The Real Cost of Education in the Philippines

cost of education.jpg

It’s the start of classes again, and I could feel that the downtown area gets crowded as we approach the month of June, the time of the year when most schools start the school year. What can I expect, this is the city that houses eight universities, more than 30 colleges, 200 secondary schools, and about 1100 primary schools.

I think this post is also quite timely as I am back in the classroom scene in the university. It’s not that I don’t like the previous administrative post I held at the kindergarten, but rather, I always think the classroom is my favorite workplace (as of the moment, I supposed). And this is something I would like to take advantage of, while I still can.

Mein Mann and I would talked about the cost of education in the Philippines as we are looking into the possibility of raising our family here in the tropics. He has read from a variety of topics written by Germans that most public schools, especially at the lower levels, would involved the kids mainly in singing and dancing. I have been working in the private academic institutions for a good number of years, and I PARTLY agree on this thought. I have seen it myself. I can’t blame the Germans as I personally admire their educational system.

But what’s really going on behind the face of Philippine education? 

By the school year 2011-2012, the Department of Education (DepEd) expressed that 6.38% of elementary school students dropped out of school. In the same year, the drop out rate is even higher among high school students, with 7.82% deciding to quit in the middle of the school year or not enroll for the next.

But, why do students drop out even when public education is free? 

Dropping out of the school is dictated by several factors. In a 2012 paper from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, it was revealed that the most critical factors that determine a child’s schooling include

  1. Parental and teacher perceptions on school readiness
  2. Educational attainment of the child’s parents
  3. Varying expectations on boys and girls
  4. The most common problem, poverty

Despite the fact that the Philippine public schools do not charge tuition fees, it’s not the only financial consideration for families. There are other things the family has to spend for which includes but not limited to

  1. School supplies and uniform costs
  2. Meals and transportation
  3. Sick family member needing medical care
  4. Parent/s becoming jobless

And, when they say it’s FREE, it doesn’t mean ZERO payment.

In 2015, the following estimation reflects the cost of public education in Manila, which is not really far from that of bigger cities outside the capital. 

a1.jpg(Screengrab from Rappler)

Starting this school year, 2017-2018, public universities will also observe the “no  tuition fee” rule. This, however, isn’t applicable with “other fees”.

Equally important, it should also be noted that state universities with subsidized tuition fees are also SELECTIVE. Simply stated, if the student’s college preparation is weak, he might as well lose the chance to enjoy the free public university education.

Here’s what my university’s website said about it:



What about the private schools, you might ask. Well, I guess it is safe to say that fees for private education ranges from P25,000.00 and above for a semester, and we are only talking about a basic private school, not the elite private academic institutions. So, when a poor kid goes to a private school, it would basically means being funded by a scholarship, may it be academic or sports.

Take a look, for example, at the tuition fee of a mid-range private kindergarten in Iloilo City:


So, going back to the question of whether the kids at the kindergarten or primary level mainly focus on dancing and singing… I believe the figures are enough to understand that parents will not spend the minimum amount reflected above just so the kids can sing and dance. The monthly tuition fee alone is equivalent to a year of spending for the public school kids, and it only gets expensive every year.

Often times, I told my husband that one of the best ways to avoid paying for the expensive cost of education in the Philippines is for me to stay in the academe. This, do not only give us the access to the “right people and networks” but also almost guarantee that our kids can study for free at whichever school I am employed. Does that sound practical enough?

So, what now? 

Given the fact that a good number of students dropped out of school every year (mainly due to poverty and lack of determination and guidance), and that the private schools are also expensive, the following might as well explain how this vicious cycle perpetuates. 


I hope it gives you the mental picture of how challenging it would be for an unfortunate kid to get his/her “right to education” in this country where the best you can be is defined, in most cases, by the privilege you were born with.

I personally believe poverty in material things is not a hindrance to get an education . For me, it had always been the parental support and the academic opportunities that made a huge difference. Read here, should you need a proof. 😉

What do you think are the factors that affect educational success?

Do you think paying for the private schools can make a difference?

Please share your thoughts. 🙂

6 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Education in the Philippines

  1. Reading about paying for education is always so strange for me who grew up in Finland and Germany. In Finland you got (at least when I was still in University) monthly money from the state to support your studies besides them being for free when doing a bachelor degree.

    1. I personally admire the German educational system.. and of course, that of Finland. Like, who wouldn’t? 🙂 And that is why it is undestabdable when people find it odd to know what’s going on here.

      1. In my opinion education should be for free until at least a high school degree. Beyond that I would not see a problem having a tution fee at University level but only if it is affordable for everyone, no matter the background

      2. I agree.. as it should be the duty of the state. Here, poor parents send their kids to public schools that not everyone can afford (sadly), and those who can afford, to expensive private schools.

  2. HI I live in Finland now. In the past however, I’ve lived in the Philippines. Iloilo as a matter of fact. I studied 6 years in private school and 2 in public schools. It was a time when it was not yet free. I understand the viewpoint that poverty is the biggest aspect behind dropping out of school. Living in Finland and understanding the social security system here. I think that the government of the Philippines has not done enough to guarantee for its people a minimum level of rights to equal opportunities in education (seen by the costs paid for out of pocket). Free in Finland also means the same thing; we have to cloth our children and pay all the school supplies and extracurricular essentials. Parents here worry a lot too. What I’m trying to say is that poverty combined with a social structure that does not look after equal opportunities for people will end up causing more segregation between those who can afford and those who cannot. The poor will be left out more and lacking opportunities for equal work due to competition will keep poor people impoverished.

    Another point perhaps behind all this is the allocation of funds by the government. Remittances from abroad cannot be the main source of income. Jobs need to be created domestically in order to keep the economy going. There are so many young people of labour age who have no concept of regular work or regular earning. They have no discipline as to what regular work and shifts are like. Responsibilities are pointed out to them at a young age but there is no efficient system that teaches young students to thrive outside of school. Students are told education is the only means out of poverty… is it?

    btw. education in Finland is free all the way to tertiary, but higher education is not tuition free for non Finns.

    1. Hi Chris! That’s spot on! Indeed, everyone who went to public schools there was told that poverty isn’t a hindrance to success, but without being told that would be quite a challenge to overcome, too. I know how it was like, and it was never a breeze.
      Back then, I used to tell my education students that the trouble with the PH educational system is that it was designed to produce workers for foreign economies, not towards self-reliance by making the local industries thrive. Sad reality.

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