conditions. I have actually raised this same concern – improvement in the quality of programming skills of CS/IT graduates – in one of my privilege meeting with MDICT’s Francis Fernandez and CHED’s Calen Legaspi. And I would say it’s a good start in finding solutions to realize that much needed improvement in our graduates’ programming competency level.

Is it the “system”?

A degree in I.T. is one of a few professions not subject to government certified board exams. Some schools have taken advantage of this by commercializing their operations and as Ivan Uy puts it: “… we have too many diploma mill colleges and universities. They offer CS and IT degrees but instead of teaching coding, they teach MS Word and Excel.”

Jhonjun Dormitorio suggest using Hackerrank for students/graduates who really have the passion and want to excel in their chosen fields, they can take up the responsibility of training themselves and take one of those exams.

Albert F. Aquino echoes a similar sentiment:  “Schools should require students to acquire software development certifications as a requirement to graduation, perhaps integrate this certification process in one of their major subjects.”

I recommend starting them while they are still in high school by joining NOI programming competitions.  I think Ton Rivera would agree as she “thinks this highlights the importance of teaching HS students how to code and, more importantly, getting them interested in ComSci”

Maybe I can create a new dataset from the list of schools that sent participants to this event. This may be a good proxy measure of IT education quality. So I asked Payton Yao  for a list. He says “The prominent ones with plenty of good participants are Philippine Science (Main, Bicol, and Eastern Visayas) and Xavier. Of these, Pisay Main and Bicol have coaches we work with.”

Some valid points to think about were raised by my FB friends about the study:

 

  1. Some caution that the small sample size may not be indicative of the total population as there were only 558 students from 28 schools that took part in the study. Well, show me a study that has larger sample and I will use it J

 

  1. Some question if the assessments measured the correct skills or course:

Jerome Punzalan  What makes this more complicated than in other professions is that, strictly speaking, IT is not just software development. I’d say IT is as broad as Medicine, Nursing and Physical Therapy combined. The BS CS degree is the one where you’d require programming rigor, but how would parents of college students understand the difference between CS and IT?

 

Michie Riffic  I think it’s a bit broad than just software development. Also, the test conducted seems to be focused only (on) software development. Logic is the most important skill to test here. Not memorizing how to write an array using this specific language. Proxor seems to focus only on three languages – Java, C, JavaScript.

 

Michie, Jerome, true enough, if we were to take out the BSIT students from the coding skills assessment, it will show markedly better results:

2

Pepe Cueto  …entry-level skill could be irrelevant to some who are quizzed outside their comfort zones. To be more specific, programming can be problem-solving type such as implementing a math model, project-oriented, system-aware which requires core computer system knowledge. A math inclined and trained software programmer who can build a mathematical model to solve a non-trivial problem may not be capable of building a project-oriented software (e.g. GUI frontend) for ordinary consumers because one has to be trained with at least OOP skills. …the bottom-line is that training here usually dictates one’s programming skill, which isn’t described in this survey.

3.The Pinoy adaptability.

Mark Vmann I believe most IT student learn very quickly…they need to learn outside of formal education.

Help is coming.

True to the Pinoy spirt, several IT professionals have stepped up and volunteered to help:

Jerome Faustorilla Castaneda My startup 3D Tayo aims to ignite students passion for STEM through Applied Learning Programs. We want to cultivate the maker culture in schools. We hope to inspire everyone, including parents, to become life-long learners. I am very much willing to share my 9 years of OFW experience in Singapore (all 18 yrs) to improve our education system.

Sony Valdez If there ever was a call for technical assessment of the curriculum, I would love to help. I have been programming for over 20 years (so I got industry experience), and have a Doctor’s degree in IT (so according to education sector, I am qualified to give opinions and ideas).  When I studied for my Doctorate in IT, we have a subject dedicated to getting industry experience (industry immersion) …maybe apply this to Master’s also?

Alwin Miester   If there are schools/individuals looking for people who could share some insights, practices, usage about some of the trend of today’s technology — PM me. DevopsHQ Community (www.devopshq.org) is dedicated to spread the learning, as much as we could.

Is change coming?

This landmark study should be a wake-up call for all stakeholders – Government, software industry, Higher educational Institutions and outsourcing developments providers – to stand up and take immediate corrective actions.

Finally, my congratulations to the progressiveness of the 28 schools that participated. Their willingness to benchmark themselves is a sign of progress in itself. How many other schools are brave enough to measure themselves as well? My alma mater UP, my daughter’s alma mater Ateneo, and my sons’ alma mater De LaSalle DID NOT participate in the study.  These schools and all like them are blissfully unaware of the true state of their system. Is change coming? Let’s wait, pray and find out together.

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  • Wilson Chua
  • Wilson Chua

    My apologies as well for the markups. Some of the numbering sequence may have been lost when they published the article.

  • Wilson Chua
  • Wilson Chua

    Meanwhile, NOI (National Olypiad for Informatics) saw a geometric increase in number of High school participants!!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/04453fd44bfa4e900183dfa898d995b3f93efee3fc433724ed42b65ae0f7fff4.jpg

  • digitalsheep

    I say remove minor subjects in college, like why am I still studying chemistry when it’s not even related to computers?

  • Grasya

    from my point of view, what i studied 15 years ago is mostly not applicable nowadays.. hello C, Pascal, Foxpro.. with the fast phased development of tech, i think we need students that are really dedicated in the lifelong leaning of this field.

    don’t accept students just because schools need money.

    • Wilson Chua

      Grasya, thanks for your comment. IT is so fast paced that Schools need to keep investing just to stay updated. This comes at a cost, and so to make it sustainable, they have to accept more students to cover their fees. Accept them, but you don’t HAVE to pass them if they clearly fail.

      There clearly needs to be a new business model in place. The old existing ones do not work for today’s reality.

      Maybe as what Thomas Friedman suggest in his book “Thank you for being late”, there is a need for MOOCs to deliver what he calls the “nano” degrees. These are ones that cover a fewer topics (but in depth), and take a shorter time to complete.

      Having said that, I did notice that not all students are “into” learning/studying. I see some students doing facebook, nodding off to sleep etc, when i deliver presentations on Big Data.

      So even if you can ‘lead a horse into water” you can’t force them to drink from it. Motivating the students is the first priority, I think.