Commentary: Education:

Education in the Developing Nations:
Focus on the Philippines

By Aurora Badillo
President, St. Jerome International Academy

In this commentary, I will be discussing the Educational System in the Philippines including the process of educational evolution and the correct perspective regarding current school practices.

Education has long been a major part of my life. After completing my college degree, I taught in New London, Connecticut for fourteen years, then in Gilroy, California for 6 years following which I joined the staff of the Brent International School in Manila, Philippines where I taught for 5 years; it was during this same time period that I founded a school in my local community. I have been involved with this educational system for nearly 37 years.

As part of my commitment to serve the people, I am honored to now be working with the Governor of the Philippines State of Batangas, serving in the fields of Education and Tourism. I have always believed that providing a good, high quality education is the key to raising my country from poverty. With this in mind I organized the Aurora Zagala Badillo Foundation to help those less fortunate children who can't afford to go to school, and providing them with financial assistance and conducting faculty development training programs. The Foundation is always interested in meeting with those who can support and contribute to the education of these young people by any means, and readers of this commentary are invited to participate in any productive manner.

Just recently I was appointed to the Technical Working Group Committee. This program is focused on identifying school building sites, specifically in those places or areas without schools and improving the existing school buildings where enrolment necessitates more classrooms and where basic facilities are lacking and deficient.

The problems of education in the Philippines are many, and entail many dimensions; however, the Philippine administration and the Department of Education are doing their best to improve the Philippine Department of Education and to ease the burden of these young people.

The educational system in the Philippines is the result of the fusion of the European tradition in schools founded by religious orders during the Spanish colonial period, with the democratic ideal of providing equal educational opportunities to everyone, propagated during the American regime.

The formal educational structure in the Philippines consists of three levels: elementary, secondary and tertiary. Elementary education constitutes the first level of compulsory formal education. It is concerned with basic education, which consists of six to seven grade levels. Secondary education corresponds to four years of high school and concerns itself with continuing the learner's basic education and expanding it to include the acquisition of gainful skills. Finally, tertiary education refers to post-secondary schooling leading to a degree in a specific profession or discipline. Its scope covers one or two-year vocational/technical courses, degree and professional programs, and master's and doctoral programs.

In the tertiary level, however, the Philippine educational system has a unique feature, with the private education sector playing a predominant role in the delivery of the educational services. Private institutions of higher learning provide education to about 85% of all college students. Public schools, on the other hand, provide education to about 15% of the college population.

In terms of school revenues, public schools derive 80-90% of their revenues from subsidies provided by the government, and only 10-20% from tuition fees paid (on the secondary and tertiary levels); in contrast private schools are almost totally dependent on tuition fees, with 90% of their coming from this source.

The public schools in the Philippines are far behind in information and communication technology and at the same time lack certain basic classroom facilities. These situations in our educational system have been confirmed in a comprehensive study / survey conducted by Teacher's Advancement for Optimum Well-Being, initiated by Senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta. The following are the results:

1. That only 1.8% of the country's public schools have Internet access and 14% of teachers use computers,

2. That 44.83% of public school teachers who are asked to assess their school facilities said that their classrooms have no electricity, while 38.42% said their schools have no toilets,

3. About 25% said their classrooms have no ceiling and 44.65% said they have to provide the desks and chairs for their students, and

4. Over 37% of the teachers surveyed did not receive any training to upgrade their skills within the last three years.

Our School Population

The basic problem of basic services for the Department of Education is how to meet service requirements arising from the net increase in the population of students in the school system each year.

Our population growth rate is officially estimated at 2.3 percent, although the latest census (taken during in 2000) indicate that overall, from 1995 to 2000, in a space of five years, the net population increase was about 9.5 million out of a total of 75+ million, or roughly less than 2 million a year the past five years. Translated into percentages, the annual growth rate during the past five years was about 2 percent. We need to check this further and make sure it is confirmed. If true, then, it seems that for the first time in more than ten years, the population rate has slowed to less than 2.3 percent.

There are many reasons that may explain this: the difficulties in the economy; the growing urban population (which has always had fewer children than the rural population); perhaps the growing sense of responsible parenthood, some success in the government's family planning programs; a rising educational level which correlates well with smaller families; and emigration.

Translated into numbers, however, the annual population growth amounts to 350,000 additional pupils for SY 1998-1999 and a projected 500,000 for 1999-2000. I say "projected" because although we have official figures for June 2000, we still need to check these again and compare them with the actual population of the schools in June 1999 and the end of May 2000, which will be reported next year. The 350,000 at the end of SY 1998-1999 is less than the original expected 400,000. Let us hope that the same will be true for the immediately past School year 1999-2000.

The projected figures, as of June 2000, are 12.1 million elementary school students and 4 million high school students in the public school system and .9 million elementary school pupils and 1.3 million secondary school students in the private sector.

The latest SY 1999 updated figures are a total of 12.7 million in public and private elementary schools (11.8 million public and .9 million private) and 3.9 million public and 1.2 million private high school students. The teachers include non-teaching assignments.

