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During the period of colonialization by the United States, Education in the Philippines changed radically, modelled on the system of Education in the United States of the time. After the Second World War, changes in the US system were no longer automatically reflected in the Philippines, which has since moved in various directions of its own.

Filipino children may enter public school at about age four, starting from Nursery up to Kindergarten. At about seven years of age, children enter elementary school (6 to 7 years). This may be followed by secondary school (4 years). Students may then sit for College Entrance Examinations (CEE), after which they may enter tertiary institutions (3 to 5 years). Other types of schools do exist, such as Private schools, Preparatory schools, International schools, Laboratory High Schools and Science High Schools. Several ethnic groups, including Chinese, British, Americans, and Japanese operate their own schools.

Elementary schooling is compulsory, but 24% of Filipinos of the relevant age group do not attend, usually due to absence of any school in their area, education being offered in foreign languages only, or financial distress. In July 2009 DepEd acted to overcome the foreign language problem by ordering all elementary schools to move towards mother-tongue based learning initially. The order allows two alternative three-year bridging plans. Depending on the bridging plan adopted, the Filipino and English languages are to be phased in as the language of instruction for other subjects beginning in the third and fourth grades.[1]

Secondary schooling is recommended, but is not compulsory, and is of four years duration only.

The school year in the Philippines starts in June of one year and ends in March of the next, with a two-month summer break for April and May, one week of semestral break (the last week of October), and a week or two of Christmas break.

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Demographics of the Philippines

        Palawan tribes

  South Asians

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Life in the Philippines
Higher Education
Martial Arts
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In 2005, the Philippines spent only about US$138 per pupil compared to US$1,582 in Singapore, US$3,728 in Japan, and US$852 in Thailand.[2]

Concerning the standard of education in the Philippines, in June 2009 the president of the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) cited the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) lamenting 'a continuing decline in the quality of education in this country'.[3] He said this was due to four main factors: 'a) mismanagement of the educational system, b) not investing wisely in education, c) lack of management competencies, d) systemic corruption'.[3]

Another reason why the Philippines is not a major supplier of tertiary education for overseas students in the region is because three semesters of each eight semester bachelor degree are required to be completely devoted to government mandated subjects. These mandated subjects include the life and works of Filipino national hero Dr Jose Rizal, three subjects of Filipino language, and basic mathematics, science, and Filipino cultural subjects [3] more appropriate for senior high school than for tertiary level.


History and development


Earlier times

In pre-Spanish times, education was informal, unstructured, and devoid of methods. Children were provided more vocational training and less academics (3 Rs) by their parents and in the houses of tribal tutors.

Spanish period

Major changes in education system happened during the Spanish colonization. The tribal tutors were replaced by the Spanish Missionaries. Education was religion-oriented. It was for the elite, especially in the early years of Spanish colonization. Access to education by the Filipinos was later liberalized through the enactment of the Educational Decree of 1863 which provided for the establishment of at least one primary school for boys and girls in each town under the responsibility of the municipal government; and the establishment of a normal school for male teachers under the supervision of the Jesuits. Primary instruction was free and the teaching of Spanish was compulsory. Education during that period was inadequate, suppressed, and controlled. By 1898, enrollment in schools at all levels exceeded 200,000 students.[4]

First Republic

The defeat of Spain by American forces paved the way for Aguinaldo's Republic under a Revolutionary Government. The schools maintained by Spain for more than three centuries were closed for the time being but were reopened on August 29, 1898 by the Secretary of Interior. The Burgos Institute in Malolos, the Military Academy of Malolos, and the Literary University of the Philippines were established. A system of free and compulsory elementary education was established by the Malolos Constitution.

American period

An adequate secularized and free public school system was established during the first decade of American rule upon the recommendation of the Schurman Commission. Free primary instruction that trained the people for the duties of citizenship and avocation was enforced by the Taft Commission per instructions of President William McKinley. Chaplains and non-commissioned officers were assigned to teach using English as the medium of instruction.

A highly centralized public school system was installed in 1901 by the Philippine Commission by virtue of Act No. 74. The implementation of this Act created a heavy shortage of teachers so the Philippine Commission authorized the Secretary of Public Instruction to bring to the Philippines more than 1,000 teachers from the United States called the Thomasites between 1901 to 1902. These teachers were scattered throughout the islands to establish barangay schools.[4] The same law established the Philippine Normal School (now the Philippine Normal University) to train Filipino teachers for the public schools.

