The Difference between the Philippines’ and United States’ Education System

Angel Owen Turner, Layout and Design Editor

  As someone who lived her whole life in the Philippines, I would say that I am very much familiar with how education works in my home country. From kindergarten to some years of high school, I got the full experience of being a student there. But as my family moved to the United States by the year 2018, my life as a student in the Philippines was put to an end and I had to start over again in a new environment. There were a lot of adjustments to be made, but at the same time, I got to grow and widen my horizons as an individual. On top of that, I was able to differentiate how both countries’ education works. People tend to ask me questions about this topic, usually about the difference or which I prefer the most. Is one better than the other? Or would I say that it was worth it that I moved?

Since I attended public high schools in both countries, my knowledge is limited to that of public schools only. I would also like to state that all information that I will be giving out is solely based on my own experience and a bit of research. Every school is different and one’s rules might differ from another. 

Starting with general aspects; when it comes to the overall composition of the establishment, which is the school, I would say that both are pretty much the same, from the classrooms, school gym, cafeteria, or the faculty office. Both faculties also have the same lineup which is composed of a principal, dean, school counselor, subject heads and many more. The only difference is that, in the Philippines, our principal and dean is only one person, has the highest authority, and has the final say.

  • Expenses

Most schools in the Philippines require a compulsory fee for every student to pay. If you’re wondering where that money goes, let’s just say that the government doesn’t provide enough money for the school to pay its monthly expenses like electricity and water bills. The fee also includes your payment for your school uniform (a requirement for students and even faculty to wear), PE uniform, books, extra money for school maintenance, and your student ID. 

School buses also aren’t common there and most students rely on public transportation or if you’re lucky enough that your school is near your house, you could just walk. You can only get your driver’s license when you turn 18 but either way, most are not encouraged to drive.On top of that, you also need to bring or buy your own recess or lunch food.  

Based on my research, as of 2015-2016, the US government spends about $13,847 per public school student which is enough to cover the basic necessities of a student. Additionally, here in the U.S., students are not required to wear school uniforms in some public schools, but we also can’t just wear anything that we please since we have a dress code. In most schools, food is also provided. Transportation wise, students get to ride the school bus. Also, when they turn 16, most students can get their driver’s license and drive to school. 

In short, high school education isn’t free in the Philippines. This contrasts with the United States’ system where you don’t need to pay for most things.

  • Inside the classroom

Teachers are much more strict in the Philippines. Most don’t prefer a friendly relationship between them and their students in order to emphasize the gap between their status. In this way, they also expect that students will respect them more and take them more seriously when it comes to learning. ‘Talking back’ or disagreeing with your teachers is frowned upon and is very common in many other Asian countries. 

In America, it’s the opposite in some ways. Respect is given but students have more freedom to express their opinions in class and have friendlier relationships with their mentors. Communication between teachers and students is of huge importance in school to avoid misunderstandings and also to encourage learning from each other. In short, schools in the Philippines have stricter management than of the United States.

In the Philippines, every grade level is divided from each other and students from the same grade levels are divided into sections based on who excels the most or their final average grade from the year before. ‘Star sections’, as what we call it, are given a much tougher treatment and more advanced level of learning. While the ones on the ‘lower section’ have it easier, depending on how much they can take.

 We also have a homeroom in which we have a main teacher that is in charge of the students in a section. The average class size is 40 students per classroom. Students learn as a class and don’t change classmates every period like how it is in the United States. By the end of every quarter, students are ranked based on their average grades. The top 10 people who excelled most in the class will have their names posted in the classroom alongside their average grades. This encourages the students to be more competitive and aim higher for the next quarter. Whenever a student fails a subject, they would need to retake it to be able to advance to the next grade level.

In the United States, things are far more different. Some schools don’t have homerooms and students aren’t divided from each other. Every period, you learn with a new set of people. Your classmates depend on which class you take and you can be mixed up with students from different grade levels. Also here, we don’t have a ranking system. The grades of every student are confidential and cannot be announced by the teacher. This is to avoid competition and humiliation inside the class. The average class size in the United States is 20 students per classroom.

  • Outside the classroom

Further complicated differences are more evident in this section. Since the United States and the Philippines have differing cultures, school events are likely so as well.

In the Philippines, we have a very diverse culture. Almost every month, we celebrate something. And as usual, everything is turned into a competition. Like for example, every August is celebrated as ‘Buwan ng Wika’ or ‘The Week of the Philippine Language.’ Grade levels compete with each other through their own prepared performance. Some sing, some dance, and some even write and recite their own poems that relate to the event. We have to do our preparations outside the school and won’t be given any time during class hours. Students are also assigned to organize every event, which are taken very seriously. On the other hand, events that they consider ‘not necessary’ for students to celebrate aren’t given much attention like prom. Sometimes we wouldn’t have any time for those kinds of events or the administration would just prefer for us to spend those time on learning. 

In the United States, fun is encouraged alongside learning. The school makes sure that every event is well prepared and most students engage in it. Unlike in the Philippines, here we have Homecoming and starts with what is called the Spirit Week. Each day of the week we have a theme in which students are free to be creative on what to wear. On Friday, we have a pep rally where our athletes are introduced and everyone can participate in various entertaining activities. At night is when a football game is held and our homecoming court is introduced. And for the most awaited part, the Homecoming dance. Students dress up in semi-formal attire and come with their dates or friends. Alumni are also encouraged to come, hence the name of the event.

So, if you’re still asking, which is the better one? For me, I would say that it’s just a matter of preference for every person. There are things that I much prefer in one than the other and vice versa. I miss the competitiveness that I experienced in the Philippines, though I love that I’m having fun and developing my social skills here in the United States. Either way, I still learn and that’s what matters most. But now, it’s up to you to decide. Which one fits your preference?