By Nick Clark, Editor WENR
The Philippine education system has been heavily influenced by its colonial history, which has included periods of Spanish, American and Japanese rule and occupation. During the period of American colonization, beginning in 1898, English was instituted as the language of instruction and a public school system was established, administered by a Department of Instruction, and modeled on the US system.
A number of colleges and universities were established primarily to train teachers, although in 1908 the University of the Philippines was chartered as the nation’s first comprehensive public university. Primary education through grade seven was funded by the government and free to all. Private universities and colleges were also established during this period.
The United States has left the largest imprint on the education system, which can be discerned in a number of ways. One is the Philippine’s extensive and relatively inclusive, system of higher education, to which access is widely available (comparative to other Southeast Asian nations). Today the United States continues to influence the education system, with many Philippine academics having earned graduate degrees from U.S. universities.
The Philippines has long been a leader in the region with respect to achievements in education, and by 1970, the Philippines had achieved universal primary enrollment. Early successes, however, mask a long-term deterioration in quality, and the national figures obscure wide regional differences. In Manila, close to 100 percent of students finish primary school, whereas in Mindanao and Eastern Visayas less than 30 percent of students finish. A recent study showed that many Filipino children between 9 and 14 in mathematics, science and reading were two standard deviations below the international mean. Not surprisingly, urban/rural differences were especially pronounced (World Bank, 1999). The United Nations found that the Philippines was the only country in the region for which the youth literacy rate decreased between 1990 and 2004, from 97.3 percent to 95.1 percent (United Nations, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2006).
Education is offered through formal and non-formal systems. The number of years of formal schooling in the Philippines is one of the shortest in the world. The educational ladder has a 6+4+4 structure, (i.e., six years of elementary education, four years of secondary education, and typically four years to gain a bachelor’s degree).
The academic school year in the Philippines starts in June and ends in March, covering a period of 40 weeks. Institutions of higher education operate on a semester system with an optional summer semester. Education is compulsory from age seven to 12, covering the first six grades of education.
English was the official language of instruction from 1935 to 1987. The new constitution of 1987 prescribed that both Pilipino (Tagalog) and English are the official languages of communication and instruction. English continues to be widely used from the higher primary level onwards, owing to a dearth of materials and resources in Pilipino, as well as a shortage of Pilipino-speaking teachers. This is especially true in vocational and technical fields.
The administration and supervision of the school system is the responsibility of the Department of Education, which has an office in each of the 13 regions of the country. Historically, the Government has been unable to fund the whole education system and has concentrated resources on the primary sector. Consequently, over 90 percent of enrollments at the primary level are in public schools; whereas, at secondary schools that number is less than 79 percent (Department of Education, 2008), and at the tertiary level over 89 percent of institutions are private, representing 66 percent of enrollments (Commission on Higher Education, 2005), where the quality of programs ranges from high to marginal. A discussion of the accreditation process in the Philippines can be found in the ‘Higher Education’ section of this profile.
Primary education is compulsory and is six years in duration, divided into a four-year primary cycle and a two-year intermediate cycle. Children generally begin first grade at six or seven years of age; however, private schools often operate a seven-year curriculum starting a year earlier. Students are annually promoted from one grade to the next provided that they meet the achievement standards set for the grade. Students are rated in every subject four times during the year. A cumulative rating system is used as the basis for promotion. The pass grade is 75 percent. In grades one and two, the medium of instruction is generally in the local dialect, of which there are more than 170 nationally, with English and Pilipino taught as second languages. From third grade onwards, mathematics and science are taught in English with the social sciences and humanities taught in Pilipino.
After satisfactorily completing the six-year elementary curriculum, students receive a certificate of graduation from the elementary school. No examination is required for admission to public secondary schools.
Duration: Four years (grades I – IV, age six to 11).
Duration: Two years (grades V – VI, age 11 to 13).
Curriculum: Core subjects: Language arts (Pilipino, English and local dialect), mathematics, health and science.
Makabayan* subjects: In grades I – III students study civics and culture, in grades IV – VI students study music, arts and physical education; home economics and livelihood; and social studies. Values education and ‘good manners and right conduct’ are integrated in all learning areas.
* Makabayan is described by the ministry as a learning area that serves as a practice environment for holistic learning to develop a healthy personal and national self-identity. Ideally, it entails the adoption of modes of integrative teaching that will enable the student to process and synthesize a wide range of skills and values (cultural, aesthetic, athletic, vocational, politico-economic, and ethical).