Not discussed too often and forgotten is that we have a total of 24,518 administrative and support staff (public) composed of clerks, business office staff, disbursing officers, bookkeepers, and we had only 8,722 principals for 35,617 public elementary schools and 2,168 principals for 4,209 public high schools. This means that only 25 percent of our elementary schools are staffed by a full-time principal and only more than 50 percent of our high schools are staffed by regular full-time high school principals. The other chief operating officers in these schools have the title of Head Teacher or Teacher-in-Charge and within the Principal's ranks are different grades of Principals (I, II, III).

At this juncture we should review the educational evolution which shaped the present system of education in the Philippines.

Education during the Pre-Spanish Period:

No definite information is available regarding the system of education during the pre-Spanish period. But historians agree on the fact that the early Filipinos possessed a culture of their own. For the transmission of this culture, some sort of system of education must have been used. However, no definite records are available regarding the type of schools, they had the subjects that they used. We have to be content with knowing only the elements of their early culture.

Education during the Spanish Regime

The education during the Spanish Regime in the Philippines is modified for convenience under two periods. The first deals with the period from the beginning of the Spanish rule to 1863 when the first Education Decree was promulgated. The second period deals with the system of education established by the educational Decree of 1863 and Ministerial Decrees on Education issued in 1870 including the First Philippine Republic (the Malolos Republic).

Education during the American Regime

The present system of education in the Philippines is the continuation of the system of education established by the Americans when they took over the rule of the Philippines from the Spain. The public school system they established here was modeled after the prevailing state educational systems in the United States. Although colleges and universities organized by the religious orders were allowed to continue, these institutions have remodeled their programs of studies and, to some extent, their curricula to suit the changed conditions.

Education during the Commonwealth Period

The establishment of the Commonwealth Government brought about a re-orientation of educational plans and policies, which was necessary in order to carry out the educational mandates of the Constitution. The curricula of the elementary and the secondary schools were revised so that the objectives of education embodied in the Constitution might be carried out Character education and citizenship training were emphasize in the schools. Vocational subjects were introduced in the general secondary course. More vocational and technical schools were opened and the facilities of the existing ones were enlarged.

Education during the Japanese Regime

During World War II, the Japanese Army occupied the Philippines. Manila fell on January 2, 1942; the United States Forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Forces on May 6, 1942. From the fall of Manila to October 15, 1943, the Japanese Military Administration governed the Philippines through the Philippine Executive Commission. On October 15, 1943, the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Republic was established. Although ostensibly the Republic was independent, its actuation was still dominated by the Japanese Military Administration. Education under both periods can, therefore, be considered as one under the Japanese regime.

The Present Educational System

Every school year sees the problems of education in the Philippines recur. At the elementary and secondary level, there is a perennial shortage of classrooms, desks, books and teachers. The basic problem is finance. The current budget of P100 billion is just not enough to take care of present needs. As the population keeps increasing, there will be more infrastructure and teachers needed to maintain the system.

Some solutions have been proposed or are already been used: double sessions, triple sessions, and in some city high schools, quadruple sessions. On an experimental basis, DepEd has come up with the idea of a three-day week, with different sets of classes alternating between MWF and THS resulting in a longer working day. Faculty and student contact hours will be fewer; the teachers while well paid because of overtime will be overworked. Perhaps in some impoverished areas, some education is better than no education at all. The solution means that the shortage of teachers, desks, books, and classrooms will be temporarily alleviated. However, the learning conditions for students will be jeopardized, and the overwork and burnout among the teachers sure to follow.

The only solution really is to prioritize education (from rhetoric to reality) by increasing the operational expenses and also by having a one time special budget to take care of backlog in teachers, classrooms, desks (books are seeing some solution) to catch up with the population, and after that, to make sure that budget are adjusted each year to take care of replacement for capital and additional students for foreseen increases in overall population.

To address this critical problem, the acute shortage of educational infrastructure that deprive thousands of children to acquire sufficient and adequate education due to the very limited budgetary allocation of the Department of Education, Governor Hermilando I. Mandanas, Governor of Batangas, the chairman of Regional Development Council of Region IV (RDC) and the President of Federation of Regional Development Councils of the Philippines (FRDC), proposed the P100 Billion Local School Building Program to be funded from the Special Education Fund (SEF) of Local Government Units (LGUs) and with the help of this writer, member of the Committee and technical adviser to the Governor in the field of Education.


Project: Local Education Acceleration Program

Status: Proposed

Location: Thirty One (31) Municipalities and three (3) Cities of Batangas Province, Philippines

Sector: Social

   Sub Sector: Education

Proponent/Implementing Agencies: Province of Batangas
Local Government Units
Local School Board


A. Developmental Objectives:

Ensure affordable public education of the youths and accelerate their development by involving LGU's investment and participation in the improvement of educational facilities.

