Education in the Philippines
Department of Education.svg
Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).svg
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).svg
Secretary of EducationSara Duterte
Chairperson of CHEDProspero de Vera
Director-General of TESDADanilo Pakingan Cruz
National education budget (2023)
Budget852.8 billion[1] (DepEd + CHED + TESDA + SUCs)
General details
Primary languagesFilipino
Philippine regional languages
System typeNational
Literacy (2010[2])
Enrollment (2017–2018[3])
Total22.9 million (public schools) + 4.8 million (private schools)
Primary1.8 million (public kindergarten schools) + 13.2 million (public elementary schools)
Secondary6.3 million (public junior high schools) + 1.6 million (public senior high schools)
Post secondary3.6 million
Attainment (2010[4])
Secondary diploma19.1%
Post-secondary diploma12.8%1
1 Figures include post-baccalaureate data.
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Public and private schools, colleges, universities, and technical and vocational institutions provide education in the Philippines. Funding for public education comes from the national government. For the academic year 2017–2018, about 83% of K–12 students attended public schools, and about 17% either attended private schools or were home-schooled.

Three government agencies handle each level of education. At the basic education level, the Department of Education (DepEd) sets overall educational standards and mandates standardized tests for the K–12 basic education system. However, private schools are generally free to determine their curriculum by existing laws and Department regulations. At the higher education level, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) supervises and regulates colleges and universities. Meanwhile, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) regulates and accredits the country's technical and vocational education programs and institutions.

By law, education is compulsory for thirteen years (kindergarten and grades 1–12) and is grouped into three levels: kindergarten, elementary school (grades 1–6), junior high school (grades 7–10), and senior high school (grades 11–12).[5] They may also be grouped into four key stages: 1st key stage (kindergarten–grade 3), 2nd key stage (grades 4–6), 3rd key stage (grades 7–10) and 4th key stage (grades 11–12). Children usually enter kindergarten at age 5.

Institutions of higher education may be classified as either public or private colleges or universities; public institutions of higher education may further be subdivided into two types: state universities and colleges and local colleges and universities.


University of Santo Tomas Baybayin Documents

Pre-colonial period

Further information: Ancient Philippine scripts and Baybayin

During the pre-colonial period, most children were provided solely vocational training, supervised by parents, tribal tutors or those assigned to specific, specialized roles within their communities (for example, the babaylan).[6] In most communities, stories, songs, poetry, dances, medicinal practices and advice regarding all sorts of community life issues were passed from generation to generation, primarily through oral tradition.[7] Some communities utilized a writing system known as baybayin, whose use was wide and varied, though other syllabaries were used throughout the archipelago.[6]

Spanish period

Main article: Education in the Philippines during Spanish rule

Formal education was brought to the Philippines by the Spanish, which was primarily conducted by religious orders.[8] Upon learning the local languages and writing systems, they began teaching Christianity, the Spanish language, and Spanish culture.[9] These religious orders opened the first schools and universities as early as the 16th century. Spanish missionaries established schools immediately after reaching the islands. The Augustinians opened a parochial school in Cebu in 1565. The Franciscans took to the task of improving literacy in 1577, aside from the teaching of new industrial and agricultural techniques. The Jesuits followed in 1581, and the Dominicans, in 1587, set up a school in Bataan.[10] The church and the school cooperated to ensure that Christian villages had schools for students to attend.[11]

Schools for boys and girls were then opened. Colegios were opened for boys, ostensibly the equivalent to present-day senior high school.[9] The Universidad de San Ignacio, founded in Manila by the Jesuits in 1589, was the first colegio. Eventually, it was incorporated into the University of Santo Tomas, College of Medicine and Pharmacology, following the suppression of the Jesuits. Girls had two types of schools – the beater, a school meant to prepare them for the convent, and another, meant to prepare them for secular womanhood.[9]

Cover of Doctrina Christiana
Cover of Doctrina Christiana

The Spanish also introduced printing presses to produce books in Spanish and Tagalog, sometimes using baybayin.[12] The first book printed in the Philippines dates back to 1590. It was a Chinese language version of Doctrina Christiana. Spanish and Tagalog versions, in both Latin script and the locally used baybayin script, were later printed in 1593. In 1610, Tomas Pinpin, a Filipino printer, writer and publisher, sometimes called the "Patriarch of Filipino Printing", wrote his famous "Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang Uicang Castilla", which was meant to help Filipinos learn the Spanish language. The prologue read:

Let us therefore study, my countrymen, for although the art of learning is somewhat difficult, yet if we are persevering, we shall soon improve our knowledge. Other Tagalogs like us did not take a year to learn the Spanish language when using my book. This good result has given me satisfaction and encouraged me to print my work, so that all may derive some profit from it.[13]

The Educational Decree of 1863 provided a free public education system in the Philippines, managed by the government. The decree mandated the establishment of at least one primary school for boys and one for girls in each town under the municipal government's responsibility and the establishment of a regular school for male teachers under the supervision of the Jesuits.[9] Primary education was also declared free and available to every Filipino, regardless of race or social class. Contrary to what the Spanish–American War propaganda tried to depict and current popular media, they were not religious schools; instead, they were schools established, supported, and maintained by the Spanish government.[14]

After implementing the decree, the number of schools and students increased steadily. In 1866, the total population of the Philippines was 4,411,261. The total number of public schools for boys was 841, and the number of public schools for girls was 833. The total number of children attending those schools was 135,098 for boys and 95,260 for girls. In 1892, the number of schools had increased to 2,137, of which 1,087 were for boys and 1,050 for girls.[14] By 1898, enrollment in schools at all levels exceeded 200,000 students.[15][16] There was some opposition to universal education from Spanish priests; only 1.6% of the population gained more than primary school education.[17]

Among those who benefited from the accessible public education system were a burgeoning group of Filipino intellectuals: the Ilustrados ('enlightened ones'), some of whom included José Rizal, Graciano López Jaena, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, and Antonio Luna—all of whom played vital roles in the Propaganda Movement that ultimately inspired the founding of the Katipunan.[18]

Non-Spaniards founded some schools established during this period that were not colonial creations. Damian Domingo established in 1823 a fine arts school known as the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura, now the Fine Arts College of the University of the Philippines. In 1868, Doña Margarita Roxas de Ayala established the girls' school La Concordia.

