News & insights

  • English speakers get jobs, English proficiency attracts 21st century careers

    Which would you prefer?

    When you get a job, you get a paycheck. When you have a career, you get a series of employment opportunities, specializations, perhaps even renown. And yes, a series of bigger and bigger paychecks as you progress.

    And it can all happen because, like many Filipinos, you can speak English.

    Mark Flores

    Mark Flores, Business Development Manager, Pearson Philippines


    There are many articles on job-related mental health issues around the web. The area this article is qualified in is, to help soothe the pain points of employability and life opportunities, 21 st century Skills Qualifications.

    But because of the demands of the 21st century workplace, simply speaking English may no longer be enough to land you a job, much less a career. Just because you speak English doesn’t necessarily mean you are proficient in English. With organizations today demanding a high degree of competency or mastery of the English language, lacking this skill may affect your hireability by today’s globalized employer.

    At Pearson’s first-ever Learning Symposium in the Philippines, Ms. Shama Siddiqui, Senior Training Manager at TDS Global Solutions said “Having a workforce that is proficient in English is no longer a luxury, it is now a necessity. Apart from technical skills, it is needed in the workplace – a workplace that is expanding as globalization and technological innovation accelerates.”

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    Ms. Siddiqui further elaborates, “Business success depends on how well we do in our language competency. Why? Quite simply, companies are talking to people across the globe. It’s transcending boundaries of geography. Global expansion, productivity enhancement, workforce streamlining, efficiency improvement, employee retention -- all happen through conversations and dialogue. Through all of these, English proficiency impacts the profitability of the Organization.”



    But you may ask, why the need for proficiencies and skills qualifications in English all of a sudden? We’ve gotten this far without them in the past

    It’s because English proficiency is at the very foundation upon which all the 21 st century competencies like critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration rest on. And it’s those competencies that companies demand today.

    As Ms. Siddiqui learned from employers, “The more a person progresses in their career, they will need to engage in more and more conversations that will revolve around decision-making independently. Not being able to do so critically limits the progress of the business and that person’s own progress.”

    Pearson Asia’s Head of Qualifications and Assessment Stuart Connor explained, “English supports employability skills. When you look at those soft skills, like cultural awareness, critical thinking, and learning agility -- they funnel through English. The process of language acquisition, of learning a language and interacting with other human beings in a second or third language, actually facilitates development of these other skills. English runs as sort of a glue or DNA through all of this.”


    But wait, aren’t Filipinos known for speaking English?

    Ms. Siddiqui gave us the current data: “What we see not only in the Philippines but across the globe in most offshoring locations is that English is at an average level compared to what organizations need. On a global English proficiency study, using a scoring range from 0 to 90 (90 being the highest), The Philippines is somewhere at 59, with average scores of 58-68 for basic conversational skills; and just 53 for writing skills.”


    What does this mean for employability in the new competitive market?

    Mr. Paul Ryan Paez, Project Manager at ADEC Innovations Outsourcing and Workforce Solutions, shared his experience from the IT and BPO industries at the symposium.

    “Out of 500 graduates, only 8 were hired. And with the high standards demanded by BPO’s, only 1 out of 11 get hired, despite their proficiencies. A contributing factor is that employees only start to learn English after they graduate. ”

    A shot of caffeine to the popular notion that if you can speak English, you can easily get a job.

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    As to the population and proficiency of English speakers, Mr. Paez continued, “Only 20% of the entire population are English majors. From that, less than 50% of those English major applicants that we interview and test, do not make it. While English is spoken as a first language in key cities like Metro Manila, in the provinces, it’s taught as a second language with few opportunities to practice. And as with any skill, it atrophies when not exercised.”


    So how can Filipinos, from the cities to the provinces, be proficient in English now?

    Speaking on The Power of English Assessments, Ms. Shama Siddiqui recommended a simple yet significant step towards certifications: Automated testing.

    “All you need is an internet connection, and you can take English assessments on your desktop, laptop or mobile devices. A.I. based, using waveform and spectral analysis -- they are unbiased, accurate, far less prone to errors versus human testers, with results produced in as little as 3-5 Minutes.”

    Pearson’s courses and assessments are not only convenient. They are a badge of skills certifications sought-after by employers globally. Not only do they help you land a job, it equips you with qualifications to progress in your career and beyond. For more information on Pearson Assessments such as Versant, PTE General and PTE Academic follow this link.

