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A History of the System of Education in the Philippines – Its Implication for the Present Generation

In ancient Philippines, children were given the rudiments of education. Such education was both academic and vocation. The father trained his sons to be warriors, hunters, fishermen, miners, lumbermen and ship builders. The mother on her part trained her daughters in cooking, gardening, serving and other household arts.

It is said that in ancient Panay, there was a barangay school called Bothoan under the charge of the teacher usually an old man. The subjects taught to the children in this barangay school were reading, writing, arithmetic, use of weapons and lubus (acquiring kinaadman or amulets).

Hence, education during that time was geared toward their needs. Because of colonization by several foreign countries and several historical events, our education underwent several changes although we also retained some of the ancient teachings which are practical even during our time.

With the country’s celebration of independence in 1946, scarcely seven decades ago, have come every aspect of educational system in line with the new status of a new nation seeking to achieve and maintain political and economic independence and to fashion a nation truly united out of social and cultural diversities.

Introduction of the Western or European System of Education

With the coming of Spain, the European system of education was introduced to the archipelago. Primary schools, colleges and universities were established in our country by the missionaries.

The principal aim of Spain in the Philippines during their regime was to make the native Filipinos obedient and God-fearing Christians. For this reason, religion was a compulsory subject at all levels – from the primary schools to the universities.

The first schools were the parochial schools opened by the missionaries in their parishes. In addition to religion, the native children in these schools were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and some vocational and practical arts subjects.

Later on, colleges for boys and girls were opened by the missionaries. These colleges were the equivalent of our high schools today. The subjects taught to the students included history, Latin, geography, mathematics and philosophy.

[blockquote type=”center”]What the Philippines needs is a realistic educational system adaptable to local conditions.[/blockquote]

There was no co-education during the Spanish times. Boys and girls studied in separate schools.

University education was started in the Philippines during the early part of the 17th century. Originally, the colleges and universities were open only to the Spaniards and those with Spanish blood (mestizos). It was only during the 19th century that these universities began accepting native Filipinos.

It is interesting to note that for nearly 300 years, education in the Philippines was the primary responsibility of the Catholic Church. The missionaries established the schools, provided the teachers and facilities and decided what should be taught. It was only in the last half of the 19th century that the government took an active part in promoting education in the colony. In 1863, a royal decree called for the establishment of a public school system in the colony.

Education under the Americans

The United States had a different approach dictated by what the Americans considered to be their principal goal in coming to the Philippines – “to educate and to train in the science of self-government.”

Consequently, it was not surprising that the United States considered educating the Filipinos as one of its top priorities in the Philippines. Even while US troops were consolidating their foothold in Manila in 1898, schools were already opened in the city. But unlike the Spaniards who neglected to propagate their language, the Americans made it a point to teach English to the Filipinos. The American soldiers were the first teachers of the Filipinos.

In January 1901, free primary education was provided and a school for Filipino teachers was established. It called for the recruitment of trained teachers in America. It abolished compulsory religious instruction.

The Americans gave bright young Filipino students opportunity to take up higher education in American colleges and universities. These Filipinos came to be known as “pensionados” for their education in the United States was financed by the government in the Philippines. Hundreds of Filipino pensionados were able to study in the US until 1928. From the ranks of these pensionados came the future civic, business and political leaders of our country.

Hungry for education, the Filipinos flocked to public and private schools in large numbers.

Education under the Commonwealth

Education continued to receive from the Commonwealth government the same attention that the Americans gave it. President Quezon created the National Council of Education in 1936 as an advisory body on educational matters. The council made important recommendations to further improve the educational system in the Philippines. Most of these recommendations were accepted and carried out by the government.

Under the Commonwealth, vocational and adult education were given emphasis.

It was also during the Commonwealth regime that an organized effort to develop a common national language was stared in compliance with the mandate of the 1935 constitution.

To help counteract the American cultural influence among the Filipinos, President Quezon greatly encouraged the revival of native culture as well as desirable Filipino values.

And to help strengthen the moral fibers of the Filipinos and to foster love of country especially among the youth, President Quezon issued his famous Code of Ethics which was required to be taught in all schools.

In 1940, several changes were made in the Philippine educational system by virtue of the Educational Act of 1940. Under this law, the elementary course was reduced from 7 years to 6 years. The minimum age for admission to Grade I was raised to 7. The school calendar was also changed so instead of the school year from June to March, it was changed to July to April.