First Republic

The defeat of Spain following the Spanish–American War led to the short-lived Philippine Independence movement, which established the First Philippine Republic. The schools maintained by Spain for over three centuries were closed briefly but reopened on August 29, 1898, by the Secretary of Interiors.[19] The Instituto Burgos (Burgos Institute), the Academia Militar (the country's first military academy), [citation needed] and the Universidad de Literaria de Filipinas (Literary University of the Philippines) were established.[20][21] Article 23 of the Malolos Constitution mandated that public education would be free and obligatory in all schools of the nation under the First Philippine Republic.[22] However, the Philippine–American War hindered its progress.[23] Established in the American-occupied zone, Colegio Filipino (now National University) is a Philippine college that dates from this period and has survived.[24][25] There also existed for many decades the Rosa Sevilla Memorial School, originally founded on July 15, 1900, as the Instituto de Mujeres, an all-girls private school.[26]

American period

Main article: Education in the Philippines during American rule

About a year after securing Manila, the Americans were keen to open up seven schools with army service members teaching with army command-selected books and supplies.[27] In the same year, 1899, more schools were opened, this time with 24 English-language teachers and 4500 students. In that system, primary education consisted of 6 years of elementary and four years of secondary schooling. Until recently, it prepared students for tertiary-level instruction to earn a degree and secure a job later in life.[27]

A highly centralized, experimental public school system was installed in 1901 by the Philippine Commission and legislated by Act No. 74. The law exposed a severe shortage of qualified teachers by large enrollment numbers in schools. As a result, the Philippine Commission authorized the Secretary of Public Instruction to bring more than 1,000 teachers from the United States, called the Thomasites, to the Philippines between 1901 and 1902. These teachers were scattered throughout the islands to establish barangay schools.[16] The same law established the Philippine Normal School (now the Philippine Normal University) to train aspiring Filipino teachers. Provincial governments supported the high school system. It included particular educational institutions, schools of arts and trades, an agricultural school, and commerce and marine institutes established in 1902 by the Philippine Commission.[28]

Several other laws were passed throughout the period. In 1902, Act No. 372 authorized the opening of provincial high schools.[27] While in 1908, Act No. 1870 initiated the opening of the University of the Philippines, now the country's national university.[29][30]

However, the emergence of high school education in the Philippines did not occur until 1910. It was borne out of rising numbers in enrollment, widespread economic depression, growing demand by big businesses and technological advances in factories, the emergence of electrification, and the growing need for skilled workers.[27] High schools were created to meet this new job demand, and the curriculum focused on practical job skills that would better prepare students for professional white-collar or skilled blue-collar work. This proved beneficial for both the employer and the employee; the investment in human capital caused employees to become more efficient, which lowered costs for the employer, and skilled employees received a higher wage than those employees with just primary educational attainment.

However, a steady increase in school enrollment has hindered revisions to the then-implemented experimental educational system.[27] Act No. 1801, also known as Gabaldon Law, was passed in 1907, which provided a fund of a million pesos for the construction of concrete school buildings and is one of many attempts by the government to meet this demand.[31][32] In line with the Filipinization policy of the government, the Reorganization Act of 1916 provided that all department secretaries except the Secretary of Public Instruction must be natural-born Filipinos.[33][34]

A series of revisions (in terms of content, length, and focus) to the curriculum began in 1925 when the Monroe Survey Commission released its findings. The survey also started the process of implementing the K-12 curriculum and took decades before it was finally implemented on June 4, 2012. After convening from 1906 to 1918, what was simply an advisory committee on textbooks was officiated in 1921 as the Board on Textbooks through Act No. 2957. [27] However, the Board faced difficulties even up to the 1940s because financial problems hindered the possibility of newer adaptations of books.[27]

Boys of the Moro Agricultural School, Jolo, Sulu, 1923
Boys of the Moro Agricultural School, Jolo, Sulu, 1923

The Moro Province originally had its own Department of Public Instruction, separate from the national system. Education rapidly expanded, with the number of teachers rising from 74 in 1904 to 239 by 1914. The number of schools rose from 52 in 1904 to 366 in 1920, with a corresponding increase in enrollment from 2114 to over 33,000.[35]: 68  Such registration was primarily made up of first- and second-year students, after which attendance decreased. This increase also disproportionately benefited Christian inhabitants of the province, and most staff were Christians from elsewhere in the Philippine Islands. Perhaps less than 10% of Muslim children attended public schools in 1920,[35]: 70  with attendance, remaining low throughout the American period.[35]: 88  Education was primarily in English,[35]: 73–74  and aimed to introduce American values to the local population.[35]: 76–78  The Department of Public Instruction moved under the control of the National Bureau of Education in 1915. It was fully integrated into the national system by 1922,[35]: 68  part of transferring government to local Filipinos as part of a pathway towards independence.[35]: 83  Educational materials, when they began incorporating stories and cultural aspects from the Philippines, represented the mainstream Christian narrative.[35]: 88–89  Under the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the national curriculum served as a tool to inoculate a single national identity across the diverse ethnolinguistic groups of the archipelago.[35]: 110 

