Although choosing the right school can be challenging for new arrivals, expat parents in the Philippines can rest assured that they will have numerous options.
The standard of education at local Filipino schools will likely be inadequate for most expats, as 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 was shaped by the country's colonial history, particularly by Spanish and American culture. Today, the Filipino education system is similar to that of the US, and schooling is compulsory from five to 18.
Filipino and English are the main languages of instruction at all public and private schools in the Philippines. From Grades 1 to 3, students are taught in the dominant language of their region. Thereafter, the language of instruction is either English or Filipino.
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 hours.
Public schools in the Philippines
Most local Filipino children attend government-funded public schools, which are free to attend. Unfortunately, the quality of education in public schools remains poor. Class sizes are big, there is a lack of learning materials, and teachers are paid poorly.
Private schools in the Philippines
Those who can afford it send their children to private schools. Private schools are not government funded, but follow the same curriculum as public schools.
Many private schools in the Philippines started as missionary or Christian schools. Classes are smaller than in public schools, and the facilities and resources are usually much better.
International schools in the Philippines
There are several international schools in the Philippines. Most of these are in Manila, popularly catering to American, British, French, Japanese and German nationals.
International schools generally follow the curriculum and use the language of their home country. Some international schools offer the International Baccalaureate programme.
Admission to an international school often requires a personal interview. For this reason, expats may only be able to enrol their children after arrival in the Philippines. Nevertheless, parents should start the admission process well in advance, as space tends to be limited.
Additionally, international school fees are quite hefty, and expats working in the Philippines may be able to factor this cost into their employment contract negotiations.
Nurseries in the Philippines
Parents with young infants will have access to a fair few kindergartens and nurseries, especially if they live in an urban area such as Metro Manila. Preschools and kindergartens are typically part of larger private and international schools. Separate standalone day care and nursery facilities are also available.
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 can be a nightmare.
Special-needs education in the Philippines
The inclusion of all children, including those with disabilities, is valued in the Filipino 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 varies considerably, although some, including Montessori-based international schools, offer special-needs support. Schools may require parents to submit professional evaluations of their child's needs to develop an individualised academic programme.
It is best to contact schools directly to find out about the type and level of services they offer.
Homeschooling in the Philippines
Many families moving to the Philippines consider homeschooling their children. Homeschooling is legal, and parents can reach out to the local homeschooling community through expat forums and social media groups.
Homeschoolers can follow a curriculum of their choice. That said, it is advisable for parents to do their research before commiting 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 popular in the Philippines, and expats can easily find a specialist tutor. Networking in person and online through websites such as TeacherOn is a good place to start the search.