The high school system supported by provincial governments, special educational institutions, school of arts and trades, an agricultural school, and commerce and marine institutes were established in 1902 by the Philippine Commission. In 1908, the Philippine Legislature approved Act No. 1870 which created the University of the Philippines. The Reorganization Act of 1916 provided the Filipinization of all department secretaries except the Secretary of Public Instruction.[5]

Two decades later, enrollment in elementary schools was about 1 million from a total of 150,000 students in 1901.[4]

Japanese occupation

Japanese educational policies were embodied in Military Order No. 2 in 1942. The Philippine Executive Commission established the Commission of Education, Health and Public Welfare and schools were reopened in June 1942. On October 14, 1943, the Japanese- sponsored Republic created the Ministry of Education. Under the Japanese regime, the teaching of Tagalog, Philippine History, and Character Education was reserved for Filipinos. Love for work and dignity of labor was emphasized. On February 27, 1945, the Department of Instruction was made part of the Department of Public Instruction.

After World War II

In 1947, by virtue of Executive Order No. 94, the Department of Instruction was changed to Department of Education. During this period, the regulation and supervision of public and private schools belonged to the Bureau of Public and Private Schools.

Marcos era

In 1972, the Department of Education became the Department of Education and Culture by Proclamation 1081.

Following a referendum of all barangays in the Philippines from 10–15 January 1973, on 17 January 1973 President Marcos ratified the 1973 Constitution by Proclamation 1102. The 1973 Constitution set out the three fundamental aims of education in the Philippines, to:

  • foster love of country;
  • teach the duties of citizenship; and
  • develop moral character, self discipline, and scientific, technological and vocational efficiency.[6]

On 24 September 1972, by PD No 1, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports was decentralized with decision-making shared among thirteen regional offices.[7]

In 1978, by PD No 1397, the Department of Education and Culture became the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The Education Act of 1982 provided for an integrated system of education covering both formal and nonformal education at all levels. Section 29 of the Act sought to upgrade education institutions' standards to achieve quality education, through voluntary accreditation for schools, colleges, and universities. Sections 16 & 17 upgraded the obligations and qualifications required for teachers and administrators. Section 41 provided for government financial assistance to private schools.[8] The Act also created the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.

Fifth Republic

On 2 February 1987, a new Constitution for the Philippines was ratified. Section 3, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution contains the ten fundamental aims of education in the Philippines.[9]

In 1987 by virtue of Executive Order No. 117, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, became the Department of Education, Culture and Sports . The structure of DECS as embodied in EO No. 117 remained practically unchanged until 1994.

On 26 May 1988 Congress enacted Republic Act 6655, the Free Public Secondary Education Act of 1988, which manndated free public secondary education commencing in the school year 1988-1989.[10][11] On 26 May 1988 Congress enacted RA 6655 which made free public secondary education to become a reality.[10]

On 3 February 1992, Congress enacted Republic Act 7323, which provided that students aged 15 to 25 may be employed during summer or Christmas vacation with a salary not lower than the minimum wage. 60% of the wage is to be paid by the employer and 40% by the government.[10][12] On 3 February 1992, Congress enacted RA 7323 which provided that students aged 15 to 25 may be employed during summer or Christmas vacation with a salary not lower than the minimum wage. 60% of the wage is to be paid by the employer and 40% by the government.[10]

The Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) report of 1991 recommended the division of DECS into three parts. On 18 May 1994, Congress passed Republic Act 7722, the Higher Education Act of 1994, creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which assumed the functions of the Bureau of Higher Education, and supervises tertiary degree programs.[13] On 25 August 1994, Congress passed Republic Act 7796, the Technical Education and Skills Development Act of 1994, creating the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which absorbed the Bureau of Technical-Vocational Education plus the National Manpower and Youth Council, and supervises non-degree technical-vocational programs.[14] DECS retained responsibility for all elementary and secondary education.[10] This threefold division became known as the trifocal system of education in the Philippines.

The trifocal education system of the Philippines

In August 2001, Republic Act 9155, otherwise called the Governance of Basic Education Act, was passed transforming the name of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) to the Department of Education (DepEd) and redefining the role of field offices (regional offices, division offices, district offices and schools). RA 9155 provides the overall framework for (i) school head empowerment by strengthening their leadership roles and (ii) school-based management within the context of transparency and local accountability. The goal of basic education is to provide the school age population and young adults with skills, knowledge, and values to become caring, self-reliant, productive and patriotic citizens.[5]

In January 2009, DepEd signed a memorandum of agreement with the United States Agency for International Development to seal $86 million assistance to Philippine education, particularly the access to quality education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the Western and Central Mindanao regions.[15]