Leaving Certificate: The Certificate of Graduation is awarded to students who complete six years of primary education.
Private schools enroll a much higher percentage of students at the secondary level than at the elementary level. Approximately 46 percent of the nation’s secondary schools are private enrolling about 21 percent of all high school students (Department of Education, 2008).
There are two main types of secondary schools: the general secondary school, which enroll more than 90 percent of all high school students, and the vocational secondary school. In addition, there are also science secondary schools for students who have demonstrated a particular gift in science at the primary level. Vocational high schools differ from general high schools in that they have a heavier concentration of vocationally oriented training and practical arts.
As in primary school, secondary school students are rated four times a year. If a student fails to get a final rating of 75 percent or more in a particular subject, he or she repeats the subject the next year, but is, nevertheless, promoted to the next grade. A certificate is issued to secondary school graduates.
Duration: Four years (grades VII – X, age 13 to 17)
Entrance Requirement: Admission to public school is automatic for those who have completed six years of primary school. Some private secondary schools have competitive entrance requirements based on an entrance examination. Entrance to science high schools is also by competitive examination.
General High Schools
Curriculum: Communication arts (English and Pilipino), social studies (including anthropology, Philippine history and government, economics, geography and sociology), mathematics, science and technology, youth development training (including physical education, health education, music and citizen army training), practical arts (including home economics, agriculture & fisheries, industrial arts, and entrepreneurship), values education and some electives including both academic and vocational subjects.
Vocational High Schools
Secondary vocational schools offer a higher concentration of technical and vocational subjects in addition to the core academic subjects studied by students at general high schools. These schools tend to offer technical and vocational instruction in one of five main fields: agriculture, fishery, trade-technical, home industry, and ‘non-traditional’ courses while offering a host of specializations.
Curriculum: During the first two years, students study a general vocational area (see above). During the third and fourth years they specialize in a discipline or vocation within that area. For example, a student may take two years of general trade-technical courses followed by two years specialization in cabinet making. Programs contain a mixture of theory and practice.
Science High Schools
The Philippine Science High School System is a specialized public system that operates as an attached agency of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology. There are a total of nine regional campuses, with the main campus located in Quezon City. Students are admitted on a selective basis, based on the results of the PSHS System National Competitive Examination. Graduates of the PSHS are bound by law to major in the pure and applied sciences, mathematics, or engineering upon entering college.
Curriculum: As well as following the general secondary curriculum, there are advanced classes in science and mathematics.
Leaving Certificate: Students who successfully complete a minimum of four years of secondary education usually receive a Diploma (Katibayan) from their high school and, in addition, are awarded the secondary school Certificate of Graduation (Katunayan) by the Department of Education. Students are also awarded a Permanent Record, or Form 137-A, listing all classes taken and grades earned.
SECONDARY SCHOOL GRADING SCALE
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In academic year 2004/05 there were 1,619 institutions of higher education (CHED, 2005) registered in the Philippines, of which 1,443 (89 percent) were in the private sector. In the same year total post-secondary enrollments amounted to 2,402,315 students (of whom 66 percent were in the private sector).
Public institutions of higher education include 111 chartered state universities and colleges (with 271 satellite campuses), 50 local universities and colleges, 9 other government schools (usually technical, vocational and education training institutions offering higher-education programs), five special institutions (mainly providing training in areas such as military science and national defense), and one Commission on Higher Education (CHED)-supervised post-secondary education institutions (CHED 2005).
Prior to 1994, the supervision of tertiary schools was the responsibility of the Bureau of Higher Education, a division of the former Department of Education, Culture and Sports. With the passage of the Higher Education Act in 1994, an independent government agency, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) was created to exercise general supervision and control over all colleges and universities –– both public and private –– in the country. The commission regulates the establishment or closure of private higher education institutions, their program offerings, curricular development, building specifications and tuition fees. Private universities and colleges follow the regulations and orders of CHED, although a select few are granted autonomy or deregulated status in recognition of their committed service through quality education and research when they reach Level III accreditation (see below).
In 1995, legislation was passed providing for the transfer of supervision of all non-degree, technical and vocational education programs from the Bureau of Vocational Education, also under the control of the Department of Education, to another new and independent agency, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). The establishment of TESDA has increased emphasis on and support for non-degree vocational education programs.
