History of Education in the Philippines

Before the Philippines attained complete independence in 1946, the country's education system was patterned on the systems of Spain and the United States--countries which colonized and governed the country for more than three hundred years. However, after independence, the country's educational system has constantly undergone reform.

Pre-colonial period
During the pre-colonial period, most children were provided with solely vocational training, which was supervised by parents, tribal tutors or those assigned for specific, specialized roles within their communities (for example, the babaylan). In most communities, stories, songs, poetry, dances, medicinal practices and advice regarding all sorts of community life issues were passed from generation to generation mostly through oral tradition. Some communities utilised a writing system known as baybayin, whose use was wide and varied, though there are other syllabaries used throughout the archipelago.

Spanish period
Formal education was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards, which was conducted mostly by religious orders. Upon learning the local languages and writing systems, they began teaching Christianity, the Spanish language, and Spanish culture. These religious orders opened the first schools and universities as early as the 16th century. Spanish missionaries established schools immediately after reaching the islands. The Augustinians opened a parochial school in Cebu in 1565. The Franciscans, took to the task of improving literacy in 1577, aside from the teaching of new industrial and agricultural techniques. The Jesuits followed in 1581, as well as the Dominicans in 1587, setting up a school in Bataan. The church and the school cooperated to ensure that Christian villages had schools for students to attend.

Schools for boys and for girls were then opened. Colegios were opened for boys, ostensibly the equivalent to present day senior high schools. The Universidad de San Ignacio, founded in Manila by the Jesuits in 1589 was the first colegio. Eventually, it was incorporated into the University of Santo Tomas, College of Medicine and Pharmacology following the suppression of the Jesuits. Girls had two types of schools - the beaterio, a school meant to prepare them for the convent, and another, meant to prepare them for secular womanhood.

The Spanish also introduced printing presses to produce books in Spanish and Tagalog, sometimes using baybayin. The first book printed in the Philippines dates back to 1590. It was a Chinese language version of Doctrina Christiana. Spanish and Tagalog versions, in both Latin script and the locally used baybayin script, were later printed in 1593. In 1610, Tomas Pinpin, a Filipino printer, writer and publisher, who is sometimes referred to as the "Patriarch of Filipino Printing", wrote his famous "Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang Uicang Castilla", which was meant to help Filipinos learn the Spanish language. The prologue read:

" Let us therefore study, my countrymen, for although the art of learning is somewhat difficult, yet if we are persevering, we shall soon improve our knowledge.

Other Tagalogs like us did not take a year to learn the Spanish language when using my book. This good result has given me satisfaction and encouraged me to print my work, so that all may derive some profit from it.

The Educational Decree of 1863 provided a free public education system in the Philippines, managed by the government. The decree mandated the establishment of at least one primary school for boys and one for 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 education was also declared free and available to every Filipino, regardless of race or social class. Contrary to what the propaganda of the Spanish-American War tried to depict, they were not religious schools; rather, they are schools that were established, supported, and maintained by the Spanish government.

After the implementation of the decree, the number of schools and students increased steadily. In 1866, the total population of the Philippines was 4,411,261. The total number of public schools for boys was 841, and the number of public schools for girls was 833. The total number of children attending those schools was 135,098 for boys, and 95,260 for girls. In 1892, the number of schools had increased to 2,137, of which 1,087 were for boys, and 1,050 for girls. By 1898, enrollment in schools at all levels exceeded 200,000 students.

Among those who benefited from the free public education system were a burgeoning group of Filipino intellectuals: the Ilustrados ('enlightened ones'), some of whom included José Rizal, Graciano López Jaena, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, and Antonio Luna--all of whom played vital roles in the Propaganda Movement that ultimately inspired the founding of the Katipunan.

First Republic
The defeat of Spain following the Spanish-American War led to the short-lived Philippine Independence movement, which established the insurgent First Philippine Republic. The schools maintained by Spain for more than three centuries were closed briefly, but were reopened on August 29, 1898 by the Secretary of Interior. The Burgos Institute (the country's first law school), the Academia Militar (the country's first military academy), and the Literary University of the Philippines were established. Article 23 of the Malolos Constitution mandated that public education would be free and obligatory in all schools of the nation under the First Philippine Republic. However, the Philippine-American War hindered its progress.

