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Family ties and peso signs: Challenges for career counseling in the Philippines.

The article's 1st section provides an overview of the historical development of career counseling in the Philippines from an economic-political perspective. The 2nd section raises current challenges and concerns, highlighting the need for a career counseling model that would address, among other things, Filipinos' valued characteristics of close family ties and desire for economic progress.


Like many other aspects of Filipino life, the development of psychology and guidance in the Philippines bears heavy traces of U.S. influence. This is probably the result of years under U.S. colonial rule, with English as the medium of instruction facilitating the "Americanization" of the Filipinos. The development of career counseling, in particular, just like its U.S. counterpart, is interwoven with the growth of psychology and the guidance movement in the schools.

Historical Perspective

Career counseling in the Philippines can best be understood from an economic-political perspective (Pope, 2000) and in light of Filipino cultural traditions. Its evolution can be divided into five periods, roughly corresponding to stages in the nation's political history.

First Period (1913-1934): Occupational Information

The first reference to vocational guidance in the Philippines can be found in the 1913 report of the Bureau of Public Schools, which stressed the need to collect information about employment opportunities in different industries. From 1926 to 1930, teachers made available to pupils numerous materials for occupational and educational guidance. In 1933, the Rotary Club of Manila helped finance the publication of reference materials on various trades and professions (Abiva, 1991). Limited and informal guidance services were then being offered by only two colleges in Manila (starting in the 1920s). Toward the end of this period (1932), the University of the Philippines established a psychological clinic-the first in the country (Ros, 1965).

The focus on occupational information at that time could be seen in the context of the varied employment prospects brought about by the economic climate created during the U.S. colonial period. The economic depression in the 1930s further bolstered the need to disseminate such information.

Second Period (1935-1945): Guidance and Counseling Services in the Schools

The second period saw the growth of guidance and counseling services in public and private high schools-first in Manila and later in the provinces. Deans of boys and deans of girls were assigned to help students with disciplinary, academic, vocational, and emotional problems (Salazar-Clemena, 1993).

This growth of school guidance and counseling programs was not accompanied, however, by appropriate training of the designated counselors. It was only in 1945, a year before the Philippines regained its independence, that the first Guidance Institute was conducted by army psychologists from the United States (Ordonez, 1985).

This 10-year transition period before the Philippines became a fully independent republic included the Japanese Occupation (1941-1945). With some schools being closed for part of this time, guidance services naturally were also suspended. Even when schools were allowed to reopen, many students and teachers did not come back because of the economic conditions (Laconico-Buenaventura, 1993-1994).

Third Period (1946-1969): Counselor Training and Professional Organizations

The postwar period emphasized counselor training and ushered in the birth of organized professional associations. Seminars were conducted for teachers who had been assigned, without the requisite preparation, guidance tasks. Resource persons for these seminars included visiting UN and Fulbright professors (Ros, 1965). At approximately the same time, teachers and school officials were being sent to the United States to take courses in guidance and observe school guidance programs (SalazarClemena, 1993).

Formal degree programs in counselor education began at the graduate level in the mid-1950s. Later, guidance was introduced as a field of specialization at the undergraduate level as well. Ros (1965), analyzing the program descriptions of 31 graduate schools offering a master's degree in education (with a major in guidance), found that 68% of these programs included a course in Vocational Guidance.

The guidance movement in the schools gained further impetus when a Joint Congressional Committee on Education mandated in 1951 that guidance and counseling programs should assist students with career choices, personal difficulties, school and home tasks, job placement, and initial work adjustment (Salazar-Clemena, 1993).

Although the Guidance Association of the Philippines, the first formal organization of Filipino counselors, had been established in 1945 as an offshoot of the first Guidance Institute, and another organization, the Philippine Association of Guidance Counselors, had been formed in 1953, it was the founding of the Philippine Guidance and Personnel Association (PGPA; now known as the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association [PGCA]) in 1965 that spurred the improvement of standards of guidance and personnel work (Salazar-Clemena, 1993).

The PGPA was born at a time when experts were observing an "imbalance of man-power training and man-power need" (Bernardino, 1965, pp. 3-4) and "a great number of unemployed with college degrees" (Limcaco, 1965, p. 8). Counselors were, therefore, challenged "to prepare students in careers that will give them satisfaction, financial security, and employment after completing their studies" (Bernardino, 1965, p. 4).

