Educated Filipinos, Education in the Philippines, Filipino Education and Other Allegations

by Arnold De Villa

Aug 13, 2010

PART I – Educated Filipinos

There are so many of them, or us. It all de pends on how we define educated. It de pends on which Filipinos we are referring to. It depends from which perspective or from what point of view we are sharing our thoughts. And it depends on the appositives, designations or titles we attach to a name, before or after. For many of us, if not most, the most popular notions of an educated Filipino are those addressed with professional designations. Attorney, Doctor, Engineer, Professor, Father or Sister so and so normally occupy a rank perceived as an erudite. Next in line would be those with job titles like Manager, Supervisor or Director (regardless of the place or quantity of subordinates under their care). They are presumed educated based on an assumption of a functional leadership (although not necessarily a reader). Then comes those with academic degrees and those without. In a typical Philippine setting, anyone who has not exceeded elementary education is sadly derided as uneducated, oftentimes looked down upon by a College graduate, no matter how mediocre that graduate is, even from universities that spew diplomas without merit. On the side, probably on the periphery of the not so common, educated Filipinos fondly address other educated Filipinos because of breeding, cultural likes, fashion, or travel exposure. It is oftentimes assumed that someone who graduated from a foreign school must be very educated in order to do so. To all these assumptions, there is a yes or no. They are perceptions, opinions, and commonly accepted notions – nothing absolute and definitely unreliable.

PART II – Education in the Philippines

Based on partial hearsays and anecdotal evidence, the overall educational system in the Philippines is currently described as dismal, decadent, elitist and deplorable. Public education is said to receive the worst government funding, mostly leftovers from pork barrel allocations. On the other hand, private education (many owned and operated by religious groups with a vow of poverty) is alleged to cater only to students belonging to affluent families. There might be exemptions to this general observation, but tuition fees in those centers of education are unquestionably and prohibitively unaffordable.

There is also a perception that students could get the best education only from the most expensive schools. Quite true, but not completely. There are also expensive universities that charge for a diploma and sell answered questions to national examinations. They produce graduates who oftentimes are unsuitable for general employment.

PART III – On Filipino Education

Filipino education is quite unique, at least according to my experience. The more exclusive grade schools relied on books authored by foreign writers with a foreign back drop inappropriately applied to a setting burdened by old colonial values. Nonetheless, Filipino education is still viewed as a primary means to an upward mobility, both social and economic. Tinged by notions of monetary compensation, the sole solution against the bitterly degrading effects of massive poverty have been vetted upon the possibilities of a larger income. The only hope left among the poor is to grab the chance to work on a career that garners the most pay. Hence it is common for a child to dream on being a doctor, a lawyer, or a nurse. In the most remote areas with the least exposure, men are sent to seminaries for an affordable quality education. Women are encouraged to go overseas and work as an “au pair”, while the least “brilliant” ones are told that they could be teachers. Such beliefs purport to a logic which are difficult to comprehend. Nonetheless, within a mode to survive and a struggle to subsist, a nation whose dearth knocks at the door of so many people will always be confronted with the most tenuous obstacles against the shackles of despicable scarcity.

PART IV – Other allegations

The most recent news in Philippine education is focused on a proposal to increase the number of years to two. According to certain journals there would be eight years in grade school as opposed to just six and then four years in High School. Kindergarten and Preparatory are not counted as part of the formal grade school years. Debates and exchange of thoughts are happening even now either to repudiate the proposal, object to its claimed advantaged or defend its premises. We now take the helm to further deliberate or perhaps support the fact that our people deserve the chance for an untarnished equal opportunity, to have the doors open for the same possibilities.

This cannot be realized without the proper preparation, the right information, or the most appropriate education. Education is not and should not be restricted to the notion of gaining monetary revenues since education is primarily to form and to mold an individual for self improvement and empowerment. Without the values fostered through the right education, no amount of designation could improve the “educated” as a person. Without that improvement, we produce wealthy crooks, crooked politicians, and political mendicants. Perhaps we need more years in school for the better future of our nation. Even more, we probably need a total educational reform above anything else that could build a better nation, install a system that dismantles the old corrupt values from their bastion and replace the old status quo with an integrity of spirit.


Despite all these, Filipinos are by nature lovers of good education. We cherish the depth of wisdom, appreciate the simplicity of beauty and fight for the defense of truth. Unfortunately, because of the historical anomalies of imperial colonizers, decades of dirt have heaped upon our people and clogged the flow of development. The Philippines have been locked into a non-growth mode because of debts and blunders. Education is the last grain of hope. The transformation of people’s mind and heart can and will transpire when the right values from a proper education are infused. It is not necessarily the length of time spent but the quality of time well spent that could serve as the crux for a better education.

If the Philippines worked hard to disseminate the right stuff, and if her leaders lived what they promise, and if the people from all walks of life went to school primarily to learn all that is right and useful, then education could have been reformed. There will be no need to increase years. Nonetheless, in all the places that I have been, and in so many schools that I have taught, it seems that the Philippines has the shortest length of time in school. Yet, I will never trade the values I learned, the memories I earned, and the cherished moments of my Philippine education to any technology or academic luxury that might come my way. Will you?

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