Population: 110.8 million (July 2021 est.)
GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $871.6 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)
Currency: Philippine pesos (PHP)
Language: Filipino (official, based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects – Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasian
UNESCO Student Mobility Number
The Philippines has 22,709 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.
CIA World Factbook
51.58% of the population in the Philippines is under 25 years of age.
In 2016, the Philippines transitioned to a K-12 education system led by the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) and the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The transition to a K-12 model opened the door for international education institutions to market degree programs and universities to future graduates of the K-12 system. While previously only a small group attending elite private schools qualified for international programs, more students are now enrolling in tertiary education. This increases the potential for full-degree, short-term exchange, and certificate programs in the U.S.
The Philippines has 1,949 institutions of higher education. As of 2019, student enrollment was 1.8 million for private and 1.6 million for public institutions. Through the Quality Tertiary Education Act, public university tuition is free.
There is a strong presence of international schools in major cities such as Manila, Cebu, and Davao. In Manila, there are more than ten popular schools: Brent International School, British School of Manila, Chinese International School Manila, Domuschola International School, International School of Manila, The King’s School Manila, Multiple Intelligence International School, Reedley International School, Korean International School Philippines, The Beacon School, Faith Academy, Australian International School, and Southville International School and Colleges. These international schools offer both International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs, with annual tuition fees ranging from $13,000 to $15,000.
Most Filipino students studying abroad are from the local private education network. This network is composed of 18,350 schools. The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) is the umbrella organization of all private schools in the Philippines. The Association consists of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAASCU); Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities (ACSCU); Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP); and Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines (TVSA).
In 2019, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines and CHED signed a Joint Statement on Higher Education Cooperation to increase collaboration in institutional linkages, capacity building, and developing government/industry/academic ties. The joint statement recognizes the growing market, the possible economic rebound after the pandemic, and the transition to a K-12 system to allow more middle-class students to have the option of studying abroad.
Community College Programs and Boarding Schools: Continues to be a niche market. Most Filipino families prefer direct university entry.
Higher Education (Undergraduate and Graduate): According to the IIE Open Doors Report, there were 2,907 Filipino students enrolled in the United States for the 2020-2021 academic year, including 1,510 pursuing undergraduate degrees, 856 seeking graduate degrees, 480 pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT), and 61 in other programs. The states with the highest number of Filipino students are California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. This mirrors locations with the largest Filipino communities in the U.S., as community and family support networks are determining factors in where Filipino students choose to study. With over 50% of the population aged 24 and younger, there will be a surge of youth positioned to enter higher education institutions.
Online Programs and Education Technology: The pandemic has greatly increased the demand for online programs and education technology tools across all academic levels for distance learning. However, this education model shift has experienced challenges, primarily due to lagging Philippine Internet connectivity. Speedtest Global Index lists the Philippines as having mobile Internet speed at 31.98 Mbps (global average is 54.53 Mbps) and fixed broadband speed at 58.73 Mbps (global average is 105.15 Mbps). For many years, Philippine Internet speeds were the slowest in Asia. By 2025, the number of mobile subscribers in the Philippines will reach 159 million and broadband subscribers will total 10.8 million. Legacy players Globe and PLDT-Smart will lead the 5G rollout and they have a combined total of 3,669 5G sites across the country. The Philippines only has 22,405 cellular towers compared to other ASEAN countries like Vietnam with 90,000 and Thailand with 60,000.
Research and Development: Research and development opportunities lie in academic programs relevant to the government priority disciplines of science, maritime, medicine, health, engineering and technology, agriculture, teacher education, hospitality, and architecture and town planning. Private and public institutions welcome partnership opportunities for research and accommodate visiting fellows and professors for knowledge exchange programs and capacity building.
Professional Training Services: The majority of the Philippine workforce is aged 25 – 54 years old. There are more than 900,000 Philippine micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) seeking training to advance their business operations. Several training centers partner with private and public sector employers to offer technical training and programs. There is an increased interest in executive education programs and certificates among Philippine business leaders. The Philippine Business for Education, a USAID-funded education organization, and several others have urged the government to create a national plan for workforce competitiveness and skills development to support its growing economy.
U.S. education institutions need to consider several factors when marketing in the Philippines. First, with increased difficulty securing employment beyond the OPT period after graduation, returning students to the Philippines must attend well-known universities to be competitive in the local job market. Second, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average individual yearly income for 2018 was $6,260. While the middle class is growing, it will take time for overseas education to be commonly accessible. U.S. schools are primarily targeting the private school network, where students meet the academic and financial requirements for overseas education. Popular destinations for Filipino students include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan, all of which extend price-competitive offerings compared to the United States. Many competing countries offer generous scholarships, have active marketing campaigns, and are highly visible at local study abroad fairs, often with government subsidies. Finally, the commission provided to agents promoting competitor nation schools tends to be as large as 50% of the first year of tuition, while the U.S. standard is around 20%.
U.S. schools should be prepared to invest considerable time and financial resources into the Philippine market as competition is fierce. Schools without brand recognition should partner with local agents and universities and conduct aggressive marketing efforts. Connecting and visiting the university fairs of the international school community would also be an excellent first step.
Best practices for success include featuring successful Filipino alumni in marketing materials and providing career support for those wishing to remain in the U.S. after graduation. International recruiters also utilize incentives, including English placement exam waivers, scholarship programs, and student internships.
For the truly dedicated, creating a program that would qualify for a Philippine government scholarship may be an available marketing angle. This would require devising a price and program structure in close communication with CHED.
DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES
Filipino students are fascinated by education events promoted via social media. As a social media capital of the world, Filipinos actively use social media platforms for a whopping 10 hours per day, seven days per week. The best platforms to reach the most students are Facebook (72.5 million active users), Twitter (8.9 million active users), and Instagram (10 million active users). YouTube (11 million active users) is the most popular platform for social video streaming. LinkedIn’s usage (4 million active users) has also been growing among newly graduated students and young professionals.
The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines organizes education fairs through EducationUSA. There were three virtual EducationUSA fairs in 2021:
- EducationUSA Virtual Graduate School Fair, August 27, 2021
- EducationUSA Virtual Mini-Fair, June 24, 2021
- EducationUSA Virtual Community College Fair, February 23, 2021
To see EducationUSA’s scheduled virtual programs, please visit:
- U.S. Commercial Service - Philippines: https://www.trade.gov/philippines
- U.S. Commercial Service Global Education Team: https://www.trade.gov/education-industry
- Industry and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services: http://www.trade.gov/professional-and-business-services
- Philippine Department of Education (DepEd): https://www.deped.gov.ph/
- Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED): https://ched.gov.ph
- U.S. Embassy in the Philippines: https://ph.usembassy.gov/
- EducationUSA Philippines: https://ph.usembassy.gov/education-culture/educationusa/
U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACT
Mr. John Giray, Education Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service – Manila, Philippines
Phone: +632 301 2000, ext. 2182