Fourth Period (1970-1986): Intensified Career Guidance Efforts

The fourth period was marked by increased attention to career guidance, in general, and to career information and tests, in particular. The observation earlier mentioned by Bernardino (1965) was reiterated in the 1970 report of the Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education (PCSPE) that found a mismatch between students' college courses and the training required by the world of work (Santamaria, 1979). The PCSPE further reported that most high school graduates applied for admission into college degree programs, regardless of their qualifications or the job opportunities that would be later available to them. This was perceived as being a reflection of the high value Filipinos placed on a college education; a college diploma was viewed as a means to achieve social and economic mobility (Santamaria, 1979). Few high school students were seeking entrance into the mechanical, electrical, chemical, agricultural, and fisheries fields, where there was a high demand for human resources. On the other hand, many of those who opted for professional degree programs did not have the requisite abilities.

The PCSPE report stimulated the growth spurt of career guidance in the country. On the basis of its recommendations, the government initiated the following steps: (a) the introduction of weekly 1-hour homeroom guidance periods, with emphasis on career development, in all elementary and secondary schools; (b) the institution of the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) as a basis for students' admission into professional degree programs in college; (c) the development and maintenance of "a responsive vocational guidance and testing system in aid of human resources allocation" (Presidential Decree 1412, as cited in Santamaria, 1979, p. 7) by the Bureau of Employment Services; and (d) the delineation of two major thrusts by the National Manpower and Youth Council (NMYC; now incorporated into the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority): skills training and vocational guidance for out-of-school youth (Santamaria, 1979).

The private sector also responded to the PCSPE-identified needs. De La Salle University (DLSU, then known as De La Salle College) launched two projects in cooperation with the NMYC and some private foundations and industrial firms: one that aimed to develop career monographs and audiovisual materials (Salazar, 1986) and another that sought to develop a multiaptitude test battery that was patterned after the General Aptitude Test Battery (Salazar, 1977). The Rotary Club of Manila, on the other hand, again came into the picture as a publisher of career information books.

The emergence of a movement to explore indigenous psychological concepts and methods inspired attempts to develop psychological tests and other assessment instruments that were suitable for Filipinos. Many such efforts came from thesis and dissertation writers, mainly in the form of developing local norms, translating English texts to Filipino or making adaptations using local situations and scenes (Almonte, as cited in Evangelista, 1990). Continuing efforts on a larger scale, however, came from the Center for Educational Measurement (CEM), which has produced, among others, the Philippine Aptitude Classification Test and the Philippine Occupational Interest Survey (CEM, 1997-1998).

Many of these locally developed instruments (e.g., measures of aptitude and interest) were patterned after their Western counterparts, using what is called the "apples to bananas" approach (i.e., changing foreign names to local names). Others, however, particularly in the areas of personality and values, resulted from attempts to "'indigenize from within"' (Evangelista, 1990, p. 13), starting with the operationalization of constructs and theories within the cultural context.

This intensified focus on career guidance and counseling took place alongside organized moves to provide specialized training for counselors in this area. In 1973, the PGPA prepared a career education handbook for use by teachers and counselors in helping students, now exposed to a revised work-oriented curriculum, plan their careers. This career/ vocational guidance emphasis was further pursued in the PGPA annual conventions of 1973 and 1974.

Formal training through graduate courses in career counseling was initiated, based partly on models derived from the United States (J. O. Santamaria, personal communication, October 1999). By 1985, half of 16 master's-level counselor education programs were offering Career Counseling or Vocational and Adult Guidance as a major subject or as an elective (Salazar, 1987).

Another landmark in the development of career guidance and counseling during this period was the establishment in 1977 of the Philippine Vocational Guidance Association (later renamed the Philippine Association for Career Guidance and Development [PHICGUIDE], and now known as the Career Development Association of the Philippines [CDAP]). The organization sought to professionalize the practice of career guidance and counseling in the country. It also tried to involve human resource development (HRD) practitioners from the government and industrial sectors. In 1980, it hosted the 10th World Congress--the first in Asia--of the International Association of Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG).

International linkages continued after this, with the Philippines again playing host a year later to a conference on career counseling organized by the Asian Women's Institute, a consortium of Asian women's Christian colleges. The assembly, funded by the Asia Foundation and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, brought together women educators from Asia and the United States. Collaborative efforts eventually led to the formulation of an Asian model of career services (Phailbus, 1985), discussed in the book Women and Work in Asia and its companion volume Aspirations: A Career Planning Handbook for the New Asian Woman (Quisumbing & Lazarus, 1985a, 1985b). The Asia Foundation also supported the establishment of the Center for Women's Studies and Development in Silliman University, Dumaguete City, in the Philippines.

