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Living in the Philippines?

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Living in Philippines, from France

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The Philippines at a Glance

Education and Safety in the Philippines

Living in the Philippines, you will experience a fascinating Southeast-Asian culture. Influenced by Spanish and US colonialism, the way of life there is truly unique. For a first glimpse of life in the Philippines, read our guide on housing, healthcare, education, and safety for expats.

Education System

The education system of the Philippines is modeled largely after the American education system, reflecting the influence the US used to have on this country. There is compulsory schooling until 6th grade, after which children begin to attend secondary schools. After 10thgrade, they then move on to higher education institutions where, after 4 years, they will receive their Bachelor’s degree.

Higher education institutions are usually private or run by the church. As schooling is compulsory in the Philippines, the literacy rate is high throughout the population. Unfortunately, many children also quit school after 6th grade. In fact, the duration of formal schooling in the Philippines is the shortest in the world.

Quality of Education

State schools are often characterized by big classes, a severe lack of teaching material and poorly paid teachers. There are high regional differences when it comes to the number of children who finish school. While almost 100% of students graduate in Manila, it’s only about 30% in Mindanao or Eastern Vasayas. The test scores of Filipino children are below international standards.

With its funding, the government has mostly focused on the primary education sector and has failed to fund the entire education system properly. To improve the situation, the government has now promised significant changes. They plan to build more schools, provide better teaching equipment and offer scholarships to poorer families.

Higher Education

There are plenty of state-run universities and higher education institutions in the Philippines. Much like public schools, however, they suffer from low budgeting and cannot compete with private institutions. These are financed through high tuition fees. Many families, including those who belong to the middle class, struggle to send their children to a decent university or college.

The actual weak point in the Philippine education system, however, lies in the professional education. It is mainly offered by private institutions and is not as widely available as necessary. While English is spoken widely in the Philippines, the proficiency has decreased among graduates in recent years.

International Schools

There are quite a few international schools, many of them former missionary or Christian schools, which cater to the expat community. However, most of them are located in bigger cities:


Unfortunately, terrorist attacks are still possible in the Philippines, especially on the Sulu Archipelago and on Mindanao, the Philippine’s southernmost island. Here, the majority of radical Islamist attacks take place. Since the armed conflict of 2008 has ended with a cease-fire and peace negotiations, open fights are rare. However, the conflict may reemerge, and you are well-advised to stay clear of this area.

There is a certain danger of attacks and assaults in Manila as well. The crime rate is generally rather high in the Philippines, including violent crimes. Furthermore, the Philippines are prone to volcanic eruptions. Earthquakes and seaquakes, as well as tsunamis, are not uncommon. Moreover, the country is often hit by severe tropical storms. The worst of this kind so far was Typhoon Haiyan, aka Yolanda, which wreaked havoc in the eastern Philippines in November 2013.

Thus, it is important to closely follow the weather forecast and check up-to-date weather warnings. Do follow official safety recommendations and don't hesitate to evacuate an at-risk area. Moreover, just in case that you are ever caught in a disaster zone, don't forget to register with your embassy or consulate in the Philippines. Thus, diplomatic staff will be aware that a foreign national might be in need of assistance, and they will also help your family and friends from home to learn more about your whereabouts. 

InterNations Expat Magazine