Levels of education

Level/Grade Typical age
Various optional programs Under 6
Nursery 1-4
Kindergarten 4-7
Preparatory 5-6
Elementary School
1st Grade 6–7
2nd Grade 7–8
3rd Grade 8–9
4th Grade 9–10
5th Grade 10–11
6th Grade 11–12
7th Grade (in some schools) 12-13
High school
1st year high school (Freshman) 12-14
2nd year high school (Sophomore) 13-15
3rd year high school (Junior) 14-16
4th year high school (Senior) 15–17
Post-secondary education
Tertiary education (College or University) Ages vary (usually four years,
referred to as Freshman,
Sophomore, Junior and
Senior years)
Vocational education Ages vary
Graduate education
Adult education

Primary school

Upper Uma Elementary School, Pasil Valley, Upper Kalinga, viewed from Ag-gama track, July 2008. Note distance from road (centre left).
Only access from roadside (mid centre) to Upper Uma Elementary School Kalinga (behind) is via this one hour mud climb. Viewed December 2008.
Philippine Science High School, Main Campus, Quezon City. Note the disparity between rural and urban education facilities in the Philippines.
Xavier Hall, administration building - Ateneo de Manila University
Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila main campus at Intramuros district
Silliman Hall, Silliman University
U.P. Diliman (Quezon Hall) - the flagship university of the U.P.'s seven universities
Main building façade, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

Primary school is also called Elementary school (Filipino: Mababang Paaralan). It consists of six levels, with some schools adding an additional level (level 7). The levels are grouped into two primary subdivisions, Primary-level, which includes the first three levels, and Intermediate-level, which includes the last three or four levels.

Primary education in the Philippines covers a wide curriculum. The core subjects (major subjects) include Mathematics, Sciences, English, Filipino (the Filipino language), and Makabayan (Social Studies, Livelihood Education, Values). Other subjects include Music, Arts, and Physical Education. Starting at the third level, Science becomes an integral part of the core subjects. On December 2007, Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced that Spanish is to make a return as a mandatory subject in all Filipino schools starting in 2008.[16][17] That announcement has not yet come into effect. In private schools, subjects include Mathematics, English, Science, Social Studies, Basic Computer, Filipino, Music, Arts and Technology, Home Economics, Health, Physical Education, and in Catholic schools, Religion or Christian Living. International schools and Chinese schools have additional subjects, especially in their language and culture.

DECS Bilingual Policy is for the medium of instruction to be Filipino for: Filipino, Araling Panlipunan, Edukasyong Pangkatawan, Kalusugan at Musika; and English for: English, Science and Technology, Home Economics and Livelihood Education.[18] Article XIV, Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine constitution mandates that regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.[19] As a result, the language actually used in teaching is often a polyglot of Filipino and English with the regional language as the foundation, or rarely the local language. Filipino is based on Tagalog, so in Tagalog areas (including Manila), Filipino is the foundational language used. Philippine regional languages are also used outside Manila in the teaching of Makabayan. International English language schools use English as the foundational language. Chinese schools add two language subjects, such as Min Nan Chinese and Mandarin Chinese and may use English or Chinese as the foundational language. The constitution mandates that Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis. Following on this, a few private schools mainly catering to the elite include Spanish in their curriculum. Arabic is taught in Islamic schools.[19] Primary-level students generally graduate with a knowledge of two or three languages, although most primary school graduates in Manila cannot speak English.

Until 2004, primary students traditionally sat for the National Elementary Achievement Test (NEAT) administered by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS). It was intended as a measure of a school's competence, and not as a predictor of student aptitude or success in Secondary school. Hence, the scores obtained by students in the NEAT were not used as a basis for their admission into Secondary school. During 2004, when DECS was officially converted into the Department of Education (DepEd), and also, as a result of some reorganization, the NEAT was changed to National Achievement Test (NAT) by the Department of Education (DepEd). Both the public and private elementary schools take this exam to measure a school's competency. As of 2006, only private schools have entrance examinations for Secondary school.

DepEd expects over 13.1 million elementary students in public elementary schools for school year 2009-1010.[20]

Secondary education

Secondary education in the Philippines is largely based on the American schooling system as it was until the advent of the comprehensive high schools in the US in the middle of last century. The Philippines high school system (Filipino: Mataas na Paaralan) has not moved much from where it was when the Philippines achieved independence from the US in 1946. It still consists of only four levels with each level partially compartmentalized, focusing on a particular theme or content.