    Don’t forget that you’ll be working in a 21st century workplace. How you articulate your ideas to someone halfway round the world (who may be more if not as proficient in English as you are) could be critical in your career. But with the solid foundation of English Proficiency as your core, you’ll have a head-start.

    Take it from Stuart Connor. “English is the key ingredient for a successful career. English enables communication and teamwork as a necessary factor for teams to function effectively. And if you’re certified as English Proficient, you’re more likely to be employed. You’ll have more opportunities to unlock, to progress. English is something we’re passionate about, something we’re proud of. And we’ve been involved in helping people to learn English for 269 years.”

    Learn more here.

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  • Make your own way to the 21st century workplace

    The thing about improving unemployment rates is that it’s no fun if you’re the one unemployed, whether you’re in the Philippines or elsewhere.

    But maybe you did find a job, just not the kind that translates into a career. Maybe you don’t even like that job. Maybe you can’t quit, as it’s the only thing your diploma qualifies you for. And you’re the breadwinner of the family. Windows of opportunity slam shut. Cue the “I’m trapped!” nightmares, the misery, the stress, the gateways to depression.

    There are many articles on job-related mental health issues around the web. The area this article is qualified in is, to help soothe the pain points of employability and life opportunities, 21 st century Skills Qualifications.

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    How can Skills Qualifications help me? They can be your passport to a wider range of career opportunities and upward mobility than your average diploma does.

    Recently, Pearson held its first symposium in the Philippines, focusing on How to Bridge the Skills Gap— referring to the disconnect that occurs when educational institutions do not produce graduates with the skills employers actually need.

    At the event, Pearson UK Industry Relations and Partnerships Manager, Tony Chapman shared, “Our goal is employability and progression, not just in the workplace, but for life. Pearson LCCI Qualifications are created with employers, for employers. They tell us what’s missing in their companies, and our courses produce skill-focused graduates who can fill those roles and apply those skills from the first day on the job. ”

    The acceleration of technological innovations and the need for globalization has created pain points for employers too. The more the business landscape (more like globalscape now) changes, the need for new specializations, new skill-sets, and new ways of thinking increases.

    Companies today can’t fill those needs. But their need is your opportunity. And they have many needs.

    As Mr. Chapman says: “A lot of industries are crying out for detailed, technical skills, regardless of the business sector.”

    Fortunately for you, Pearson LCCI has a wide range of skills qualifications that those industries are crying out for: Financial & Quantitative Literacy, Business Management, Data Science, Digital Marketing – just to name a few.

    Moreover, you can choose to instill in yourself the bedrock on which all 21 st century skills rest on: English Proficiency. Subscribing to the misconception “hey, you speak English, so you must be good in English” -- may just leave you disadvantaged in the new global workplace. After all, how well can you articulate your ideas to clients in 3 continents right now, accurately, concisely, and clearly – especially to someone who speaks English as a second or third language?

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    As elaborated at the symposium by Mr. Stuart Connor, the Head of Qualifications & Assessments at Pearson, “Adaptability. Cultural awareness. Decision making. Learning agility. Collaboration. Communication. Critical thinking. and English proficiency supports all these 21st century skills. Skills that make you employable.”

    But where’s your proof?

    “98% of our bachelor program students find employment within 6 to 12 months after graduation, or have started their own businesses.” said Caroline Mediodia, Programme Leader Head of Southville International School.

    “Pearson changes its curricula regularly to address the needs of the industry,'' she continues. “A mapping of the transferable employability and study skills have also evolved, and now include cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.”

    Skills Qualifications make transitions smoother -- should you decide to change careers, either by circumstance (“Yes this merger means, you’re fired”) or by choice (“my boss is slow to change/keeps promoting his family members and secretary over me”).

    Mr. Chapman said it better. “People no longer have one job for their whole life. They’re moving around, taking on new challenges. Skills Qualifications allow them to do that. Just study for 3 months and you’re ready for a new challenge. It’s a competitive market, but employers will pay you more because you have the training and applicable skills to do that job better.”

    It’s a new workplace out there. Two generations ahead from what your parents imagined. A workplace where automation and artificial intelligence replaces humans. A workplace that calls for new skills and episodic careers, if you are to thrive.

    With Pearson LCCI Qualifications, always learning, means always opening opportunities for yourself in the 21 st century.

    So, what career would you like to have today?