Japanese period and Second Republic

During the Japanese occupation, education indoctrinated the public to inculcate Japanese ideologies, causing low enrollment rates.[36] The Japanese Military Administration's Order No. 2 of February 17, 1942, had six basic points: the propagation of Filipino culture; the dissemination of the principle of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; the spiritual rejuvenation of the Filipinos; the teaching and propagation of Nippongo; the diffusion of vocational and elementary education; and "the promotion of the love of labour".[37][36]

After having been closed following the outbreak of the Pacific War, elementary schools, followed by vocational and regular schools, reopened. Colleges offering agriculture, medicine, fisheries, and engineering courses also resumed teaching. However, law courses were not instructed. Textbook passages concerning American ideologies of democracy were censored.[38] Educational reforms required teachers to obtain licenses following rigorous examinations. All heads of educational institutions were also required to get support. Also, the teaching of Tagalog, Philippine History, and character education was reserved for Filipinos.

The Japanese created the following educational institutions: the Training Institute for former USAFFE soldiers; the Normal Institute; the Preparatory Institute of Government Scholars to Japan; the Government Employees Training Institute; the New Philippines Cultural Institute; Constabulary Academy No. 1 at the Mapa High School Building in Bagumpanahon; Constabulary Academy No. 2, at the former Araullo High School Building in Bagumbayan; Constabulary Academy No. 3 at the Torres High School Building in Bagumbuhay; and Constabulary Academy No. 4 at the Legarda Elementary School in Bagumpanahon. During this period, the Philippine Nautical School, now known as the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, remained in operation, and the Japanese authorities even increased its student population. A school established during the Japanese period which still exists is St. Paul College of Makati.

Third to Fifth Republic

The country's education sector underwent several changes throughout the years after the relinquishment of the United States of its authority all over the Philippines in 1947. Then President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 94, which renamed the Department of Instruction into the Department of Education with the regulation and supervision of public and private schools belonging to the Bureau of Public and Private Schools.[39]

After the war, the public school system was rebuilt by launching the Philippine Community School program, which received worldwide recognition.[40][41] As early as 1953, the educational development in the Philippines drew attention from neighbouring Asian countries, with several Asian educators visiting the country to observe and study the vocational industrial schools.[42] The American colonial government recommended a shift to the American system: six years (instead of seven) for elementary, three years of junior high school, and three more years of senior high school, for 12 years of basic education. The transition began with the removal of Grade 6 from elementary, but the addition of two years in high school was never completed.

Following independence, Islamic schools began to spread in Mindanao, creating a parallel educational structure to higher education.[35]: 111 

Under the Marcos administration, the Department of Education became the Department of Education and Culture and, consequently Ministry of Education and Culture through Proclamation No. 1081 and Presidential Decree No. 1397, respectively.[43]

The Education Act of 1982 provided for an integrated system of education covering both formal and non-formal education at all levels. Section 29 of the act sought to upgrade educational institutions' standards to achieve "quality education" through voluntary accreditation for schools, colleges, and universities. Section 16 and Section 17 upgraded the obligations and qualifications required for teachers and administrators. Section 41 provided for government financial assistance to private schools.[44]

After the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the fundamental aims of education in the Philippines were defined, and most importantly, elementary schooling was made compulsory for all children.[45][46] Meanwhile, the Free Public Secondary Education Act of 1988 or Republic Act 6655 mandated free public secondary education commencing in the school year 1988–1989.[47][48]

In 1987, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports again became the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports under Executive Order No. 117 and remained practically unchanged until 1994.[43]

According to the 1991 report by the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM), the department was recommended to be divided into three parts. Thus, the passage of the Republic Acts 7722 and 7796 in 1994 led to the "tri focalization" of the educational system in the Philippines. Republic Act 7722, or the Higher Education Act of 1994, created the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which assumed the functions of the Bureau of Higher Education and supervised tertiary degree programs [49] Republic Act 7796 or the Technical Education and Skills Development Act of 1994, created the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which absorbed the Bureau of Technical-Vocational Education as well as the National Manpower and Youth Council, and began to supervise non-degree technical-vocational programs.[50] Meanwhile, the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports retained all elementary and secondary education responsibilities.[47]

Contemporary period

The start of the twenty-first century saw a significant change in the Philippine education system. In August 2001, Republic Act 9155, otherwise called the Governance of Basic Education Act, was passed. This act changed the department's name to the current Department of Education (DepEd) and redefined the role of field offices (regional offices, division offices, district offices and schools). The act provided the overall framework for school empowerment by strengthening the leadership roles of principals and fostering transparency and local accountability for school administrations. Primary education aims to give the school-age population and young adults with skills, knowledge, and values to become caring, self-reliant, productive, and patriotic citizens.[34]

In January 2009, the Department of Education signed a memorandum of agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to seal US$86 million in assistance to Philippine education, particularly the access to quality education in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the Western and Central Mindanao regions.[51]

On June 4, 2010, during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and 26 days before she ended her term as president and her successor Benigno Aquino III became president on June 30 of the said year, the 2010 Secondary Education Curriculum (SEC) or DepEd Order 76, Series of 2010 was implemented which focused on teaching and learning for understanding and doing this by design, is ready for roll-out in the First Year and scheduled to be progressively mainstreamed from 2010 to 2014 although this was only effective until June 1, 2015, and phased out when K-12 of Aquino III was implemented on Grade 10 (which changed from Fourth Year to Grade 10) as part of the implementation of K–12 and the process of phasing out the 1945–2017 or K–10 system in June 2015.[needs copy edit][52]

Early in February 2010, Aquino III, then a senator and presidential candidate, expressed his desire to implement the K–12 basic education cycle to increase compulsory education to thirteen years. He says this will "give everyone an equal chance to succeed" and "have quality education and profitable jobs.".[53]

On June 6, 2011, Kindergarten became compulsory, which served as a prerequisite for implementing K–12 and the start of phasing out K–10 on June 4 of the following year.