In addition to regulating higher education, CHED is also responsible for developing policies to support quality improvement in the higher educational system. As a matter of policy, CHED encourages institutions to seek accreditation and provides a number of incentives in the form of progressive deregulation, grants and subsidies to institutions with accredited programs. However, all educational programs can operate legally if they have government recognition in the form of applying for and receiving a grant of authority and official recognition to operate. Government recognition should not, however, be confused with accreditation.
A CHED database of higher education institutions and programs is available HERE.
The voluntary accreditation system is modeled on the regional accreditation system employed in the United States, although only program evaluations and not institutional evaluations are performed. Four accreditation associations, recognized by the Department of Education and organized into a federal system, encourage private institutions to raise the level of their programs above the minimal standard: the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities Accrediting Agency Incorporated (ACSCU-AAI); the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU); the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA); and the Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (AACCUP). With the exception of AACCUP, the accrediting agencies collectively constitute a federation, the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP), which coordinates and certifies the activities of the individual agencies. In 2007, only 386 of 2,036 institutions (19 percent), both public and private, had pursued accreditation. A total of 2,274 programs were accredited (CHED, 2007). A voluntary accreditation system in the technical and vocational sector is currently being implemented by the Technical and Vocational Education Accrediting Agency of the Philippines (TVEAAP).
There are four levels of accreditation. As defined by CHED, Level I gives applicant status to schools that have undergone a preliminary survey and are certified by FAAP as capable of acquiring accredited status within two years. Institutions with programs accredited at Level II receive full administrative deregulation and partial curricular autonomy, including priority in funding assistance and subsidies for faculty development. Programs with Level III accredited status are granted full curricular deregulation, including the privilege to offer distance education programs. Level IV institutions are eligible for grants and subsidies from the Higher Education Development Fund and are granted full autonomy from government supervision and control. Level IV accreditation is reserved for academic programs considered to be comparable in quality to those of internationally renowned universities. In 2003, there was only one institution in the country whose programs had been granted Level IV status –– De La Salle University (Pijano, 2003).
UNIVERSITY HIGHER EDUCATION
The structure of the tertiary system in the Philippines in terms of awards and style of programs offered at Philippine universities strongly resembles the US higher-education system.
Entrance to universities and other institutions of higher education is dependent on the possession of a high school Certificate of Graduation and in some cases on the results of the National Secondary Achievement Test (NSAT), or in many colleges and universities the results of their own entrance examinations. The NSAT is administered to fourth-year high school students to gauge the quality of the individual institutions they are attending, it was not designed or intended as an admission test, but has nonetheless served that purpose for some institutions. Privately administered testing programs through the Center for Educational Measurement (CEP) are also widely used by colleges for admissions purposes. The two most common ones are the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) and the Admission Test for Colleges and Universities (ATCU). From 1973 to 1994, the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) was used for admission to post-secondary degree programs; it was abolished and replaced by the NSAT because it was considered by many not to be discriminative enough. The Philippine Education Placement Test (PEPT) is a national examination designed to evaluate the grade level of students returning to the school system or seeking admission to college based on knowledge and skills gained through formal and non-formal methods.
Programs and Degrees
Bachelor’s (Batsilyer) degree programs are a minimum of four years in length. During the first two years of study, students are required to take general education courses (63 credits), with courses counting towards the major usually being undertaken in the last two years of the program. Some institutions offer five-year programs in science, pharmacy and agriculture (200 credits). Engineering, architecture (226 credits) and music programs normally require five years of study.
Some institutions offer a two-year (generally 70 credit) Associate (Asoyado) degree program, usually in arts, science or commerce. Graduates of these programs can, if desired, transfer into the last two years of a bachelor degree program. An increasingly popular associate and certificate program is midwifery and the sole tertiary-level credential in the field is the two-year Graduate in Midwifery certificate. A four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the sole entry-level degree for nursing. Graduates are required to then take licensing examinations.
The post-secondary programs leading to the Doctor of Dental Medicine and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine normally require six years of study, usually involving two years of appropriate preliminary studies and four years of specialized studies.
Master of Art/Science (Masterado, Dalubhasa, or Kadalubhasaan) degrees usually require two years of full-time study and a minor thesis or comprehensive examinations. The entrance requirement for most master degree programs is a bachelor degree in an appropriate discipline, with an average grade equal to or better than 2.00, 85 percent or B. Some professional degrees, such as law and medicine are undertaken following a first bachelor degree.
The first degree awarded in medicine is the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), which generally requires that students study basic medical sciences for the first two years followed by two years in clinical rotation. This is generally followed by a one-year internship, after which graduates take the licensing examination and, as appropriate, three to five years’ residency (for specialization). All students seeking admission to medical programs must attain a passing score on the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) as established by each institution.
