Lower education

The main stages of primary and secondary education

Primary education starts at around 3 or 4 years old and continues for 10 years. Students then enter high school for a further 4 years until age 18.

Primary education

Elementary school (paaralang elementarya in Filipino) is made up of 6 grades (some schools add an extra 7th grade). It is divided into primary level, the first 3 grades; and intermediate level, the second 3 or 4 grades. The school year, for all levels of education, starts in June and ends in March.

The core curriculum consists of the sciences, maths, English and Filipino languages as well as makabayan (social studies); physical education, music, and art are also included. It isn’t until the 3rd grade that science becomes an integral part of the curriculum. Religious and private schools offer a wider-range of subjects alongside the national curriculum followed in public schools.

In public schools the language of tuition varies between the subjects. The sciences and technology are taught in English and other subjects are taught in Filipino as decreed in the DECS Bilingual Policy. International schools generally use English as their base language but also commonly include lessons in Chinese and Spanish. Arabic is taught in Islamic schools.

Students sit a common exam called the National Achievement Test (NAT) at the end of their 6th grade. This is a measure of a school’s competency and not the student's ability. Currently no exam is needed to gain entrance to a public secondary school; most international or private schools do conduct admissions exams.

Secondary education

Secondary school, more commonly known as high school (paaralang sekundarya in Filipino) hasn’t changed much since the Philippines gained independence from the USA in 1947. This means it is based on the American high school system as it was in the early half of last century.

High school is made up of 4 grades, with each grade being slightly themed and following a set curriculum as specified by the Department of Education for both public and private schools. As well as the core subjects of maths, sciences, Filipino, English, history and geography there are minor subjects such as art, music, health, home economics and physical education. Specialist schools may offer other languages and subjects like computer programing as electives.

In their second year of high school students sit another version of the NAT. When they leave high school they can take the College Entrance Exam (CEE) which most universities, public and private, administer. Vocational colleges don’t tend to require an entrance exam, only a record of school studies and the enrollment fee.


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