DepEd specifies a compulsory curriculum for all high schooling, public and private. The first year of high school has five core subjects, Algebra I, Integrated Science, English I, Filipino I, and Philippine History I. Second year has Algebra II, Biology, English II, Filipino II, and Asian History. Third year has Geometry, Chemistry, Filipino III, and World History and Geography. Fourth year has Calculus, Trigonometry, Physics, Filipino IV, Literature, and Economics. Minor subjects may include Health, Music, Arts, Technology and Home Economics, and Physical Education.

In selective schools, various languages may be offered as electives, as well as other subjects such as computer programming and literary writing. Chinese schools have language and cultural electives. Preparatory schools usually add some business and accountancy courses, while science high schools have biology, chemistry, and physics at every level.

Secondary students used to sit for the National Secondary Achievement Test (NSAT), which was based on the American SAT, and was administered by DepEd. Like its primary school counterpart, NSAT was phased-out after major reorganizations in the education department. Now there is no government-sponsored entrance examination for tertiary education. Higher education institutions, both public and private, administer their own College Entrance Examinations (CEE). Vocational colleges usually do not have entrance examinations, simply accepting the Form 138 record of studies from high school, and enrolment payment.

DepEd expects over 5.6 million students in public secondary schools for school year 2009-1010.[20]

Technical and vocational education

Technical and vocational education is offered to enhance students' practical skills at institutions usually accredited and approved by TESDA. Institutions may be government operated, often by provincial government, or private. The vast majority are privately operated and most call themselves colleges. They may offer programs ranging in duration from a couple of weeks to two year diploma courses. Programs can be technology courses like automotive technology, computer technology, and electronic technology; service courses such as caregiver, nursing aide, hotel and restaurant management; and trades courses such as electrician, plumber, welder, automotive mechanic, diesel mechanic, heavy vehicle operator. Upon graduating from most of these courses, students may take an examination from TESDA to obtain the relevant certificate or diploma.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education in the Philippines is increasingly less cosmopolitan. From a height of 5,284 foreign of students in 1995-1996 the number steadily declined to 2,323 in 2000-2001, the last year CHED published numbers on its website [21]. In 2000-2001, 19.45% were from the US, 16.96 from South Korea, 13.00 % from Taiwan, and the rest from various other countries[21]. Many Korean students come to the Philippines to study English for 6 months or more, then transfer abroad to Australia, the United States, or other countries for degrees. Some Koreans complete their tertiary education in the Philippines, especially in the temperate climate of Baguio, in the Cordillera highlands.

Concerning the poor quality of education in the Philippines, in June 2009 the president of FAAP cited the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) lamenting 'a continuing decline in the quality of education in this country'.[3] He said this was due to four main factors: 'a) mismanagement of the educational system, b) not investing wisely in education, c) lack of management competencies, and, d) systemic corruption'.[3]

Another reason why the Philippines is not a major supplier of tertiary education for overseas students in the region is because 3 semesters of each 8 semester bachelor degree are required to be completely devoted to government mandated subjects. These mandated subjects include the life and works of Filipino national hero Dr Jose Rizal, three subjects of Filipino language, and basic mathematics, science, and Filipino cultural subjects [3] more appropriate for senior high school than at tertiary level.

Other schools

Chinese schools

Chinese schools add two additional subjects to the core curriculum, Hôa-gí華語(Chinese grammar and literature) and Tiĉng-hàp綜合(Chinese communication). Some add two more, namely, Chinese History and Chinese Culture. Still, other Chinese schools called cultural schools, offer Confucian classics and Chinese history as part of their curriculum. Notable Chinese schools include Immaculate Conception Academy, Xavier School, primary, secondary, and tertiary schools in San Juan, Metro Manila; Makati Hope Christian School located along Don Chino Roces Avenue (formerly known as Pasong Tamo Extension) in Makati; Saint Jude Catholic School and St. Peter the Apostle School, Chinese Catholic schools near Malacañang; Philippine Tiong Se Academy, Philippine Cultural College, Chiang Kai Shek College, St. Stephen's High School, Hope Christian High School in Sta. Cruz, Manila and Uno High School, secondary and tertiary institutions in Binondo, Manila; Jubilee Christian Academy, Grace Christian College, Leyte Progressive High School in Tacloban, and La Union Cultural Institute in San Fernando City, La Union.

Islamic schools

In 2004, the Department of Education adopted DO 51 putting in place the teaching of Arabic Language and Islamic Values for (mainly) Muslim children in the public schools. The same order authorized the implementation of so-called Standard Madrasah Curriculum (SMC) in the private madaris (Arabic for schools, the singular form is Madrasah).