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  • Bridge your skills gap, Build your career

    So what is the skills gap? Let’s put it this way: Let’s say you’ve just graduated. You’ve got your diploma, and pretty pumped to get that first job. Maybe you’ve even decided where to treat your parents with your first paycheck. So you send out your resume to all those bigtime multinational companies and wait for the calls that’ll drain your phone’s battery. But no calls come. You follow up. Maybe the employer replies: “Sorry, we’re looking for a particular skill set.”

    Now let’s say, you’re one of the lucky ones few who do get hired. Only to realize on the very first day, “Wait, I don’t have the skills for this post! They didn’t teach me the skills to do this job! How long till I get fired?”

    When educators do not produce students with the focused skills sets demanded by the modern workplace, there arises a skills gap.

    “Oh no! What have I done!? All those years. The money. Wasted?”

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    First, don’t panic. It narrows the mind, not the skills gap. Second, it’s not your fault. While you were studying to get that degree, the business landscape changed at an ultra-fast pace due to technological innovations and globalization. Even now as you’re reading this, that change is accelerating.

    At Pearson Asia’s first- ever learning symposium in the Philippines, Stuart Connor, Head of Qualifications and Assessments stated: “The pace of change is increasing so fast. But in the educational space, it’s not changing as fast.”

    Speaking on the Global Employment Landscape, Mr. Connor repeated what industries are saying to educators. “You’re sending us fundamentally unemployable graduates. We’re having trouble sourcing graduates with key skills. Digital literacy, numeracy, core competencies. Not to mention 21 st century skills like adaptability, creativity, critical thinking.”

    Stuart Connor

    Stuart Connor, Head of Qualifications & Assessments

    And that’s at the current rate. Mr. Connor expressed concern for their futures. “If we’re not preparing students adequately for the skills that they’ll need to adapt to an unfathomable, unimaginable future, what will it mean for these kids who are going through this now?”

    At the same event, Paul Ryan Paez—Project Manager at ADEC Innovations quoted the futurist Ray Kurzweil: “We will see 20,000 years of progress in this century.”

    Can you imagine the number of skill-sets that will be demanded by the emerging industries at that rate of progress? And the number of candidates that won’t get hired?

    Mr. Paul Paez added: “The lack of proficiencies harm growth for business. When you look for an instructional designer or an E-learning expert, how and where do you find them? Multimedia arts? Education? IT? Currently, there is no instructional design course in the Philippines.”

    As in many places in the globe, The Filipino’s behavioral norms towards education haven’t kept up with the pace either. Parents have the best intentions, but maybe not the most updated ones.

    “The mindset of parents is, all my kid needs is a diploma to be a skilled worker.” observed Mark Flores, Pearson Asia’s Country Business Manager, Philippines. “Employers are desperately looking for the proper job candidates. And most importantly, the learners and their parents themselves are not seeing the whole value of skill qualifications.”

    As you might’ve observed, the curricula linked to those diplomas tend to be outpaced by the demands of the 21 st century workplace. The demands render those diplomas as generalized theory, as opposed to specific, applicable skills that today’s employers need.

    “Oh no! Am I going to end up as a barista?” you may be thinking. Well, there’s nothing wrong with being a barista. It’s honest work and a craft. But, if you’re a barista who’s also taking skills qualification courses, you’ll be opening up more career opportunities than there are frap flavours. Yup, this is where we segue into how Pearson can bridge the skills gap in the Philippines, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

    Pearson collaborates with employers who tell them what skills they need now and in the future. Courses and suites are then created and updated as the global business landscape changes.

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    These courses, which could be as short as 3 months, equip you with ready-to-apply focused skills and core competencies. From financial and quantitative literacy to data science, as well as the 21 st century skills we talked about earlier. All the good stuff that makes you work- ready from Day One at the office—which could be sooner than you think. Pearson LCCI graduates tend to get hired within 6 months. Employability is their core competency, after all.

    With skills qualifications, there’s reason to hope that skills-gaps and unemployment won’t be generational. Especially when educational institutions grasp their Value.

    “If we include skills qualifications in our curriculum, as part of our examinations, the employment rate increases for millions of Filipinos,” says Dr. Amalia G. Dela Cruz, Dean College of Business Administration, HRM and Tourism, University of Luzon.

    If you’re anything like the person at the start of this article, you’re not responsible for the skills gap. But you can take responsibility for your own future. Bridge your own skills-gap. Update yourself. Get skill-qualified. Become an in-demand, indispensable part of the new global Workplace.

