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The Philippine Educational System

Two major subsystems – formal and non-formal.The Philippine educational system is composed of two major subsystems: the formal and the non-formal.The formal subsystem consists of sequential academic schooling at three levels.

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The first two levels are referred to as the basic education level, consisting of six years of primary or elementary education and four years of high school or secondary education. Basic education is intended to provide functional, scientific and social literacy. The Philippine government, through its public schools and the voucher system, provides free education for children up to the secondary level.

The post-secondary and tertiary levels include one to three years of technical/vocational education and degree courses requiring a minimum of four years of college/university education. The three levels of schooling just described focus for the most part on providing academic training and scholastic competence. Any organized and systematic learning conducted outside the formal educational system, whether providing certification or not, is referred to in the Philippines as non-formal education.

Non-formal education addresses the needs of those who are not able to participate in the formal subsystem, most of whom may have dropped out of the formal system due to poverty. The organization, specific activities, and delivery methods associated with non-formal education are usually designed to meet the expressed needs of distinct clientele, such as primary and high school drop-outs, unemployed adults, and other marginal, dislocated, or disabled groups.

Institutionalized in 1977 with the creation of the Office of the Undersecretary for Non-Formal Education under the former Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, the non-formal education program is still provided separately and apart from the formal system. Efforts are being made to provide clear entry points to higher levels of formal education through a system of equivalency and certification.

However, since the system is not yet fully operational, the non-formal education program appears to mainly concentrate on providing participants with skills necessary for employability and competitiveness in the labor market. The availability of non-formal education, however, is useful in that it expands a window of opportunities for education to more citizens from a variety of demographic characteristics, socio-economic origins, and general interests (DECS, 1994).

The non-formal system makes education available to a larger number of Filipinos who cannot participate in formal educational programs. Government’s support for and involvement in non-formal education notwithstanding, it must be recognized that the stronger advocacy for and more active implementation of the program in the Philippines could be attributed to private schools, churches, civic organizations, and foundations (Congressional Commission on Education, 1991).

Private groups conduct activities ranging from providing basic-level skills training to values formation. The delivery vehicles of these activities include seminars and workshops, community assemblies, television and radio programs, correspondence courses, home visits, self-directed learning modules, and practical work. The curricular designs of the various programs vary from one implementing agency to another, and are tailor-fit to the needs of specific clientele (Gonzales and Pijano, 1997).

At present, non-formal education in the Philippines has four main thrusts: develop family life skills, including health, nutrition, childcare, household management, and family planning; promote vocational skills; enhance functional literacy; and cultivate livelihood skills. Gonzales and Pijano (1997) note that given the dichotomy of the Philippine educational system, a subsystem of lifelong learning must perforce lean heavily on and draw services from both the formal and informal sub-systems.

They add, however, that the current subsystems still do not reflect the significant and important “informal” attributes of lifelong learning. Recent developments in the national educational system. In 1994, the Philippine educational system was restructured in an attempt to rationalize and improve the provision of learning opportunities. The system currently has three subdivisions, namely: basic education; technical-vocational education and training; and higher education.

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