Philippines Education Sector and National Economy

Philippines Education Sector and National Economy

Renowned as "Asia's Rising Tiger,' the Philippines gradually gained a positive reputation for achieving rapid economic growth. Remarkably, such achievements have remained steadily on course regardless of the changing circumstances. To illustrate, the Philippines' economy has remained competitive in recent years. The economy posted a respectable and steady 5.6% GDP (Gross Domestic Product). What role has the country's education system played in facilitating such impressive performance?

Analysts attribute much of this stellar achievement to the nation's sound economic and education structures. The Philippines has a relatively young, progressive, and educated population. Today, the country is touted as among the best targets for business process outsourcing (BPO). Of course, it cannot be overemphasized that human capital is crucial in a successful economic strategy. The situation in the Philippines wasn't different.

Unsurprisingly, the government has continually pushed for the population to have a more accessible and relevant educational program. Due to this, the state instituted strategic reforms, including the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education and the K to 12 program. These programs were aimed at boosting school enrolment levels, mean years of learning (both in elementary and secondary institutions), better graduation rates, and improved higher education.

In the Philippines, the government runs the education system using three primary organizations. These are the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), The TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the CHED (Commission on Higher Education. Significantly, the DECS stated in 1999 that it "aimed to provide access to quality basic education that would be equitably available to all." The DECS also aimed to provide "a foundation for lifelong service and learning that works for the common good."

The DECS' cherished the vision to "develop a competent, life-skilled, spirited and God-loving Filipino youth who contributed to the development of a healthy, humane and productive society." These values constituted the national education strategy. The government has organized the regular academic year into dry/hot and wet/cool seasons. Since March to May is the hottest period of the year, they constitute the summer break. In June, the wet season starts, marking the beginning of the official academic year. From 1993 the government increased the total school days from 185 to 200. The school year usually ends during the first months of March. Then follows a 4-5 day break at the beginning of November for the staunchly Catholic Filipino children to celebrate the "Day of the Dead" as well as "the Day of Saints." Later, the school breaks for a 3-4 week Christmas season.

The Philippines is a land of great contrasts and diversity- the country has more than 7,107 islands, 11 languages, and 87 dialects. Spain colonized the country for over 300 years; later, most people received an American education. Interestingly, the question of picking a single language of instruction for all schools has proved to be emotive and divisive. The country first used Tagalog, then switched to English and later to the local vernacular languages (including Arabic and various Chinese languages). Arabic is still used predominantly in the southern parts of the Philippines.

The US Library of Congress reports that at least 65% of the Filipino population understood English in the 1990s. Beginning from 1965-1966, the schools enrolled more than 5.8 million students. Some 5% of these enrolled in private schools. From1987-1988 the numbers grew to 9.6 million. By the end of 2000, some 12.6 million students learned in various schools- of these, 7.1% enrolled in private schools.

The Philippines education system assigns six years for primary education and four years each for secondary and University education. The typical school day starts with a flag-raising ceremony; this includes singing the national anthem and reciting the pledge of allegiance.

The private sector mostly runs the Philippine higher education sector. During the 1970s, the Metro Manila capital region had a 95% literacy rate. There are three main languages spoken in Manila: Ilocano and Tagalog in the Northern Luzon area and Cebuano (in the Visayas). The Filipino language (which derives from Pilipino) generally originated from various languages used in the country for centuries.

Overall, English is the most valued language in the Philippines. It is used in the national media, private and public primary and secondary schools, higher learning, business, and government administration. Only a few people speak Spanish. Overall, the Philippines' literacy rate (which stands at 94.6%) remains the highest in the entire Pacific and East Asia region.