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  • Can Your Employees Survive and Thrive in the 21st Century?

    With 21st century technology rapidly evolving, we are under immense pressure to keep up with the times. To do that, we need to constantly make the right calls. But do we have the critical thinking ability to make those important and informed decisions?

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  • Understanding learner competencies through the Global Scale of English (GSE)

    As a teacher at a language school, one of my key interests is monitoring and understanding the journey of my students’ language progress. Sometimes, it can be a little disheartening realising that perhaps my best efforts are still not enough to help students who may not be responding to the coursework. I believe that as a teacher, there must be something I can improve on which can help all my students achieve maximum progress.

    Recently, I attended a session held by Pearson on The Global Scale of English. This session discusses The Global Scale of English (GSE), a standard to measure learner’s English competencies, and the GSE Teacher Toolkit. Below, I will tell you what I’ve gained from the session.


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    What is GSE?

    The Global Scale of English, or GSE for short, is a measurement that helps teachers to measure the competencies of English learners. The GSE’s development has been based on the CEFR model. CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) has been widely used by teachers, students, schools, and publishers to standardise language competency. It can be broken down into three groups of basic users (A), independent users (B), and proficient users (C), with two levels for each ‘user group’. CEFR contains a number of ‘can-do statements’. Each level in CEFR has its own ‘can- do statements’ which learners need to achieve in order to move to the higher level.

    Below is CEFR levels and their labels:

    CEFR Levels


    Within schools, learners have a certain amount of time to complete a course and achieve ‘can-do statements’ of a CEFR level. As every learner’s ability and progress in learning is unique, not all learners progress at the same pace. Progress takes time, and each learner needs their own individual time to attain a certain level of competency.

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    In the long run, this creates a problem.

    A learner who has studied English for a long time may be assumed to belong to a particular level of CEFR (let’s say B1), but there is possibility that the learner belongs to between A2 and B1 instead. However, since the learner is placed in a B1 class, he or she needs to keep up with B1-level expectations. This can lead to difficulties for the learner in reaching maximum progress and obtaining a satisfactory learning result at the end of an English program. Up to this point, I can very much relate this scenario with some of my students.

    GSE aims to fill the gap. By quantifying each level of CEFR, GSE gives a more accurate manner of predicting learner’s competency in CEFR model. By having accurate knowledge of learner’s competency, teachers can be more precise in planning their lesson. Therefore, maximum progress of all students can take place.

    Below is a comparison between CEFR and GSE:

    GSE Tabel

    The above presents the GSE measuring table of proficiency in all language skills and levels based on the CEFR model. As we can see, there is a wide range between some CEFR levels (A2 to B1, B1 to B2, B2 to C1). Hence, a class of A2, for example, consists of learners with competency score 30 (near A1) to 42 (almost B1). GSE helps teachers in identifying the minimum and maximum point of learners’ competency, so that they can plan lessons in which no learner is left behind.


    Working with GSE

    A teacher who is planning a lesson to suit their student’s competency may consult GSE learning objectives by visiting GSE Teacher Toolkit page, . There is a GSE/CEFR scale, where buttons can be moved horizontally based on the score range intended.

    For example, if you have a class with A2 level, you can drag the left button on the scale to the minimum A2 score (30) and drag the right button to the maximum A2 score (42). See the picture below for an example:



    On the left side there is a box to choose learner type and skill. For example if we chose to combine ‘adult learners’ and ‘reading’, by clicking the ‘show results’ you will get 22 learning objectives based on order of GSE scores.



    Besides learning objectives, GSE Teacher Toolkit also provides Grammar and Vocabulary sections.



    In the Grammar section, GSE Teacher Toolkit provides downloadable activities based on the chosen grammar category.



    In the Vocabulary section, GSE Teacher Toolkit provides pronunciation with American and British accents, definitions, as well as collocation.


    All the above facilities are easily accessed and free to use. These conveniences do not only save teacher’s time and energy, but most importantly they help teachers prepare the right course materials so that their learners get opportunities to reach maximum progress.



    The Global Scale of English (GSE) provides at least four advantages for both teachers and learners:

    • Teacher obtain a better understanding of students’ individual competency. Therefore, they can prepare and adapt the right course materials in order to suit students’ needs.

    • The GSE Teacher Toolkit makes lesson planning simple, accurate, and easy to use.

