US Launches P1.6-B Upskill Program To Elevate Philippine Higher Education


The recent initiation of the US-Philippines Partnership for Skills, Innovation, and Lifelong Learning (Upskill) program represents a monumental leap forward in transforming the landscape of higher education in the Philippines. With a financial commitment of P1.6 billion ($30 million) over the next five years, this collaborative effort between the United States government and its Filipino counterparts aims to significantly enhance the quality, innovation, and global competitiveness of higher education institutions in the country.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons / United States Agency for International Development)

A Transformative Partnership Unveiled

The Upskill program emerged as a result of the joint announcement by Presidents Joseph Biden and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during Marcos's visit to the White House in May 2023. This collaborative initiative targets key pillars of higher education, focusing on innovation, workforce development, and entrepreneurship within Philippine colleges and universities.

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The partnership brings together a consortium of leading US universities, including Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, under the leadership of RTI International. Adding to the collaborative effort are prominent Philippine partners such as and the Philippine Business for Education, reinforcing the shared commitment to driving positive change in the higher education landscape.

Strategic Implementation for Holistic Impact

The Upskill program sets a strategic agenda to uplift higher education institutions in the Philippines by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. This involves multifaceted interventions, including faculty and staff training, curriculum enhancements, and a heightened focus on community outreach and technology transfer. By integrating these efforts, the program aspires to not only elevate the qualifications of graduates but also enhance their career prospects, ensuring they are well-equipped to meet the dynamic demands of the evolving workforce.

Sara Borodin, USAid Deputy Assistant Administrator for East Asia and the Pacific, emphasized the timeliness of this program, highlighting the challenges and opportunities that confront the younger generation in today's workplace. Borodin stressed the critical role of college education in shaping the future success of individuals and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States government to collaborate closely with Filipino partners in transforming the higher education sector.

Empowering Institutions for Continuous Innovation

Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Executive Director Cinderella Filipina Benitez-Jaro expressed her optimism about the Upskill program, emphasizing the unique opportunities it offers to colleges and universities. This collaboration empowers educational institutions in the Philippines to embark on a journey of continuous innovation, aligning their strategies with the aspirations of the nation and its students. Benitez-Jaro highlighted the program's potential to demonstrate the compelling value of internationally recognized training, cooperative research, and lifelong learning modalities within the Philippine higher education landscape.

The launch of the US-Philippines Partnership for Skills, Innovation, and Lifelong Learning (Upskill) program signifies more than just a financial commitment-it marks a transformative collaboration that holds the promise of reshaping the higher education narrative in the Philippines. By addressing critical areas of innovation and entrepreneurship, this initiative sets the stage for a more competitive, responsive, and globally relevant higher education sector in the country. The strategic implementation of the Upskill program is poised to leave a lasting impact, contributing to the development of a skilled and adaptive workforce that meets the challenges of the 21st-century global economy.

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