Although choosing the right school can be challenging for new arrivals, expat parents in the Philippines can rest assured that there are multiple options available.
Education at local Filipino schools is not likely to be of the standard most expats are used to. Public schooling suffers from underfunding and a lack of resources. As such, most expats living in the Philippines opt to send their children to private and international schools.
Education system in the Philippines
The education system in the Philippines has largely been shaped by its colonial history, particularly by the Spanish and American cultures. Today, it is largely modelled on the US education system. Education is compulsory from ages five to 18.
Filipino and English are the main languages of instruction at all public and private schools in the Philippines. From grades one to three, students are taught in the dominant language of their region. Classes are held in either English or Filipino from then on.
The school year for both public and private schools in the Philippines runs from June to March or April. A typical school week is Monday to Friday, with long school hours.
Public schools in the Philippines
Most local Filipino children attend public schools, which are funded by the government and free to attend. Unfortunately, the quality of education in public schools remains poor. Class sizes are big, teaching material is lacking and teachers are poorly paid.
For these reasons, expats in the Philippines generally don’t send their children to public schools.
Private schools in the Philippines
Those who can afford it send their children to private schools. Private schools are not funded by the government, but follow the same curriculum as public schools.
Many private schools in the Philippines started as missionary or Christian schools. Classes are smaller than public schools and facilities and resources are usually much better.
International schools in the Philippines
There are several international schools in the Philippines. Most of these schools are in Manila, popularly catering to American, British, French, Japanese and German nationals.
International schools generally follow the curriculum of their home country, and subjects are taught in their own language. Some international schools offer the International Baccalaureate programme.
Admission to an international school often requires a personal interview. For this reason, expats might only be able to enrol their children after arrival in the Philippines. Nevertheless, parents are recommended to start the admission process as soon as possible, as space tends to be limited.
Additionally, international school fees are high, and expats working in the Philippines may be able to factor this into their employment contract negotiations.
Nurseries in the Philippines
Parents with young infants will have access to a number of kindergartens and nurseries, especially if they live in a large urban area such as Metro Manila. Preschools and kindergartens are often a part of larger private and international schools. Separate standalone daycare and nursery facilities can also be found.
When looking for a nursery, its location and proximity to an expat’s accommodation will likely play a major role, especially in larger cities where traffic is nightmarish.
Special-needs education in the Philippines
Inclusive education for all students, including children with disabilities, is valued in the education system. However, while public schools have adapted their curriculum to support students with multiple disabilities, there is a lack of resources and qualified staff.
Support in private schools is also limited and variable, although some, including Montessori-based international schools, offer services and special-needs education support. Schools may require parents to submit professional evaluations of their child's needs to develop an individualised academic programme.
It’s best to contact schools directly to find out about the level of services offered.
Homeschooling in the Philippines
Many families moving to the Philippines consider homeschooling their children. Homeschooling is legal, and parents can reach out to the community of local homeschools through expat forums and social media groups.
Homeschoolers can follow a curriculum of their choice, but parents are advised to do their research and commit to this alternative style of education and learning. Many schools also offer a home study programme in the Philippines, which can help shape a child’s learning and provide extra guidance.
Tutors in the Philippines
Whether children attend a regular private school or are homeschooled, extra support from a tutor can be beneficial. Tutoring is common in the Philippines, and expats can easily find a tutor who specialises in a specific subject area and curriculum. Networking in person and online through websites such as TeacherOn can help expats search for a tutor.