After decades of surveys, consultations, and studies starting with the Monroe Survey in 1925 during the American period, the Department of Education formally adopted the K–12 educational system—one year of Kindergarten, six years of elementary education, four years of junior high school education and two years of senior high school education starting with School Year 2012–2013 on June 4, 2012, which also included a new curriculum for all schools nationwide. The K–12 program has a so-called "phased implementation", which started in SY 2012–2013.[54][55][56][57][58][59][60]

Although DepEd has already implemented the K–12 Program since SY 2012–2013, it was still enacted into law to guarantee its continuity in the succeeding years. Kindergarten was formally made compulsory by the Kindergarten Education Act of 2012, while the further twelve years were officially put into law by the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013. The 1945 system was entirely phased out on June 5, 2017 (during the administration of Benigno Aquino III's successor Rodrigo Duterte) upon implementing K–12 in Grade 6.

The Philippines had a simple literacy rate of 98.3% as of 2015, and a functional literacy rate of 90.3% as of 2013.[61]

In 2017, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, mandating the government through all state universities and colleges (SUCs) to provide free tertiary education for all Filipino citizens.[62][63] The mandate does not include private schools. However, certain subsidies for students enrolled in private higher education institutions are also available. In January 2021, the alternative learning system (ALS) was institutionalized by a law signed by President Duterte.[64]

Educational stages

The 13 years of compulsory education in the Philippines is divided into kindergarten, primary education, junior high school, and senior high school.
The 13 years of compulsory education in the Philippines is divided into kindergarten, primary education, junior high school, and senior high school.

Formal education is the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded 'education system', running from primary school through the university and including, in addition to general academic studies, various specialized programs and institutions for full-time technical and professional training.[65]

K–12 and tertiary education from colleges are characterized as formal education. This does not include the informal education in the Philippines learned from daily experience, the educative influences and resources in their environment, or alternative learning systems provided by the Department of Education (DepEd), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other programs from educational institutions.

K–11 (1901–1945)

Education system used from 1901 to 1945 (K–11)
School Grade level Ages
Pre-elementary school Kindergarten 5–6
Basic education
Elementary school Grade 1 6–7
Grade 2 7–8
Grade 3 8–9
Grade 4 9–10
Grade 5 10–11
Grade 6 11–12
Grade 7 12–13
High school 1st year 13–14
2nd year 14–15
3rd year 15–16
4th year 16–17
Higher education
College Varies 17 or 18 and up

During the American period, the Philippines had three levels of education during the American period. The "elementary" level consisted of four primary years and 3 intermediate years. The "secondary" or high school level consisted of four years; and the third was the "college" or tertiary level. Every child from age 7 was required to register in schools located in their own town or province. The students were given free school materials. Religion was not part of the curriculum of the schools as it had been during the Spanish period.

K–10 (1945–2017)

Education system used from 1945 until June 5, 2017 (K–10)
School Grade Age
Pre-elementary school Kindergarten 5–6 or 4–5
Compulsory education
Elementary school Grade 1 6–7 or 5–6
Grade 2 7–8 or 6–7
Grade 3 8–9 or 7–8
Grade 4 9–10 or 8–9
Grade 5 10–11 or 9–10
Grade 6 11–12 or 10–11
High school 1st year 12–13 or 11–12
2nd year 13–14 or 12–13
3rd year 14–15 or 13–14
4th year 15–16 or 14–15
Higher education
College Varies 15 or 16 and up

As a result of the incomplete transition after World War II, the K–10 system was used for 72 years from 1945 until the implementation of the K–12 curriculum in Grade 6 on June 5, 2017, which consisted of one-year non-compulsory preschool education, six-year compulsory elementary education and four-year compulsory high school education. Although public preschool, elementary and high school education are free, only primary education is mandatory according to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Pre-primary education caters to children aged five. A child aged six may enter elementary schools with or without pre-primary education. Following primary education is four years of secondary education, divided into three years of lower secondary and one year of upper secondary education. Ideally, a child enters secondary education at the age of 12. After completing their secondary education, students may progress to a technical education and skills development to earn a certificate or a diploma within one to three years, depending on the skill.

The 1945–2017 or K–10 system co-existed with the current K–12 curriculum from June 4, 2012, until the last batch of the K–10 high school students have completed secondary education at the end of school year 2014-2015, signalling the end of the old high school curriculum. The K-10 curriculum was only entirely phased out on June 5, 2017, upon implementing K–12 in Grade 6. Certificate of Graduation from Grade School was last awarded in 2017 while High School diploma is in 2015, and students that obtained these certificates are those that started elementary and high school education in SY 2011–2012.

