Historically, the Philippines has been a pioneer in many aspects regarding education in all of Asia, and even America or Europe. The oldest universities, colleges, vocational schools and the first modern public education system in Asia were created during the colonial period, and by the time Spain was replaced by the United States as the colonial power, Filipinos were among the most educated subjects in all of Asia.
During the period of governance by the United States, Education in the Philippines changed radically, modeled on the system of Education in the United States of the time. After gaining independence in 1946, changes in the US system were no longer automatically reflected in the Philippines, which has since moved in various directions of its own.
Filipino children may enter public school at about age four, starting from Nursery up to Kindergarten. At about seven years of age, children enter elementary school for six or seven years. This is followed by secondary school, also called as high school, for four years. Students may then sit for College Entrance Examinations (CEE), after which they may enter tertiary institutions for three to five years.
There are other types of schools such as Private schools, Preparatory schools, International schools, Laboratory High Schools and Science High Schools. Several ethnic groups, including Chinese, British, Americans, Koreans and Japanese operate their own schools.
Though elementary schooling is compulsory, 24% of Filipinos of the relevant age group do not attend, usually due to the absence of any school in their area, education being offered in a language that is foreign to them, or financial distress. In July 2009 DepEd acted to overcome the foreign language problem by ordering all elementary schools to move towards mother-tongue based learning initially. The order allows two alternative three-year bridging plans. Depending on the bridging plan adopted, the Filipino and English languages are to be phased in as the language of instruction for other subjects beginning in the third and fourth grades.
Secondary schooling is of four years duration. Although secondary schooling is compulsory, some Philippine news media have reported that since the 2000s, many Filipino students who began studying at private high schools, are forced to transfer to public high schools because of increasing cost of living and private school fees and financial distress.
Many public elementary/high schools in the country are already overcrowded.
The school year in the Philippines starts in June of one year and ends in March of the next, with a two-month break during April and May, a one week semester break during the last week of October), and a week or two of Christmas break.
In 2005, the Philippines spent about US$138 per pupil compared to US$1,582 in Singapore, US$3,728 in Japan, and US$852 in Thailand.