Philippines - Commercial Guide
Education and Training

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-03-10

Capital:  Manila
Population:  109,180,815 (July 2020 est.)
GDP:  877.2 Billion USD (2017 est., Purchasing Power Parity)
Currency:  Philippine pesos (PHP)
Language:  Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official)

UNESCO Student Mobility Number:
The Philippines has 17,197 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook:
51.58% of the population in the Philippines is under 24 years of age.

OVERVIEW

The Philippine educational system operates on a tri-focal management system. The three agencies that jointly manage the educational system are The Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA).

The Department of Education is responsible for primary and secondary education and manages the Alternative Learning System for out of school youth and adults. The Commission on Higher Education governs and regulates institutions of higher learning, and the Technical Education Development Authority manages non-degree and vocational trainings.

Recently, the Philippines transitioned from the K–10 system to the “Education for All” program also known as the K–12 system which was signed into law in 2013 under the leadership of President Benigno S. Aquino III. This adds two additional years of high school to the current system. The transition aims to bring the Philippine educational system in line with international standards, making it easier for Filipino students to transition into university programs abroad.

The Philippines has 2,396 institutions of higher education. As of 2016, enrollment was 1,947,877 for private and 1,641,607 for public institutions according the Philippine Commission on Higher Education.  Through the Quality Tertiary Education Act, public university tuition is free. Private school tuition can range from $5000 to $9,435 a year. Currently, Southville International School is the most expensive institution in the Philippines.  

There is also a presence of competitive international schools located in the major cities such as Manila, Cebu, and Davao. These international schools offer both International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs to help prepare their students who wish to study overseas. Annual tuition fees for such schools can range from $13,000 to $15,000.

Most Filipino students studying abroad are from the private education network. This private education 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 is composed of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), 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).

3,006 students from the Philippines studies in the United States in the 2016-17 academic year, according to the IIE Open Doors Report.  This marks a 4.2% increase from the previous year.  Out of the 3,006 students from the Philippines studying in the United States, 1662 were pursuing undergraduate degrees, 902 were seeking graduate degrees, and 94 were seeking other programs, and 362 were pursuing Optional Practical Training (OPT). The U.S. 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 country, and such community and family support networks are a factor in encouraging study abroad.  With over 60% of the population being aged 23 and younger, there will be a surge of youth positioned to enter the institutions of higher education. 

OPPORTUNITIES 

This section includes market entry strategies. Given the country’s 12 million population employed overseas, students are knowledgeable about education abroad.  Most families will have some relative that has studied abroad or is working abroad.  The official language of both business and education is English, and Filipinos boast a 91.8% literacy rate among youth aged 15- 22, according to EducationUSA.  

For those who can finance their education, U.S. offerings can be attractive.  With the transition to a K-12 system and CHED programs to support both student and faculty study abroad, there are opportunities for new players that can provide offerings suitable for the market. 

It is important to note the many challenges as one considers whether the market really is a best fit.  According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average income for 2015 was $5260. This indicates the fiscal reality in the country, and while the middle class is growing, it will take time for education abroad to be commonly accessible due to cost. Schools wishing to find students will have to mainly target the private school network, as students enrolled in such institutions tend to already meet the academic and fiscal qualifications necessary. Connecting with and visiting the university fairs of the international school community would be a good first step. 

However, it is important be aware that this is a saturated market, with competition not only from famous U.S. schools but also international competitors who often offer cheaper tuition and additional services.  Popular destinations for students include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan- all of which tend to have extremely price competitive offerings in comparison to the United States.  

With increased difficulty in securing employment beyond the OPT period after graduation in the United States, one of the main reasons for selecting the country as a study abroad location has weakened.  In the past, many selected the United States with hopes of migration which has noticeably become more difficult.  Students studying in the United States now must return to the Philippines, and to compete in the job market, they must attend universities that have brand recognition in country or be from well-connected families. Competitor nations tend to offer generous scholarships and have visible marketing efforts and study abroad fairs, often with government subsidies.  Furthermore, the commission offered to agents promoting competitor nation schools tends to be as large as 50% of the first year of tuition, while the U.S. standard would be around 20%. 

Market Entry Strategies

To sustain and even cultivate interest in pursuing education in the United States, U.S. schools must be prepared to invest considerable time and financial resources into the market. For schools without brand recognition, this may entail visits to find a local partner and aggressive marketing efforts. This may also involve counseling services for parents to ensure comfort in sending children to new schools they are not familiar with. 

Being aware of the fiscal realities of one’s program is key as many private school programs are too expensive for most of the middle class. To secure students from the top 1% of the population, one must be prepared to compete in the international school market against other brand name U.S. and foreign universities, all who are competing to solicit the children of the richest in the country. Knowing where one’s program stands competitively will help better positioning and market strategy. 

Best practices for success would include featuring successful Filipino alumni in marketing materials, providing career ladder support for those wishing to stay in the United States or return to the Philippines after graduation, and exploring partnerships with local universities and agents.  Frequent in country visits to preserve relationships and the provision of updated school catalogs, brochures and other literature to Fulbright and key local schools are recommended. Other accommodations including TOEFL waivers, scholarship programs, and student assistantship enhance appeal. 

For the truly dedicated, creating a program that could possibly qualify for government scholarships may be an option.  However, this would require dedicated price and program structuring in close communication with CHED. The same competitors will also be players, and unless a U.S. institution can craft a dedicate program that specifically caters to what the Government of the Philippines is looking to finance, it will be challenging to attract students despite the huge funding pool that is up for grabs.

RESOURCES

Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED):     http://www.ched.gov.ph/ 
U.S. Embassy in the Philippines:                 https://ph.usembassy.gov/ 
U.S. Commercial Services’ Education Team:          https://www.trade.gov/education-service-exports
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
john.giray@trade.gov                            
+632 301 2000, ext. 2182