K–12 (2012–present)

Current education system used since June 4, 2012 (K–12)
School Grade level Ages
Pre-elementary school Kindergarten 5–6 or 4-5
Basic education
Elementary school Grade 1 6–7 or 5–6
Grade 2 7–8 or 6–7
Grade 3 8–9 or 7–8
Grade 4 9–10 or 8–9
Grade 5 10–11 or 9–10
Grade 6 11–12 or 10–11
Junior high school Grade 7 12–13 or 11–12
Grade 8 13–14 or 12–13
Grade 9 14–15 or 13–14
Grade 10 15–16 or 14–15
Senior high school Grade 11 16–17 or 15–16
Grade 12 17–18 or 16–17
Higher education
College Varies 17 or 18 and up

The current education system in the Philippines, used since June 4, 2012, comprises kindergarten and 12 years of primary education, all of which are compulsory.[66] Students also have the option to enrol in higher education programs to earn a baccalaureate degree.[67]

The new system divided secondary education into two, with the high school from the former 1945–2017 system becoming junior high school, while senior high school encompasses the 11th and 12th year of the new educational system. It will serve as specialized upper secondary education, where students may choose a specialization based on aptitude, interests, and school capacity. The choice of career track will define the content of the subjects a student will take in grades 11 and 12. Because of the shift in the curriculum, the general education curriculum in college will have fewer units, as these subjects taken up in basic education will be removed.

There were four phases during the implementation of the new system. These are Phase I: Laying the Foundations, which aimed to implement the universal kindergarten and the development of the program; Phase II: Modeling and Migration, which aimed to promote the enactment of the fundamental education law and to start the phased implementation of the new curriculum for grades 1 to 10, and for the modelling of the senior high school, Phase III: Complete Migration, which aimed to implement the old high school finally and to signal the end of migration to the new educational system, and Phase IV: Completion of the Reform, where the complete the implementation of the K–12 education system.

Kindergarten became compulsory on June 6, 2011, as a prerequisite for the implementation of K–12 as well as the process of phasing out the 1945 or K–10 system on June 4, 2012. Implementation of the K–12 curriculum was dated back as far as 1925 with the Monroe Survey during the American period, but it was not until the said date of June 2012 when K–12 was finally implemented upon the implementation of the new curriculum on Grades 1 and 7 (with the latter changing from First Year to Grade 7) and the 1945 or K–10 system was entirely phased out on June 5, 2017, when K–12 was implemented on Grade 6. The Department of Education's justifications for implementing 13 years of primary education are that the Philippines is the only country in Asia and one of the four countries worldwide with a 10-year pre-university cycle (Angola, Djibouti and Myanmar) and that the 13-year program is found to be the best period for learning under primary education. It is also the recognized standard for students and professionals globally.[66][68]

K-12 education

It has been suggested that portions of this section be split out into another article. (Discuss) (April 2022)

K-12 education in the Philippines covers kindergarten and 12 years of primary education to provide sufficient time for mastery of concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners, and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.[66] Education is compulsory for all children, and free public education is provided for pre-elementary, elementary, and high school.

Schooling is divided into pre-elementary school, primary education, called elementary school, and secondary education, divided into junior high school and senior high school.


In kindergarten, the pupils are mandated to learn the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colours through games, songs, pictures and dances in their native language; thus, after grade 1, every student can read in their native tongue. The 12 original mother tongue languages introduced for the 2012–2013 school year are Bicolano, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Pangasinense, Tagalog, Tausug and Waray-Waray. Seven more mother tongue languages have been introduced for the 2013–2014 school year. These are Aklanon, Ibanag, Ivatan, Kinaray-a, Sambal, Surigaonon and Yakan.

Primary education

Carranglan Central School in August 2013
Carranglan Central School in August 2013
An elementary school graduation ceremony in Caloocan on July 8, 2022
An elementary school graduation ceremony in Caloocan on July 8, 2022

Elementary school, sometimes called primary or grade school (Filipino: paaralang primarya, sometimes mababang paaralan), includes the first six years of compulsory education (grades 1–6) after mandatory preschool education Kindergarten.[5]

From Kindergarten until grade 3, students are taught using their mother tongue, except for Filipino and English subjects; the mother tongue is also a separate subject for grades 1–3. English and Filipino are taught with a focus on "oral fluency". By grade 3, English and Filipino are gradually introduced as languages of instruction for other subjects.

Before the adoption of the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) system in 2012, a bilingual policy was used, wherein the medium of instruction was the Filipino language for Filipino, Araling Panlipunan, Edukasyong Pangkatawan, Kalusugan at Musika, and English language for English, Science and Technology, Home Economics, and Livelihood Education.[69] In July 2009, the Department of Education moved to overcome the foreign language issue by ordering all elementary schools to move towards initial mother-tongue-based instruction (grades 1–3), with Filipino and English languages to be phased in as the language of instruction.[70] A few private schools mainly catering to the elite include Spanish in their curriculum. In December 2007, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced that Spanish would make a return as a mandatory subject in all Filipino schools starting in 2008, but this did not come into effect.[71][72] International English language schools use English as the foundational language. Chinese schools add two language subjects, Min Nan Chinese and Mandarin Chinese and may use English or Chinese as the foundational language.

In public schools, the core subjects introduced starting in grade 1 include Mathematics, Filipino, and Araling Panlipunan (synonymous with Social studies); English is only taught after the second semester of grade 1. Science is only introduced starting in grade 3. The Science and Mathematics subjects use the spiral progression approach starting as early as grade 1, which means that every lesson will be taught in every grade level, beginning with the basic concepts to the more complex images of that same lesson until grade 10.

Other significant subjects then include Mother Tongue (grades 1–3), Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP) for grades 4 and 5 and Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) for grade 6, Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (synonymous to Ethics, Values or Character Education), and Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health (MAPEH). In private schools, subjects in public schools are also included with the additional issues, including Computer Education as a separate subject. However, it is included in EPP and TLE through its ICT component. Religious Education is also part of the curriculum in Christian and Catholic schools. International schools also have their subjects in their language and culture.

