In the Philippines basic public education has recently been extended by two years to grade 11 and 12 – finally giving the poorest students the chance to study at senior high school and go on to the best universities.
Since 2010, the education budget has more than doubled, 30 000 new classrooms have been built and 43 000 new teachers hired to prepare for the effort. A bold new government voucher scheme has been introduced to allow students – where state provision isn't available - to enrol in private schools.
Vietnam caused astonishment when in 2012 it entered the PISA tests for the first time, and returned stunning results – scoring higher in maths than the U.K. and the U.S. with a ranking 17th out of 65 countries. (This from a country with a per capita GDP of only $1,600) It has invested heavily in education – making up a fifth of government spending, and shifted its curriculum away from rote learning.
But, for all the impressive progress in the region, international education rankings alone will not protect workers from the brutal forces of economic change that will sweep through the world economy over the next two decades – destroying entire job sectors, creating new ones, and demanding a constantly changing mixture of skills.
The recent Future of Jobs report published last year by the WEF Global Agenda Council on the same subject, based on a survey of executives in fifteen of the world's largest economies argues we are entering a "fourth Industrial revolution" in which over seven million white collar and administrative jobs will be destroyed through technological change in the next five years alone. New sectors – from nanotechnology to robotics to data analysis – will replace some - but not all - of these jobs.
The future economy will need strong vocational skills – which are often still treated as the poor relation to academic routes – as well as soft skills. Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of hiring at Google, says that "while good grades don't hurt" the company is looking for softer skills too: "leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn".