Education in the Philippines

Filipino children in crowded public elementary schools in Metro Manila
Filipino children in crowded public elementary schools in Metro Manila

In the 2010 Education-for-All Global Monitoring Report submitted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Philippines is “a country that should not have had difficulty in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education”. Surprisingly, the UNESCO report and the United States of America Embassy in the Philippines believe that the Philippines is unlikely to meet the second MDG by 2015. The UNESCO report further said that “despite policy, curricular and programatic changes, key performance indicators, particularly for basic education, have either stagnated or in some cases, shown negative trends.” These negative trends include the following:

  • Net enrollment ratios have stagnated, increasing the number of children who dropped out of the formal school system.
  • Teacher training facilities in the country appear to be ill-prepared to produce teachers for effective performance in the classroom.
  • Demands for school materials (books, chairs, classroom needs) are increasing but government funding has not kept pace with the increasing demands. The Philippine government allots only a meager 2.3% of its Gross National Product to the Education sector.
Schooling children of the Rissing Elementary School in their new classrooms made possible by HBI
Schooling children of the Luzong Sur Elementary School in their new classrooms made possible by HBI

In 2011, the World Economic Forum issued their Competitiveness Report which showed that out of 138 economies, the Philippine Education system ranked 68th. In South East Asia, the Philippines is the second to the last in terms of education and school systems. The Philippines was behind Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam – it only managed to fare better than Cambodia.

It wasn’t always this way for there was a time when Filipinos were among the best educated in Asia because its elementary, secondary and tertiary education institutions were widely respected. But now, official data shows that out of 100 children who enter Grade 1, only 43 finish high school, only 23 will pursue college or vocational courses, and only 14 will complete tertiary education.

The major reason for this appalling school drop-out rate is that the children’s parents cannot provide all the school needs of their children. This leads to a slew of problems – frequent school absents because the parents cannot provide school allowance for their children; repeating a grade level; and dropping out from school because they do not have the necessary school supplies that will help them cope with the demands of schooling.

Children-beneficiaries read their new books from HBI
Children-beneficiaries read their new books from HBI

With all these said, it is without a doubt that the Philippine education system has been declining for decades partly due to the failure of the government to allocate sufficient funds to the education sector. But the state of Philippine education has now become a national issue and because of this, the 2012 budget for education is now at 238.8 Billion Pesos (US$ 5.5 billion), up from the 207.3 Billion Pesos budget last 2011. That said, the needs are immense – the public school sector lacks 3 million classroom chairs, 60,000 classrooms and at least 6 million textbooks. The huge backlog has left students in crowded schools sharing books or sitting on the floor during lessons.

As a way of overhauling the state of Philippine education, the Aquino Administration – the current Philippine President, is embarking on an ambitious plan to add two more years to the current 10-year basic education cycle. The 12-year education plan, more commonly known as the K+12 Program, includes seven years of primary education and five years of secondary education. The idea is to bring the country in line with international practice and allow the education

These plans for reform, though, are proving to be polarizing at best. A lot of Filipino parents oppose the additional two years of schooling because it is an added expense. Other critics argue that the program is unachievable, given the shortage of teachers, textbooks and other educational resources. In 2011, the Philippine government has started implementing its K+12 program by making kindergarten classes mandatory in all public elementary schools.

Only time will tell as to how the K+12 Curriculum being pushed by the government can affect and improve the lives of poor children and their families. For now though, all we can say is that in spite of all these changes and developments, HBI believes that what is vital to ensure that children remain in school because a good educational system will be nothing if poor schooling children cannot afford continuing their studies because they do not have the needed school supplies.