Until 2004, primary students traditionally took the National Elementary Achievement Test (NEAT) administered by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS). It was intended to measure a school's competence, not as a predictor of student aptitude or success in secondary school. Hence, the scores obtained by students in the NEAT were not used as a basis for their admission into secondary school. In 2004, when DECS was officially converted into the Department of Education, the NEAT was changed to the National Achievement Test (NAT) by the Department of Education. Both public and private elementary schools take this exam to measure a school's competency. As of 2006, only private schools have entrance examinations for secondary schools.

Secondary education

Secondary school in the Philippines, more commonly known as "high school" (Filipino: paaralang sekundarya, sometimes mataas na paaralan), consists of 4 lower and two upper levels. It formerly consisted of only four groups, with each level partially compartmentalized, focusing on a particular theme or content. Because of the K-12 curriculum, the high school system has six years divided into two parts. The lower exploratory high school system is now called junior high school (grades 7–10), while the upper specialized high school system is now called senior high school (grades 11 and 12).[5] In addition, there are also science secondary schools for students who have demonstrated a particular gift in science at the primary level as well as special secondary schools and special curricular programs.

Junior high school

Students graduating from the elementary level automatically enrol in junior high, which covers four years from grades 7 to 10. This level is now compulsory and accessible to all students attending public schools. There are two main types of high school: the general secondary school, which enrol more than 90 per cent of all junior high school students, and the vocational secondary school. The Department of Education specifies a compulsory public and private curriculum for all junior high school students. There are five core subjects: Science, Mathematics, English, Filipino, and Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies).

Admission to public school is automatic for those who have completed six years of elementary school. Some private secondary schools have competitive entrance requirements based on an entrance examination. Entrance to science, art, and schools with special curricular programs is also by competitive analysis, sometimes including interviews and auditions.

Other subjects in all levels of junior high school include MAPEH (a collective subject comprising Music, Art, Physical Education and Health), Character Education (Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao) and Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE).

Other public or private secondary schools offer specialized curricular programs for students with gifts and talents and aptitude in sciences and mathematics, sports, the arts, journalism, foreign language, or technical-vocational education. These are under the DepEd, with the latter in partnership with TESDA. These special programs for special schools are Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (STEM, formerly called ESEP); Special Program in Sports (SPS); Special Program in the Arts (SPA); Special Program in Journalism (SPJ); Special Program in Foreign Language (SPFL); and Technical-Vocational-Livelihood Program (TVL). These programs offer comprehensive secondary education in a particular academic or career pathway field. Because of being career-pathway oriented, unique and advanced subjects are provided in replace of TLE subjects and sometimes include even more time and topics for specialized learning and training.

In selective schools, various languages may be offered as electives, like in an SPFL program, and other subjects, such as computer programming and literary writing, like in STEM schools or Laboratory High Schools. Chinese schools have language and cultural electives. International Schools offer electives or subjects like writing, culture, history, language, art, or a particular subject unique to the school. Preparatory schools like technical vocational schools or schools with TVL Programs usually add some business, entrepreneurship, and accountancy courses.

A particular government-run art school, such as the Philippine High School for the Arts, which the Cultural Center of the Philippines administers in coordination with the Department of Education, and as well as the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, offers a specialized and exclusive curricular program that a public high school's SPA program. Students from PHSA must maintain grades in their art field of specialization to continue studying in the institution. Only SPA students can enrol in PHSA for the second year after passing the exclusive test, auditions, and interviews. These schools offer scholarships for students with high aptitude and talents in science fields or the art fields, granting those who pass rigorous and exclusive tests many unique benefits like free board and lodging, free books, a monthly stipend, and classes taught by experts, masters, and active practitioners of their respective fields among others.

Senior high school

Senior high school "completes" primary education by ensuring the graduate is equipped for work, entrepreneurship, or higher education. The old high school curriculum includes core classes and specialization classes based on student choice of specialization. Students may choose a field based on aptitude, interests, and school capacity. Classes or courses are divided into Core Curriculum Subjects and Track Subjects. All subjects (core, applied, and specialized) have 80 hours per semester each, except for Physical Education and Health, having 20 hours per semester.

The senior high school will be offered free in public schools. A voucher program will be in place for public junior high school completers and ESC beneficiaries of private high schools should they choose to take Senior High School in private institutions. This means that the burden of expenses for the additional two years should be borne only partially by parents. All grade 10 completers from a public junior high school who wish to enrol in a private senior high school will automatically get a voucher.

There are eight learning areas under the core curriculum. Core curriculum learning areas include languages, humanities, communication, physical education, mathematics, philosophy, natural sciences and social sciences. These will make up 15 core courses with the same contents and competencies but with allowed contextualization based on the school's location despite specializations of tracks and strands. Track subjects will be divided into Applied or Contextualized and Specialization Subjects. There would be 7 Applied Subjects with competencies common to tracks and strands or specializations but with different contents based on specialization. There would be 9 Specialization Subjects with unique contents and competencies under a track or strand. Applied subjects include English for Academic and Professional Purposes, Practical Research 1, Practical Research 2, Pagsulat sa Filipino sa Piling Larangan, Empowerment Technologies, Entrepreneurship, and the Research Project.