American period
About a year after having secured Manila, the Americans were keen to open up seven schools with army servicemen teaching with army command-selected books and supplies. In the same year, 1899, more schools were opened, this time, with 24 English-language teachers and 4500 students.

A highly centralised, experimental public school system was installed in 1901 by the Philippine Commission and legislated by Act No. 74. The law exposed a severe shortage of qualified teachers, brought about by large enrollment numbers in schools. As a result, the Philippine Commission authorized the Secretary of Public Instruction to bring more than 1,000 teachers from the United States, who were called the Thomasites, to the Philippines between 1901 and 1902. These teachers were scattered throughout the islands to establish barangay schools. The same law established the Philippine Normal School (now the Philippine Normal University) to train aspiring Filipino teachers.

The high school system was supported by provincial governments and included special educational institutions, schools of arts and trades, an agricultural school, and commerce and marine institutes, which were established in 1902 by the Philippine Commission.

Several other laws were passed throughout the period. In 1902, Act No. 372 authorised the opening of provincial high schools.

1908 marked the year when Act No. 1870 initiated the opening of the University of the Philippines, now the country's national university.

The emergence of high school education in the Philippines, however, did not occur until 1910. It was borne out of rising numbers in enrollment, widespread economic depression, and a growing demand by big businesses and technological advances in factories and the emergence of electrification for skilled workers. In order to meet this new job demand, high schools were created and the curriculum focused on practical job skills that would better prepare students for professional white collar or skilled blue collar work. This proved to be beneficial for both the employer and the employee; the investment in human capital caused employees to become more efficient, which lowered costs for the employer, and skilled employees received a higher wage than those employees with just primary educational attainment.

However, a steady increase in enrollment in schools appeared to have hindered any revisions to then-implemented experimental educational system. Act No. 1381, also known as Gabaldon Law, was passed in 1907, which provided a fund of a million pesos for construction of concrete school buildings and is one of many attempts by the government to meet this demand. In line as well with the Filipinization policy of the government, the Reorganization Act of 1916 provided that all department secretaries except the Secretary of Public Instruction must be a natural-born Filipino.

A series of revisions (in terms of content, length, and focus) to the curriculum began in 1924, the year the Monroe Survey Commission released its findings. After having convened in the period from 1906 to 1918, what was simply an advisory committee on textbooks was officiated in 1921 as the Board on Textbooks through Act No. 2957. The Board was faced with difficulties, however, even up to the 1940s, but because financial problems hindered the possibility of newer adaptations of books.

Third Republic
In 1947, after the United States relinquished all its authority over the Philippines, President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 94 which renamed Department of Instruction into Department of Education. During this period, the regulation and supervision of public and private schools belonged to the Bureau of Public and Private Schools.

Fourth Republic
In 1972, the Department of Education became the Department of Education and Culture (DECS) under Proclamation 1081, which was signed by President Ferdinand Marcos.

On September 24, 1972, by Presidential Decree No. 1, DECS was decentralized with decision-making shared among its thirteen regional offices.

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

to foster love of country;
to teach the duties of citizenship; and
to develop moral character, self-discipline, and scientific, technological and vocational efficiency.

In 1978, by the Presidential Decree No. 1397, DECS became the Ministry of Education and Culture.
The Education Act of 1982 provided for an integrated system of education covering both formal and non-formal education at all levels. Section 29 of the act sought to upgrade educational institutions' standards to achieve "quality education" through voluntary accreditation for schools, colleges, and universities. Section 16 and Section 17 upgraded the obligations and qualifications required for teachers and administrators. Section 41 provided for government financial assistance to private schools. This act also created the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.

Fifth Republic
A new constitution was ratified on February 2, 1987, and entered into force of February 11. Section 3, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution contains the ten fundamental aims of education in the Philippines. Section 2(2), Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution made elementary school compulsory for all children.

In 1987, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports became again the DECS under Executive Order No. 117. The structure of DECS as embodied in the order remained practically unchanged until 1994.