The Bachelor of Laws (LL.B or L.I.B) also requires four years of study following the first degree. The Juris Doctor (J.D.) requires an additional eight units (2-4 classes) of coursework and a thesis beyond the requirements for the LL.B. Students of both programs are expected to complete an internship of not more than 12 months, completion of which combined with completion of the LL.B/J.D. qualifies them to take the bar examination administered by the Supreme Court.
A few universities offer four-year master’s programs that build on a four-year bachelor’s degree for veterinary medicine, rather than the usual six-year program (see above).
Doctor of Philosophy (Doktor sa Pilospiya) programs often involve a substantial amount of coursework, while the dissertation may comprise as little as a quarter or a fifth of the total credits. Ph.D programs usually require two or three years of full-time study beyond the master’s degree. Programs that require primarily coursework without original research emphasis, and usually without a major dissertation, award professional degrees identified specifically as Doctor of the program’s disciplinary field, such as Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Public Health (D.P.H.) and others. The entrance requirement is usually a master degree, with an average grade of 2.00 or B.
Two academic degrees in law are offered in addition to the first professional degrees: the two-year Master of Law (LL.M) and the three-year Doctor of Civil Laws (D.C.L). Both require a J.D. or LL.B for admission.
Academic Credit System
Degree programs at all colleges and universities are weighted according to a system of instructional units based on class hours where one unit of instruction equals one hour of lectures or three hours of lab work per week. Typically, courses are three units in value and require 54 hours of classroom instruction over an 18-week semester. Four-year bachelor degree programs in the arts and sciences require a minimum of 120 units for graduation, although the minimum at many schools is likely to be 140 to 160 units. Some programs may require as many as 185 units.
NON-UNIVERSITY HIGHER EDUCATION
Technical and vocational schools and institutes offer programs in a variety of fields, including agriculture, fisheries, technical trades, trade technical education, hotel and restaurant management, crafts, business studies, secretarial studies, and interior and fashion design. The entry requirement is a high school diploma, and entrance examinations are generally not required. Postsecondary programs lead to either a certificate (often entitled a Certificate of Proficiency) or a diploma. The Professional Regulation Commission regulates programs for 38 different professions and administers their respective licensure examinations.
Programs and Degrees
Credentials are awarded by individual institutions and authorized by TESDA. TESDA has (recently) established a process called the Technical Occupation Qualification and Certification System (TOQCS) through which standards are set for a specific set of craft/trade-level qualifications based upon the type of program and occupational skill level involved. All technical credentials are referred to as certificates and are awarded after the successful passing of standardized examinations administered by TESDA. The National Certificates generally require a program of study of between one and two years. There are a series of tests that lead to certifications on a four-step ladder (Level I, II, III and Technician or Master Craftsman). All four levels do not exist in all occupational categories. Technical and vocational institutions label their credentials by a wide variety of titles in a particular field, these include diploma, associate, graduate or craftsman.
Some technical institutes are authorized to award bachelor degrees in a similar range of subjects to those of technical and vocational schools. Community colleges offer two-year programs leading to an Associate Degree in a range of vocational areas.
A list of TESDA-recognized technical and vocational schools and programs is available HERE.
In general, elementary-level teachers must hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education (B.E.Ed), while preschool teachers must have at least six units of pre-primary education. At the secondary level, the basic qualification is a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education (B.S.Ed), or a bachelor’s degree in another area with the addition of at least 18 units in professional education. All these programs are four years in length.
WES GRADING SCALE
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* May represent a conditional failure or a conditional pass. Grading scale may vary. Please refer to grading scale on transcript
This profile is an update of a profile that was originally published in the November/December 2004 issue of WENR.
International Bureau of Education – Unesco. World Data on Education, Philippines. Last revised, August 2006 <http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/access-by-country/asia-and-the-
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Pijano, Concepcion. “Import and Export of Higher Education: How to Sustain Quality – Experience in the Philippines.” Hong Kong: INQAAHE Asia Pacific Sub-Network Forum, January 2003.
United Nations, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2006
Vea, Reynaldo. “Higher Education and Accreditation System in the Philippines.” Bangkok: IEEE Conference on Engineering Accreditation Around the World, November 2004.
World Bank. “Social Policy and Governance in the East Asia and Pacific Region: Education in the Philippines.” November, 1999.