Inclusive & Equitable Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4 – “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

With the stand-alone Goal 4 on education and its related targets, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that education is essential for the success of all sustainable development goals (SDGs). Education is also included in goals on health, growth and employment, sustainable consumption and production, and climate change.

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Education in the Philippines

The Philippine education system has been heavily influenced by its colonial history, which has included periods of Spanish, American and Japanese rule and occupation. During the period of American colonization, beginning in 1898, English was instituted as the language of instruction and a public school system was established, administered by a Department of Instruction, and modeled on the US system.

Various colleges and universities were established in the Philippines initially to train teachers, and in 1908 the University of the Philippines (UP) was chartered as the nation’s first public university. Primary education up to grade seven was funded by the government and free for all. By 1970, the country had achieved universal primary enrollment. National figures however obscure large regional differences, for example:

  • In Manila, close to 100% of students finish primary school, whereas in Mindanao and Eastern Visayas less than 30% of students finish.
  • A recent study showed that many Filipino children between 9 – 14 in mathematics, science and reading were two standard deviations below the international mean.
  • The UN found that the Philippines was the only country in the region for which the youth literacy rate decreased between 1990 and 2004, from 97.3% to 95.1%  (United Nations, Millennium Development Goals Report 2006).

English was the official language of instruction from 1935 to 1987. The new constitution of 1987 prescribed that both Pilipino (Tagalog) and English are the official languages of communication and instruction.  The administration and supervision of the school system is the responsibility of the Department of Education (DepEd), which has an office in each of the 13 regions of the country.

In May 2013,  President Aquino signed a law adding three extra years to the country’s 10-year basic education curriculum in a bid to make Filipino students at par with their peers in other countries. The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, or the K-to-12 Act, establishes a “universal kindergarten” and introduces Grades 11 and 12 to high school education in public and private schools.

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