B. Strategic Objectives:

1. To address the acute shortage of school buildings, improvement of equipment and upgrade skills and competitiveness of teachers which are critically needed by the Local Government Units

2. To improve the quality of education by constructing buildings with modern facilities and equipment

3. To create a positive, productive and conducive atmosphere or effective teaching and learning situation

4. To upgrade skills and competitiveness of teachers through seminar-workshops and other related trainings

5. To exert efforts to produce youth who are globally competitive

6. To construct school buildings in every barangays in response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo 7. To address the problem of classroom shortages due to increasing enrollment and to provide schools in fast-growing areas as resettlement/relocation site

8. To enhance and sustain cooperation and support of the Parents Teachers and Community Association (PTCA) and other organizations

9. To have continuous support on the Department of Education's thrust, programs and projects

Estimated Project Cost:  Php 2 Billion (US $ 40 Million)

Project Description

The project envisions the utilization of the Special Education Fund provided for under Section 235 of the Local Government Code (RA 7160) as the vehicle to source funds for the operation and maintenance of public schools, construction and repair of school buildings, acquisition of additional educational facilities and equipment, purchase of books, periodicals and sports development equipment and training of teachers. The LGUs can borrow an amount equivalent to five times their annual share of the real estate taxes.

The basic concept of Local Education Acceleration Program is for the LGUs to borrow Php 100 Billion (US $ 2 Billion) to Japan to be serviced using the Special Education Fund payable over thirty (30) years with 0.5% to 1% interest with 10 years grace period. From the total amount of Php 100 Billion (US $ 2 Billion), Php 10 Billion (US$ 200 Million) is proposed for Region IV to be divided among the LGUs depending on their needs for classroom and other educational facilities. Out of the Php 10 Billion (US$ 200 Million) proposed for Region IV, Php 2 Billion (US$ 40 Million) is requested for Batangas Province to be distributed among the 31 municipalities and 3 cities.

The LGU will utilize part (up to 50%) of SEF to secure and amortize loans needed to raise funds.


LGUs will take charge of managing, handling and identifying school projects in their areas.

Funds for the LEAP will be barrowed by the LGUs using Special Education Fund under RA 7160.

The Development Bank of the Philippines will be the agent to negotiate with the World Bank and/or Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) for securing loan facility.

The National Government will guarantee the LGU loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines, which will lend the money.


Direct Beneficiaries: Youth and Students
Target Beneficiaries: Youth, Students, and Teachers


The present system of education in the Philippines was patterned after the prevalent state school systems of the United States of America. Since its establishment about fifty years ago it has undergone a process of transformation. Adaptations were made to suit local conditions when it was found out that not all American educational practices and procedures could be applied in our country.

In adapting the educational system to the needs of our people, our educational leaders used utmost care and deliberation. Adjustments made were gradual, not radical. General policies, administrative plans, teaching and supervisory procedures have been discarded, modified or adopted following the recommendations of experts. Practices found to be profitable in other countries have been incorporated into the school system only after extensive study and experimentation and rigorous scrutiny. The resultant is a system of education, which has grown and is growing out of the needs of our nation.

The Philippine educational system is designed for a democratic nation. The system is composed of two coordinate branches, the public and the private schools. Both are under the supervision and regulation by the State. The public school system is maintained by the State largely from taxation. The private school are owned and operated by individuals and private corporations. We have in the Philippines a complete school system.

However, the educational system in the Philippines is facing a lot of challenge. The incessant poverty is deeply felt all over the world. Every print and broadcast media shows people living in abject poverty. It is sad to know that some of our young people who should be in school live in streets begging for food, doing menial job, engaging in spurious activities such as gambling, drug addiction and prostitution. Thus, we have to remember that these children will be the future leaders of our country.

The Philippine Government is very determined and eager to help every Filipino family alleviates from poverty and to provide quality education and to full whatever resources the government has for the betterment of every Filipino.

The present need for modern school buildings in the Philippines are great. The development of the school system in this country and the introduction of new techniques required a new approach to building construction. The school building to be constructed should reflect the latest education trends and provide facilities for the latest educational development. Absolutely, the acquisition and utilization of the school equipment and supplies will be now available because of the proposed project by the Governor of Batangas, Philippines and with the help of this writer.


Aldana, Benigno. The Educational System of the Philippines
Manila: The University Publishing Co., 1948.
     The Philippine Public School Curriculum
Manila: The Philippine Teachers Digest, 1935.
Gonzales, Andrew. Can The System be reformed?
The Philippine Journal Education Vol. LXXX Number 10, March 2002.
      Our School Population the DECS POST
Vol. XIII Number 4, October 2000.



BWW Society member Ms. Aurora Zagala Badillo is an innovative educator who has made tremendous contributions to education in the developing nation of the Philippines during her 40-year career, and is currently president of the St. Jerome International School which she founded in 1986. She a graduate of the Lyceum of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963, and she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education in 1965. Ms. Badillo is committed to improving the availability and quality of education in her homeland, and is currently working with the Governor of Batangas towards these goals.

[ back to "Publications & Special Reports" ]
[ BWW Society Home Page ]