For their specialization classes, students choose from four tracks: Academic; Technical-Vocational-Livelihood; Sports; and Arts and Design. The Academic track includes five strands of specializations:

The Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) track includes five current specializations from which TESDA-based courses can be chosen: Home Economics, Agri-Fishery Arts, Industrial Arts, Information and Communications Technology, and TVL Maritime (a Technical-Vocational-Livelihood counterpart of the Pre-Baccalaureate Maritime of Academic Track). A mixture of specialization courses from these four fields can also be done, depending on the curricular program and schools offering the TVL track.[74]

The Sports track will prepare students with sports science, sports-related, physical education-related, health-related, and movement-related courses. This will be with safety and first aid systems, fitness testing and basic exercise programming, psychosocial aspects of sports and exercise, and human movement. This track will prepare students for careers in sports athletics, fitness, training, recreational leadership, sports event management, coaching, and physical therapy.[75]

The Arts and design track will prepare students for the creative industries in various creative and artistic fields, including but not limited to performing arts and visual arts. Students will be trained with lectures and immersions in art appreciation, production, and performing arts. They will also learn and be prepared with physical and personal development, integrating elements and principles of art and building cultural and national identity in arts. Students also will be immersed in an art field of their choice.[76]

Vocational school

Luciano Millan Memorial School of Arts and Trades, a TESDA-accredited training center in Asingan, Pangasinan
Luciano Millan Memorial School of Arts and Trades, a TESDA-accredited training center in Asingan, Pangasinan

Formal technical and vocational education starts in secondary education, with a two-year curriculum, which grants access to vocational tertiary education. However, non-formal technical and vocational education is also provided as alternative learning programs.

Vocational schools offer a higher concentration of technical and vocational subjects besides the core academic subjects studied by students at public high schools. These schools tend to offer technical and vocational instruction in one of five main fields: agriculture, fisheries, trade-technical, home industry, and ‘non-traditional’ courses while offering a host of specializations. Students study a general vocational area from the five main fields mentioned during the first two years. During the third and fourth years, they specialize in a discipline or vocation within that area. Programs contain a mixture of theory and practice.[77]

Upon completing grade 10 of Junior High School, students can obtain Certificates of Competency (COC) or the vocationally oriented National Certificate Level I (NC I). After finishing a Technical-Vocational-Livelihood track in grade 12 of Senior High School, a student may obtain a National Certificate Level II (NC II), provided they pass the competency-based assessment administered by TESDA.[77]

Science high schools

Philippine Science High School - Eastern Visayas Campus in March 2017
Philippine Science High School - Eastern Visayas Campus in March 2017

Science high schools are special schools for the more intellectually promising students to foster the problem-solving approach of critical thinking. They are separate high schools and not merely special classes in traditional secondary schools. As such, they have specific characteristics not found in regular high schools. However, any private or public high school can aspire to meet these minimum standards and be considered a science high school.[78] These science schools are more exclusive and have higher standards than public high schools.

Precise science high schools like the Philippine Science High School System administered by Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the RSHS System administered by the Department of Education (DepEd) have biology, chemistry, and physics at every level or exclusive and advanced science and math subjects as subjects in technology, pre-engineering, and research. PSHS or RSHS students may transfer to a STEM program school but not the way around. PSHS students may assign to an RSHS and vice versa only for the incoming sophomore year. PSHS and RSHS students must maintain an average grade, especially in their advanced sciences and math subjects, on a quarterly basis or continue their education in these schools.

Students who completed at least four years of secondary education under the pre-2011 system were awarded a Diploma (Katibayan) and, in addition, the secondary school Certificate of Graduation (Katunayan) from the Department of Education. Students are also granted a Permanent Record or Form 137-A,[79] listing all classes taken and grades earned. Under the new K-12 system, the permanent record will be issued after the completion of senior high school.[77]

Other types of schools

Aside from the general public school, there are other types of schools, such as private schools, preparatory schools, international schools, laboratory high schools, and science high schools. Several foreign ethnic groups operate their schools, including Chinese, British, Singaporeans, Americans, Koreans, and Japanese.

Chinese schools

Main article: List of Chinese schools in the Philippines

Chinese schools add two subjects to the core curriculum, Chinese communication arts and literature. Some also add Chinese history, philosophy and culture, and Chinese mathematics. Other Chinese schools, called cultural schools, offer Confucian classics and Chinese art as part of their curriculum. Religion also plays an integral role in the curriculum. American evangelists founded some Chinese schools, while some have Catholic roots.

Islamic schools

In 2004, the Department of Education adopted Department Order No. 51, including Arabic Language and Islamic Values in the standard curriculum for Muslim children in public schools. The same order authorized the implementation of the Standard Madrasa Curriculum (SMC) in the private madaris.[80][81] The SMC combines the RBEC subjects (English, Filipino, Science, Math, and Makabayan) and the teaching of Arabic and Islamic studies. [82] Islamic schools have a separate subject for Arabic Language and Islamic Values (ALIVE). Arabic is taught in Islamic schools.[83]

While there have been recognized Islamic schools—i.e., Ibn Siena Integrated School (Marawi), Sarang Bangun LC (Zamboanga), and Southwestern Mindanao Islamic Institute (Jolo)—their Islamic studies curriculum varies. With the Department of Education-authorized SMC, the subject offering is uniform across these private madaris.

Since 2005, the AusAID-funded Department of Education project Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (BEAM) has assisted a group of private madaris seeking government permits to operate (PTO) and implement the SMC.[82]

School year and class hours

Further information: Academic year § Philippines

The school year usually runs from June to March, with an intervening semestral break at the last week of October (around All Saints' Day). By law, the school year can begin as early as June or as late as August.

There are two major school breaks: a semestral break from the last week of October to the first week of November including All Saints Day, and a two-week school break at the 3rd and last weeks of December around Christmas and New Year's Day (including Rizal Day). Other national school holidays are for Independence Day (June 12), Ninoy Aquino Day (August 21), National Heroes Day (last Monday of August), Bonifacio Day (November 30), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), Chinese New Year and People Power Day (February 25). The Muslim holidays Eid'l Fitr and Eid'l Adha are also national school holidays when they fall anywhere within the school year. Schools may also have additional holidays at the provincial, city and municipal levels.