In 1982, the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports launched the Technical and Vocational Education Project in cooperation with De La Salle University. The project established a Center for Counselor Training in Career Counseling, which was tasked to train career counselors for technician education institutes and to develop a Technician Careers Information Handbook (Salazar, 1986).

All of these developments took place while the country was under the Marcos dictatorship (and even after he ostensibly lifted martial law in 1981). The monopolies he established extracted billions from the Philippine economy, leaving the country poorer in 1986, when he was ousted, than when he first took office in 1965. In addition, tariff protection and an overvalued peso hindered growth and depressed employment (Arroyo, 1998). A Higher Education and Labor Market Study (HELMS I; Sanyal, Perfecto, & Arcelo, 1981) conducted during this period pointed out the overqualification of many employees and the export of trained human resources overseas.

Fifth Period (1987--Present): Expanded Career Counseling Services

The restoration of democracy buoyed up hopes for economic progress. Fifteen years since then, however, the problems of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, and rapid population growth remain. These conditions have led to the rising number of Filipinos working overseas to seek the proverbial greener pastures. At the same time, developments brought about by globalization and the information age have led the corporate world toward reengineering, resulting in many workers being displaced or made to opt for early retirement.

These conditions have contributed to the expansion of career counseling services outside the school setting. As part of their organizational development and human resource development programs, an increasing number of companies now provide career counseling services to their personnel. In addition, the prospects of overseas employment have encouraged many individuals to establish private placement and career services centers, emphasize psychological testing and job placement. Government run skills training centers also provide career guidance services through information dissemination, client assessment, counseling, and placement/self-employment assistance. Schools continue to offer career guidance services (counseling, testing, and information), this time aided by online career information sources.

Current Concerns and Challenges

Given this historical perspective and the present sociopolitical conditions in the country, career counselors now face a number of concerns and challenges.


Surveys among guidance counselors conducted 17 years apart (SalazarClemena, 1992; Santamaria, 1975) have revealed that career-related problems of Filipino students remain largely unchanged. These include concerns that may be categorized as sociological (no choice, uncertain choice, or unwise choice, based chiefly on sociocultural expectations), psychological (lack of information, low self-worth); and general (problems of skill; Crites, 1969). The later sample added the following concerns: lack of interest in anything, and lack of matching between interest, on the one hand and academic performance and work opportunities, on the other hand.


These concerns and other prevailing conditions pose several challenges for career counseling in the Philippines today.

Family ties and peso signs. The matter of choosing a career in the Philippine setting is clearly a family affair. Most studies on career choice (Suba, in press) reveal the crucial role of parental influence in the career choices of Filipino adolescents. This reflects the high value Filipinos place on close family ties, to the point of making sacrifices for the family welfare (Go, 1994). For the vast majority, who pin their desire for economic improvement (another valued characteristic; Church, 1986) on a son or daughter's completion of a degree, this often means arriving at career choices for their children, regardless of the factors considered by person--environment fit theories. The primary consideration of many a parent becomes "What college education can we afford that can make you finish quickly, get a job, and start helping with family finances?" In other words, their concern is not finding guideposts in a career path, but peso signs that would lead them out of poverty. In a country in which quality edu cation is, for the most part, inaccessible to the poor, this approach results in students getting into low-quality schools or programs that will not give them a competitive edge in the labor market. The options open to such people cannot be too many, notwithstanding the continuing preference for white-collar jobs. This situation raises a challenge for career counselors who work on the Western-based assumption "that individuals are able to economically afford choice" (Gysbers, Heppner, & Johnston, 1998, p. 34).

Employability. Studies done in different periods of career counseling in the Philippines (e.g., Agana, 1982; Cunanan, 1968; Salazar-Clemena, 1992; Tritz, de Blanco, & Pagaduan, 1965) show common reasons for the curricular choices of college and high school students: interest in the field, opportunity for employment, personal or family welfare, financial returns, and influence of role models (mostly family members). Other factors that emerged in more recent studies include prestige, admiration, status, ability, influence of media (Osdeg, Salvilla, & Sinajon, as cited in Salazar-Glemena, 1992), security, peer and family (other than parents) influence, and opportunity to go abroad (Salazar-Clemena, 1992).