While there has been recognized Islamic schools, i.e. Ibn Siena Integrated School (Marawi), Sarang Bangun LC (Zamboanga) and SMIE (Jolo), their Islamic studies varies.With the DepEd-authorized SMC, the subject offering is uniform across these private Madaris.

Since 2005, the AusAID-funded DepEd-project Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) has assisted a group of private madaris seeking government permit to operate (PTO) and implement the SMC. To date, there are 30 of these private madaris scattered throughout Regions XI, XII and the ARMM.

The SMC is a combination of the RBEC subjects (English, Filipino, Science, Math and Makabayan) and the teaching of Arabic and Islamic studies subjects.

  • Region XII - WAMY Academy (Gensan), Kumayl LC (Koronadal), Darul Uloom (Tamontaka, Cotabato City), Al-Nahdah Academy (Campo Muslim, Cotabato City), SKC Madrasah Abubakar (Bagua, Cotabato City) and Sultan Kudarat Academy (Sinsuat Ave, Cotabato City)
  • ARMM (Marawi City) - Jamiato Janoubel Filibbien, Jamiato Marawi al-Islamia, Khadijah Pilot Madrasah, Princess Jawaher IS.
  • ARMM (Lanao del Sur) - Ma'had Montashir (Masiu), Ma'had Aziziah and Sha'rawi LC (Butig), Madrasah Falah al-Khayrie (Lumba Bayabao), Ma'had Lanao (Malabang), As-Salihein Integrated School (Tamparan), others.
  • ARMM (Maguindanao Valley) - Ibn Taymiyyah Academy (Shariff Kabunsuan), Ma'had Maguindanao (Ampatuan), Madrasah Datu Tahir (Mamasapano), Ma'had Rahmanie Al-Islamie (Sharif Aguak). Through the philanthopy of Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan and his family, Ma'had Rahmanie is being re-designed and re-constructed to position it to become the premier institution of integrated learning in the ARMM. When the whole infrastructure development is done, it will be renamed Shariff Aguak Ibn Ampatuan Memorial Academy.
  • ARMM (Island Provinces) - Ma'had Da'wah (Lamitan City), Kulliyato Talipao (Talipao, Sulu), CHILD Madrasah (Bongao, Tawi-Tawi). The CHILD Madrasah is a special project and laboratory school of the MSU-TCTO College of Islamic and Arabic Studies (CIAS).

See also


  1. ^ DepEd Order 74 of 2009 (PDF)
  2. ^ Saving Philippine education. Accessed Aug. 19, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dr Epitacio Palispis, President of FAAP, address to doctoral researchers, Trinity University of Asia, 29 June 2009
  4. ^ a b c Country Studies: Philippine Education. Accessed January 24, 2009.
  5. ^ a b the Department of Education of the Philippines
  6. ^ Doris D Tulio, Foundations of Education 2, 2nd Ed, National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, 2008, ISBN 971-08-6866-7 p120
  7. ^ Doris D Tulio, Foundations of Education 2, 2nd Ed, National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, 2008, ISBN 971-08-6866-7 p121
  8. ^ Doris D Tulio, Foundations of Education 2, 2nd Ed, National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, 2008, ISBN 971-08-6866-7 pp121-122
  9. ^ Doris D Tulio, Foundations of Education 2, 2nd Ed, National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, 2008, ISBN 971-08-6866-7 p123
  10. ^ a b c d e Doris D Tulio, Foundations of Education 2, 2nd Ed, National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, 2008, ISBN 971-08-6866-7 p124
  11. ^ Republic Act No. 6655, Chan Robles Law Library.
  12. ^ Republic Act No. 7323, Chan Robles Law Library.
  13. ^ Republic Act No. 7722, Chan Robles Law Library.
  14. ^ Republic Act No. 7796, Chan Robles Law Library.
  15. ^ James Konstantin Galvez; Llanesca T. Panti (January 15, 2009), US provides $86-M aid for quality education, The Manila Times,, retrieved 2009-01-15 
  16. ^ Álvaro VanEgas (August 8, 2007), GMA considering reinstating Castilian as official in the Philippines,,, retrieved 2009-01-15  (Translation from Castilian original)
  17. ^ Luis Pinel (December 26, 2007), Spanish to be reintroduced as school subject in the Philippines,,, retrieved 2009-01-15 
  18. ^ Francisco M Zulueta, Elda M Maglaya (2007), Foundations of Education, Mandaluyong City, NAtional Book Store, ISBN 971-08-6511-0 p160
  19. ^ a b 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, ChanRobles Law Library, 
  20. ^ a b DepEd Communications Unit,Living News and Good Education Jun 1-15, 2009 issue, p4
  21. ^ a b [1]


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