    • Learners are given more opportunities to achieve maximum progress in learning English.

    • Recognised globally, GSE helps students to gain confidence in their language ability and competency acceptance.

    To learn more about the GSE Teacher’s Toolkit, please visit here.



    WINDA HAPSARI is an English teacher and teacher educator at LIA Language School, Indonesia. She has been working with a variety of learners for about two decades. She earned her master’s degree in educational psychology from Universitas Indonesia. Besides teaching, she also conducts classroom / educational research and publishes some of her works. Her recent article, which she co- authored with a colleague, titled Teaching Reading to Encourage Critical Thinking and Collaborative Work is published by Springer in early 2018. Her interest includes areas of teacher professional development, teaching language skills, and motivation.

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  • Will Artificial Intelligence Become Pearson's Competitive Advantage in Language Testing?

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer limited to science fiction novels and the imagination. As we take steps closer to a full integration of AI and processing of information it can seem unsettling not knowing how it will affect the education realm itself. How will we approach something as complex and “human” as language testing using AI? Will the emergence of AI be a positive or negative influence on the way we approach it, and will it allow us to refine the testing process itself? Pearson’s very own Director of Academic Standards and Measurement Dr Rose Clesham discussed these questions and more recently at events in Singapore.

    AI Language testing

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    Dr Chlesham’s presentation entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence: Changing the Face of Formative and Summative Assessment’ outlines how computer-based tests such as the PTE Academic are at the forefront of harnessing the transformational power of AI in language assessments.

    The event, organised by PTE Academic at the Hilton Hotel, was well attended by clients and stakeholders from universities, colleges, language schools and education agents. Presenting as a keynote speaker, Dr Clesham explores new insights and revelations on the power and potential of AI to positively influence the way language assessment is conducted. She believes in the potential for AI to improve and refine the way language assessment is conducted globally.

    When discussing AI and its integration with education, many would be unsure of its suitability with language testing due to its complexity. Dr. Clesham, whose area of research is learning assessment, revealed to the conference that she too was initially in this line of thought. After all, AI is still not considered to be a genuine replacement for human intellect, how would a computer be able to gauge and assess the nuances and rhythm of human language?


    Dr Clesham says that her views shifted as she engaged with AI and studied the applications. It was found that it was the complexity of language testing that made it a perfect fit for an AI to work with. For high stakes language testing on a global scale, there is a need for efficient, secure, and fair testing conditions which also adhere to a golden standard. Computer based tests that are facilitated through AI technology allows for these strict standards to be met, and provide every test taker to undergo the same experience.

    These issues can be avoided utilising AI. We rely on computers to perform routine tasks as they don’t get bored, they make fewer mistakes, and they are unbiased and unswayed by emotion or prejudice. By allowing AI to filter out the potential for human error we can provide more accurate test results, and in turn we can monitor the AI’s ability to give fair assessments.


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    Dr Clesham’s presentation was met with ripples of recognition and relatability throughout the presentation. One of these powerful ‘Ah-Ha’ moments came with the presentation of a side-by-side comparison of a proficient vs. non proficient speaker. The visualisation of sound wave measurements, and the explanation of the algorithm measuring fluency, accent, errors, and WPM, elicited nods of recognition and understanding from the crowd.

    Using PTE as an example, she stresses the importance of validating the AI marking engines by correlating and training them with massive inputs from expert markers. PTE Academic uses human markers as a safety net in the process; when the AI is presented with unrecognisable speaking or writing then the material referred to this safety net. This ensures that the test taker’s results are fair and balanced, and also helps to educate, validate and improve the AI marking system. In other words, if the AI is unable to process the information then expert markers step in to educate the AI.

    For those amongst the audience concerned with their roles being replaced by AI, Dr Clesham offered this advice:

    In other words, we must embrace AI and view it as a tool that will enable educators and testing to reach their full potential.

    After the talk, there was an interactive session where attendees were able to express their perspective on what they saw as either the strengths or drawbacks in using AI for language testing. The Q&A session during this time produced some useful insights, and some of the preconceptions and enduring notions that will need to be overcome in educating the market moving forward.

    We thank Dr Rose Clesham for giving us the opportunity to understand and explore this new era of education and the developments in the future for language testing.

    Written By: Gordon Vanstone, Client Relations Manager, PTE Academic

    If you would like to know more about PTE Academic please visit this site or contact me directly at

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