On May 26, 1988, the Congress of the Philippines enacted the Republic Act 6655 or the Free Public Secondary Education Act of 1988, which mandated free public secondary education commencing in the school year 1988-1989.

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

The Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) report of 1991 recommended the division of DECS into three parts. On May 18, 1994, the Congress passed Republic Act 7722 or the Higher Education Act of 1994, creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which assumed the functions of the Bureau of Higher Education and supervised tertiary degree programs. On August 25, 1994, the Congress passed Republic Act 7796 or the Technical Education and Skills Development Act of 199, creating the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which absorbed the Bureau of Technical-Vocational Education as well as the National Manpower and Youth Council, and began to supervise non-degree technical-vocational programs. DECS retained responsibility for all elementary and secondary education. This threefold division became known as the "trifocal system of education" in the Philippines.

In August 2001, Republic Act 9155, otherwise called the Governance of Basic Education Act, was passed. This act changed the name of DECS to the current Department of Education (DepEd) and redefined the role of field offices (regional offices, division offices, district offices and schools). The act provided the overall framework for school empowerment by strengthening the leadership roles of headmasters and fostering transparency and local accountability for school administrations. The goal of basic education was to provide the school age population and young adults with skills, knowledge, and values to become caring, self-reliant, productive, and patriotic citizens.
In 2005, the Philippines spent about US$138 per pupil, compared to US$3,728 in Japan, US$1,582 in Singapore and US$852 in Thailand.

In 2006, the Education for All (EFA) 2015 National Action Plan was implemented. It states:

" The central goal is to provide basic competencies to everyone, and to achieve functional literacy for all. Ensuring that every Filipino has the basic competencies is equivalent to providing all Filipinos with the basic learning needs, or enabling all Filipinos to be functionally literate. "

In terms of secondary level education, all children aged twelve to fifteen, are sought to be on track to completing the schooling cycle with satisfactory achievement levels at every year.

In January 2009, the Department of Education signed a memorandum of agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 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.

Recent years
In 2010, then-Senator Benigno Aquino III expressed his desire to implement the K-12 basic education cycle to increase the number of years of compulsory education to thirteen years. According to him, this will "give everyone an equal chance to succeed" and "have quality education and profitable jobs". After further consultations and studies, the government under President Aquino formally adopted the K-6-4-2 basic education system--one year of kindergarten, six years of elementary education, four years of junior high school education and two years of senior high school education. Kindergarten was formally made compulsory by virtue of the Kindergarten Education Act of 2012, while the further twelve years were officially put into law by virtue of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013. Although DepEd has already implemented the K-12 Program since SY 2011-2012, it was still enacted into law to guarantee its continuity in the succeeding years.

The former system of basic education in the Philippines consists of one-year preschool education, six-year elementary education and four-year high school education. Although public preschool, elementary and high school education are provided free, only primary education is stipulated as compulsory according to the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Pre-primary education caters to children aged five. A child aged six may enter elementary schools with, or without pre-primary education. Following on from primary education is four-years of secondary education, which can theoretically be further divided into three years of lower secondary and one year of upper secondary education. Ideally, a child enters secondary education at the age of 12. After completing their secondary education, students may progress to a technical education and skills development to earn a certificate or a diploma within one to three years, depending on the skill. Students also have the option to enrol in higher education programmes to earn a baccalaureate degree.

Former educational system

(used from 1945 until June 5, 2011)

School Grade Other names Age
Kindergarten was not compulsory
Elementary school (Primary) Grade 1 Primary 6-7
Grade 2 7-8
Grade 3 8-9
Grade 4 Intermediate 9-10
Grade 5 10-11
Grade 6 11-12
High school (Secondary) First Year Freshman 12-13
Second Year Sophomore 13-14
Third Year Junior 14-15
Fourth Year Senior 15-16

The start of the twenty-first century's second decade saw a major improvement in the Philippine education system.
In 2011, the Department of Education started to implement the new K-12 educational system, which also included a new curriculum for all schools nationwide. The K-12 program has a so-called "phased implementation", which started in S.Y 2011-2012.

Enrollment figures

School year Kindergarten Elementary High school
2012-2013 1,773,505 13,259,489 5,641,898
2013-2014 2,213,973 14,523,353 7,127,475