Education under the Japanese

Schools and churches were also used as propaganda tools of the Japanese. Nippon-go, the Japanese language, was made a compulsory subject in all schools. In government and private offices, classes in Nippon-go were opened to propagate the Japanese language and culture. Japanese Catholic priests were sent to the Philippines to help promote the idea that Japan, being an Asian country, was a friend of all Asian people’s including the Filipinos.

The Iloilo Experiment

In 1948. Dr. Jose V. Aguilar, the Superintendent of the Iloilo school division initiated a six year experiment with vernacular instruction in his school division. The experiment involved seven control schools where English was used as the medium of instruction in Grades 1 and 2 and seven experimental schools where the vernacular, Hiligaynon, was used as the instructional medium. This was controversial. As late as 1963, the Dean of the College of Education, Xavier University on the island of Mindanao, observed that the vernacular instruction was not producing maximum results. It was curtailing full instructional benefit. Instead of narrowing the regional gaps of the country, it was widening it and was producing dangerous trends towards regional and cultural imbalance.

Educational Thrust of the New Society and Today

It was assumed that the most fundamental objective of education is the development of an individual’s potential which will simultaneously improve society. Educational policies have been geared to the accomplishment of better manpower production through the understanding by the students of land reform, taxation, economic production, anti-drug and anti-pollution and conservation education. To accomplish these goals, the value and work oriented curricula were encouraged. However, many parents and teachers were still confused because they did not understand the philosophy, operations, and evaluations of this innovation in education. The concept of an average layman or teacher in the “new society” was always associated with the advent of Martial Law. This must be redirected to a functional definition of wholesome integration of our economic, social and moral lives for a progressive Philippines. The direction of education as envisioned by our educators can be best described by the following changes:

  1. A relevant and flexible curriculum. Educational content is focused on the need of society which is for sound economy. This means better knowledge in skills and food production, conservation of natural resources, technical knowledge in harnessing mineral deposits and less emphasis on white collar jobs which result only in producing the “educated unemployed.”
  2. Productive-coordinated technocrats. The inevitable reorganization of the Department of Education (DepEd) was a response to these needs. For centuries, our educational system generally operated on a system of isolation where the Bureau of Public, Private and Vocational Education worked almost independently and promoted secrecy and privacy instead of attaining harmony for the good of our country.
  3. A quality teacher with effective methods of teaching. To teach effectively, the teacher must have the solid foundations in terms of educational training from reputable institutions, update his method of teaching by reading and attending conferences, and should have the courage of trying out various means or ways of maximizing learner. To do this, it becomes necessary to understand the psychology of pupils and to be able to communicate with them in teaching-learning situations. The increase in teachers’ pay should be a strong justification for the better policy on the recruitment and retention of teachers.

Every time changes in our educational system occur to search for the solution for our educational ills, some pressure groups interfere and say it is “unrealistic and expensive,” which is not a valid reason. Courage and energy for action should be sustained to invigorate the lives of the citizenry.

After four centuries and a half of being a colony of Spain, America and Japan, the concern of the Filipino educators and policy makers is the Filipinization of the Filipinos and Filipino institutions. Alejandro Roces, while holding office as the Secretary of Education, voiced this concern thus:

History of Philippine Educational System (Presentation):

7 thoughts on “A History of the System of Education in the Philippines – Its Implication for the Present Generation”

  1. sana mabasa nyo po ito … ako po kabilang ng aking mga kagrupo ay nag papalabas ng isang makasaysayang dula sa larangan ng entablado … ito po ay stage play ang pamagat ay KAGITINGAN Bataan Has Fallen … nilalayon po namin na matulungan ang ating mga guro na ipaalam sa libo-libong estudyante dito sa pilipinas na kung ano ang kahalagahan ng history ng pilipinas at kung sino sino ang mga naging bayani ng noong ikalawang digmaan ….. ang grupo ko po ay ALTITUDE THEATER ARTS PRODUCTION !!! KUNG MAY KATANUNGAN PA PO KAU KINDLY pm ME ON FACEBOOK kENNETH LEE or sa email namin na [email protected]

  2. I’d like to comment on the topic the Iloilo experiment. In light with MTB-MLE this was the first recorded attempt on the use of the first language as LOI. It was not really fiasco on the educational system as presented in this blog.

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