The system of education in the Philippines was patterned both from the educational systems of Spain and the United States. However, after the liberation of the Philippines in 1946, the systems have changed radically. The Department of Education (or DepEd) administers the whole educational system, which also includes the allocation of funds utilized for school services and equipment (such as books, school chairs, etc.), recruitment of teachers for all public schools in the Philippines, and the supervision and organization of the school curricula. The former education system of the Philippines is composed of 6 years of elementary education starting at the age of 6 or 7, and 4 years of high school education starting at the age of 12 or 13. In this system, education is not compulsory.
However, since June 4, 2012, DepEd started to implement the new K-12 educational system, which includes the new curricula for all schools (see the section). In this system, education is now compulsory. All public and private schools in the Philippines must start classes from a date mandated by the Department of Education (usually every first Monday of June for public schools only), and must end after each school completes the mandated 200-day school calendar of DepEd (usually around the third week of March to the second week of April). The implementation of the K-12 program is “phased”. The first phase of the implementation will start on SY 2012-2013.
During this school year, universal kindergarten will be finally offered, and will now be a part of the compulsory education system; and a new curriculum for Grade 1 and Grade 7 students would be introduced. By SY 2016-2017, Grade 11/Year 5 will be introduced, and Grade 12/Year 6 by SY 2017-2018; with the phased implementation of the new curriculum finished by the SY 2017-2018. Students in 2nd year to 4th year high school this SY 2012-2013 are not included in the program. It is only applicable to students from Kinder to 1st year high school which is now called Grade 7. However, during the new educational cycle, from 2016 to 2018, college enrollment could slow down because of the entrance of the lower-year students to the new educational system.
Elementary school, sometimes called primary school or grade school (Filipino: paaralang elementarya, sometimes mababang paaralan), is the first part of the educational system, and it includes the first six years of compulsory education (grades 1-6). These grades are further grouped (informally) accordingly into: primary level, which includes the first three grades (grades 1-3), and intermediate level, which includes the last three grades (grades 4-6). The elementary school education covers a smaller but wider than the junior and senior high school because of the spiral approach educational technique. In public schools, the core/major subjects that are introduced starting grade 1 include mathematics, Filipino, and Makabayan (until grade 3, this subject is synonymous to social studies, but also incorporate values education and the fundamentals of political science).
English is only introduced after the 2nd semester of grade 1. Science is only introduced starting grade 3. Heograpiya (geography), kasaysayan (history), and sibika (civics) (abbreviated as HEKASI), is only introduced starting grade 4 (similar also to social studies but focuses more on the subjects earlier stated). Minor subjects then include music, arts, physical education, and health (abbreviated as MAPEH). In private schools, subjects in public schools also include those of the public schools, with the additional subjects including: computer education and HELE (stands for home economics and livelihood education; while in Christian schools or in Catholic schools, religious education. International schools also have their own subjects in their own language and culture.
From grades 1-3, students will be taught using their mother tongue, meaning the regional languages of the Philippines (also called as dialects) will be used in some subjects (except Filipino and English) as a medium of instruction. It may be incorporated as a separate subject. But from grade 4, Filipino and English as a medium of instruction will then be used. 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 but it didn’t come into effect.
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. 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.
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 used in the provinces 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. 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. The DepEd expects over 13.1 million elementary students to be enrolled in public elementary schools for school year 2009–2010. Though elementary schooling is compulsory, latest official figures show 27.82% of Filipino elementary-aged children either never attend or never complete elementary schooling, usually due to the absence of any school in their area, education being offered in a language that is foreign to them, 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.
PSHS Main Campus. Note the disparity between rural and urban education facilities in the Philippines. Secondary school in the Philippines, more commonly known as “high school” (Filipino: paaralang sekundarya, sometimes mataas na paaralan), consists of four levels 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 Philippine high school system 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, Trigonometry, Chemistry, Filipino III, and World History and Geography. Fourth year has Calculus, Advanced Algebra, 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 the National Achievement Test is administered to second year students. 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.