Students are required to go to school for five days (Monday to Friday). School days are usually divided into morning and afternoon shifts, the former usually beginning 6:00 am and ending at noon, and the latter from noon to 6:00 pm. Urban public schools may add a mid-day shift to alleviate classroom overcrowding.


Further information: School uniforms by country § Philippines

Female students in school uniform at Licab, Nueva Ecija
Female students in school uniform at Licab, Nueva Ecija

Filipino students at both public and private schools usually wear school uniforms, designated by each individual school. Mandatory school uniforms at public schools were abolished in 2008.

Boys usually wear a collared shirt with pants or shorts (usually up to elementary level), and black leather shoes and white socks. Girls usually wear a collared blouse, with or without a necktie or ribbon, a calf-length skirt or jumper dress, and black shoes and white socks. Colors used usually vary by school, but usually match school colors, and most uniforms incorporate the school's seal, crest or logo. Students also wear Scouting and physical education (PE) uniforms at designated days each week. Schools may also prohibit students from wearing make-up, jewelry or certain hairstyles.

Higher education

Main article: Higher education in the Philippines

The Diliman campus of University of the Philippines, the country's national state university, in Quezon City
The Diliman campus of University of the Philippines, the country's national state university, in Quezon City
University of Santo Tomas, a private Catholic university in Manila
University of Santo Tomas, a private Catholic university in Manila

Tertiary education matters are outside of the jurisdiction of DepEd and are instead governed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). As of 2020, there are over 1,975 higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country (excluding satellite campuses of state universities and colleges), which can be divided into public and private institutions. There are 246 public higher education institutions which account for 12% of all HEIs. One thousand seven hundred twenty-nine private institutions account for 88% of all HEIs.[84]

Public HEIs are further divided into state universities and colleges (SUCs), local colleges and universities (LUCs), and Other Government Schools (OGS, CSI [CHED Supervised Institution], Special HEIs).[85][84][86] State universities and colleges are administered and financed by the government as the Philippine Congress determines. LUCs are established by the local government units that govern the area of the LUC. The local government establish these institutions through a process and several ordinances and resolutions and are also in charge of financing these schools. Special HEIs are institutions that offer courses and programs related to public service. Examples of these include

These institutions are controlled and administered through the use of specific laws that were created for them. Finally, government schools are public secondary and post-secondary technical-vocational education institutions that offer higher education programs.

Private HEIs are established and governed by special provisions by a Corporation Code and can be divided into sectarian and non-sectarian. Non-sectarian are characterized by being owned and operated by private entities that have no affiliation with religious organizations. At the same time, sectarian HEIs are non-profit institutions owned and operated by religious organizations.[87] Of the 1,729 institutions as of the Academic Year 2019–2020, 356 (21%) are sectarian, and 1,373 (79%) are non-sectarian.[84]

According to the last CHED published statistics on its website, there were 7,766 foreign nationals studying in various higher education institutions in the Philippines as of 2011–2012. Koreans were the top foreign nationals studying in the country, with 1,572. The rest were Iranian, Chinese, American and Indian.[88]

Secondary students used to sit for the National Secondary Achievement Test (NSAT), based on the American SAT and administered by the Department of Education. Like its primary school counterpart, NSAT was phased out after significant reorganizations in the education department. Its successors, the National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE) and National Achievement Test (NAT) were administered to 3rd and 4th Year students, respectively, before the implementation of the K-12 system. The National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE) is now being distributed for grade 9, and the National Achievement Test (NAT) is being administered for grades 3, 6, 10, and 12. Neither the NSAT nor NAT has been used as a basis for being offered admission to higher education institutions, partly because pupils sit them at almost the end of their secondary education. Instead, higher education institutions, both public and private, administer their own entrance examinations. Vocational colleges usually do not have entrance examinations.

Alternative Learning System

Main article: Alternative Learning System (Philippines)

Philippine School for the Deaf in Pasay, in April 2019.
Philippine School for the Deaf in Pasay, in April 2019.

The alternative learning system in the Philippines caters to the needs of those unable to access formal education or those that have yet to receive proper instruction from traditional education institutions for various reasons. According to DepEd, ALS is a laddered and modular non-formal education program for dropouts in elementary and secondary schools. The program enables students to attend classes according to their desired timetables, especially for those currently employed.

Although similar to formal teaching institutions, there will be a diagnostic test for everyone that will participate to gauge their level of skills needed per grade level. If there are people that need to gain essential skills, such as reading and writing, there will be an additional program that will help them first learn the basics before taking the diagnostic test. A specific number of hours will be required of the student to finish the program. There will be a final assessment to test the student's comprehensive knowledge. If the student passes, they will be given a certificate signed by the Department of Education's secretary, allowing them to apply for college degrees, work, and formal training programs. They can re-enroll in elementary/secondary education in formal teaching institutions.

Non-formal technical and vocational education is assumed by institutions usually accredited and approved by TESDA: centre-based programs, community-based programs and enterprise-based training, or the Alternative Learning System (ALS).[89] These institutions may be government operated, often by a local government, or run by private organizations. They may offer programs ranging from a couple of weeks to two-year diploma courses. Upon graduating from most of these courses, students take an examination from TESDA to obtain the relevant certificate or diploma.

Indigenous peoples' schools

The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides for recognising and promoting indigenous learning systems under Article XIV, