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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.
Missionaries highly influenced the society and school system in the Philippines.

A US-Influenced Education System

The education system of the Philippines is modeled largely after the US American education system, reflecting the influence the US has had on this country. In total, there is twelve years of compulsory schooling in the Philippines: primary school from first to sixth grade, secondary school from seventh to tenth grade, and higher secondary in grades eleven and twelve.

Higher education institutions are usually private or run by the church. As schooling is compulsory in the Philippines, the literacy rate is quite high throughout the population. Unfortunately, many children quit school after sixth grade.

State schools are often characterized by big classes, a severe lack of teaching material, and poorly paid teachers. There are many regional differences when it comes to the number of children who finish school. Whereas most students in Manila graduate, less than half do so in Mindanao or Eastern Vasayas. The test scores of Filipino children are below international standards as well.

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

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 tuition fees starting as low as 1,000 PHP per semester. Nevertheless, many families, including some who belong to the middle class, struggle to send their children to a decent university or college.

International Schools for Expat Kids

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

Staying Safe Abroad

Unfortunately, terrorist attacks still occur in the Philippines, especially on the Sulu Archipelago and on Mindanao, the Philippines’ southernmost island. Here, the majority of radical Islamist attacks take place. Since the armed conflict of 2008 ended in a cease-fire after peace negotiations, open fights are rare. However, the conflict could potentially reemerge, and you would probably be well advised to stay clear of this area.

Attacks and assaults in Manila are not unheard of, either. The crime rate is generally rather high in the Philippines, and violent crimes are no exception. Furthermore, the Philippines are prone to volcanic eruptions. Earthquakes, seaquakes, and tsunamis are not uncommon. Moreover, the country is often hit by severe tropical storms, the worst of which was Typhoon Haiyan or 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. It is wise to follow official safety recommendations, and you should not hesitate to evacuate an at-risk area. Further, just in case that you are ever caught in a disaster zone, make sure to register with your embassy or consulate in the Philippines. If you do, diplomatic staff will be aware that a foreign national might be in need of assistance, and they will also help your family and friends back home learn more about your whereabouts.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Jacques Paillard

"All expatriates in my company joined InterNations because it really helped me get accustomed to my new life in Manila. "

Adriana Rodrigues Zon

"The idea of getting to know other expats in Manila was very appealing to me, and I've greatly expanded my network in the Philippines. "

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