Primary education

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Primary education, also known as elementary education, is the first level of formal compulsory education. In the Philippines, elementary education commonly consists of six levels, with an additional level/grade (Grade 7) in some private schools.


Goal of the primary education system

Elementary education aims to provide basic literacy and establish foundations in reading, mathematics, and the sciences among all children.

Primary education is provided basically in schools, where the children stay in advancing classes until they finish and move on to secondary schools. In both public and private schools, the children are placed in one-teacher classes. The teacher is then responsible for their education and welfare for a year/particular level. The continuity with a single teacher and the opportunity to establish close relationships with the whole class is a notable feature of the primary education system.


Primary education is divided into two parts or levels: the primary level, which consists of grades 1 to 3, and the intermediate level which includes grades 4 to 6.

Philippine elementary education covers a wide curriculum, based on the guidelines set by DepEd. The core subjects (major subjects) include Mathematics, English, Filipino (the Filipino language and literature), and Makabayan (which is a hybrid course consisting of Social Studies, Home Economics, and Values Education―present in public schools). Starting at Grade 3, Science becomes an integral part of the core subjects. Other subjects include Music, Arts, and Physical Education.

In most secular private elementary schools, the subjects include Mathematics, English, Science, Social Studies, Basic Computer, Filipino, Music, Arts and Technology, Home Economics, Health, and Physical Education. In Catholic schools, Religion or Christian Living is added to the curriculum. International schools and Chinese schools, meanwhile, have additional subjects, especially in language and culture.

On the other hand, the study of the Arabic language and Islamic Values are added in the normal BEC in the case of Madaris (Muslim schools), as prescribed in the new Madrasah Curriculum in 2004.

Medium of instruction

In Metro Manila and nearby municipalities and provinces, the teaching medium in most subjects is English, with Filipino being only the second language used (in Makabayan and Filipino subjects). Under its Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education program, the DepEd trains teachers in the provinces to use the vernacular/dialect as a medium of instruction (in addition to English and Filipino) especially in the primary level. International schools use English language to teach all the subjects.

On the other hand, some elite private schools include Spanish or Arabic in their curriculum. Generally, graduates of such schools have knowledge of two to three languages.

Current issues

The Philippine Education for All Assessment Report of 2000 stated that a "huge population of children were either over-aged or under-aged for grade one." A reason behind this trend is that families opt to postpone the education of young children as girls were often asked to take care of younger siblings, and together with boys, help in their livelihood.

The Bureau of Basic Education, the office under the Department of Education assigned to handle matters regarding preschool and primary education, prioritizes the issue of making primary education accessible for all qualified students. The goal was successfully carried out, as some 95 percent of children aged six to twelve attended primary school in 2000. However, the quality of education and quantity of the students declined in the succeeding years due to lack of proper government funding to provide for adequate public school facilities and materials, and teachers’ salaries. Public schools are also overcrowded with students nowadays and facilities are no longer sufficient to meet their needs.

Another recurrent issue is the rising cost of education especially in private schools, which most Filipino families, usually belonging to the lower middle class and masses, cannot afford. They opt to either transfer their children to schools with lower tuition fees, or to public schools.




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