Given the continuing mismatch between training and employment, the employability of graduates who choose to enter fields that have a low demand is another challenge. In dealing with it, career counselors will have to take into account the family's values, their (mis)perceptions of employment opportunities, and the importance they place on economic factors in career decision making. This will probably mean helping families see "peso signs" in roads that are vital to the country but where the majority of students had previously feared to tread or where roadblocks due to stereotyping had been set up.

Appropriateness of career counseling models. As it was in the U.S., the term vocational guidance was used earlier in the history of career counseling in the Philippines. By 1972, vocation had been replaced for the most part by the term career (J. O. Santamaria, personal communication, October 1999), viewed more broadly now to mean the course of one's life as reflected in one's choices and decisions with regard to work, education or training, and lifestyle (Santamaria, 1993).

Career development, vocational development, and occupational development, on the other hand, are used interchangeably and refer to

a life-long process of developing/refining attitudes, beliefs and values, skills and abilities, interests, personality traits or behaviors; discovering aptitudes; and acquiring knowledge about the world of work so that a person can make decisions at every stage of her [or his] life and commit herself [or himself] to implement them. (Santamaria, 1993, p. 18)

This concept seems to be based, for the most part, on Super's (1957) model. Super's (1957) model was also the basis of works that focused on women (e.g., Villarosa, 1987; Ybanez, 1985). Villarosa, however, likewise used the career choice theories of Holland (1959) and Roe (1956) as well as Lofquist and Dawis's (1969) Theory of Work Adjustment (TWA). The TWA similarly formed the basis of Salazar's (1981) study on the satisfaction and satisfactoriness of counselor training graduates, which provided evidence for the cross-cultural validity of the model.

Three surveys (Villar, 1997) have shown that many Filipino counselors are familiar with the Trait-and-Factor Theory (Williamson, 1950) but use it to a moderate extent. It is, however, one of the most widely misunderstood and misused models; many counselors equate it with simple advice giving (being "directive"). Furthermore, it seems that most practitioners and even counselor educators are not aware of the evolution of trait-and-factor counseling into person-environment correspondence/fit counseling (Chartrand, Lofquist, & Dawis; Rounds & Tracey, as cited in Swanson, 1996). There is, in fact, the misconception that the trait-and-factor approach seems "to encourage the expectation that accurate information about the individual ... can only be obtained by having him [or her] take a battery of standardized tests" (Santamaria, 1975, p. 44). As Brown (as cited in Swanson, 1996) stated, "Williamson never advocated a test-and-tell approach or a simplified approach" (pp. 98-99).

Another model that is popular among Filipino counselors is Walz's Life/Career Development System (Walz & Benjamin, 1983). This can be probably explained by their exposure to workshops on this topic organized by the Philippine Association for Career Guidance and Development (PHICGUIDE, 1988; Santamaria, 1979). This model is used in schools as well as in companies, particularly in those undergoing reengineering (Villar, 1998).

Studies on the effectiveness of career guidance/counseling programs have been based on theories of Super, Tiedeman and O'Hara, Holland, Gellatt, and others (Suba, in press). Suba's (1996/1997) study used the career counseling models of Brown and Brooks (1991) and McDaniels and Gysbers (1992).

The popularity of the aforementioned models among Filipino counselors basically reflects the ease with which practitioners take to ideas and approaches that are learned abroad or are brought in by foreign experts. These approaches, however, seem to focus on individuals making choices by themselves and for themselves. This is a basic tenet of Western psychological theories. The Filipino concept of self, however, is rooted in kapwa, "a recognition of 'shared identity"' (Enriquez, 1993-1994, p. 8), a self in relation to others (Salazar-Clemena, 1997). It may, therefore, be necessary to create alternative paradigms that will factor in this core cultural value. One option may be to develop a family career counseling approach that will highlight "family ties" and enable the family, as a system, to consider from a broader perspective the "peso signs" and other factors important in decision making. The significance of this family system orientation has been recognized in career counseling literature (Benjamin, 1992) .

