Gatchalian says cybersecurity training should start in basic education

While the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is eyeing short-course training programs for cybersecurity experts and software engineers, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said developing talent for cybersecurity should start from basic education.

Considering the Philippines’ vulnerability to cybercrimes, Gatchalian pressed the importance of filling the country’s shortage of cybersecurity experts. According to DICT secretary John Ivan Uy, the Philippines has only around 200 certified cybersecurity experts compared to Singapore’s 3,000.

The lawmaker pointed out the need to increase enrollment in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strand of senior high school, where potential cybersecurity talents can be developed.

He pointed out that there were only 612,857 senior high school students enrolled under the STEM strand, which is equivalent to only 16% of senior high school enrollment.

“Even in our basic education system, where we could potentially cultivate the talent going into cybersecurity, it’s virtually non-existent,” said Gatchalian, who suggested that skills related to cybersecurity should be taught at the earliest possible opportunity.

“When it comes to coding, for example, I think it should be introduced as early as junior high school level so that students will be exposed and by the time they reach senior high school, they can actually do more complex tasks related to information technology. When they move to college, they can already specialize in various fields,” Gatchalian added.

He has filed Senate Bill No. 476 or the Equitable Access to Math and Science Education Act, which seeks to build a math and science high school in the country’s provinces.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity company Kaspersky reported that for 2021, more than 50 million Web threat attempts were foiled in the Philippines, making the country the fourth most targeted by cybercriminals. The same report revealed cyberthreats detected in the Philippines rose sharply by 433% from 2017 to 2021.

Gatchalian also emphasized how gaps in cybersecurity are harmful to the Philippine economy. In 2021, a study by technology firm Cisco revealed that 57% of small and medium-sized businesses in the country encountered a cyberattack, 73% of which lost customer information. Among these businesses, 28% said the cost to their business amounted to $500,000, while 10% reported that it cost them $1 million or more.

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