Santamaria (1993) offered a five-stage model for career counseling in the Philippines. Defined as "the process of helping a person understand herself [or himself] and the situation, identify options, make choices from among these options, and implement her [or his] decisions" (p. 19), career counseling covers the following stages: self-expression, self-understanding, decision, goal setting/action planning, and follow-up (Santamaria, 1993). The model, suggested for use in both individual and group counseling, in school and industrial settings, is "a composite or synthesis of a number of approaches, particularly the behavioral and client-centered approaches" (Santamaria, 1975, p. 41). Surveys have shown that the latter approach is known and used by Filipino counselors to a great extent, the former only to a moderate extent (Villar, 1997). The eclecticism in Santamaria's model may appeal to many practitioners because the eclectic approach is, in fact, a strategy reportedly used by counselors in the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels of education (Salazar-Clemena, 1993). The model fails to point out, however, how the sociocultural context of career decision making will be made. This might be the reason that Santamaria (1975) offered it as a starting point, with the invitation for counselors to modify the suggested techniques when necessary.

Career development focus. Despite the accepted view of career development as a lifelong process that involves not only decisions about the world of work but also other choices at every life stage, much of the research and practice in the Philippines has focused on helping individuals take steps toward a school-to-work transition. Thus, greater attention has been given to high school students who are contemplating postsecondary education with a view toward potential careers. Not much has been done for other populations across the life span and in various circumstances, such as out-of-school youth, child laborers, women, physically disabled individuals, employed adults, unemployed adults, overseas workers, those in midlife transitions, workers eligible to retire, and retirees. Neither has there been much interest in career aspects other than work (e.g., way or style of life, state of life, leisure activities). These gaps certainly deserve to be filled in.

Research. Because the major career development theories "are based on small samples of White, middle-class males" (Herr & Cramer, as cited in Arbona, 1990, p. 301), there is a need for further research that can lead to a better understanding of the career development of Filipinos and help them make better career choices and life adjustments. Such studies and, eventually, models and approaches must consider the nature of Filipinos' career-related problems, factors influencing their decision making, and change patterns in their career choice. Present data seem to suggest that these will have to be explained not only psychologically but also economically (i.e., peso signs), and socioculturally (e.g., close family ties) as well. Among the major extant theories, it seems that two models have the flexibility and adaptability to incorporate the economic, sociological, cultural, and psychological career concerns of Filipinos: the person--environment fit orientation (Swanson, 1996) and Super's stage theory (Fouad &Ar bona, 1994).

An ongoing survey points to the extensive use by counseling practitioners of U.S.-made assessment tools (I. Coronel, personal communication, November 5, 1999). The cross-cultural validity of such tests should be evaluated on the basis of criteria suggested by Paniagua (as cited in Gysbers et al., 1998). At the same time, there is a need to develop more indigenous instruments to measure aspirations, interests, choice, motivation, success, satisfaction, maturity, and work values, among others, and more materials for career guidance and counseling. Already, there are locally developed instruments such as the Career Exploration Inventory (Santamaria, 1980), the Sales Orientation Survey, and the Trait Survey (Asian Psychological Services and Assessment Corporation, n.d.), and the Filipino Work Values Inventory (Cervera, 1987). There are also materials such as Women and Career Development: Focus on Life Roles (Ybanez, 1985), a Photo Career Discovery Kit (Abiva, 1991), and a selfhelp workbook (Barcelon, 1992), but t hese are not sufficient. As the number of career alternatives in an era of globalization increases, there is likewise a need to develop updated career information materials.

Cultural diversity. Although some general Filipino characteristics have been discussed in this article, it must be remembered that Filipinos are not a homogeneous unit. Like other cultural groups, Filipinos are not monolithic in their orientations in life. Their worldviews, which can be described as having several elements--optimistic as well as fatalistic; theocentric, but also egocentric and other-centered; proactive and purposive; person-centered and situation-centered; affective and cognitive; material, spiritual, and transpersonal (Salazar-Clemena, 1993, l997)--will certainly lead to various career perspectives. The ultimate challenge, then, seems to be the development of a culture-sensitive career counseling model that will address this cultural diversity.


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Rose Marie Salazar-Clemena is a professor in the Counselor Education Department at De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. The author thanks Allan B. I. Bernardo, Thomas Kallooka ran, Josefina O. Santamaria, and Roberto G. Clemena for their assistance. Correspondence regarding this article should he sent to Rose Marie Salazar-Clemena, Counselor Education Department, De La Salle University, 2401 Taft Avenue, Manila 1004, Philippines (e-mail:
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Author:Salazar-Clemena, Rose Marie
Publication:Career Development Quarterly
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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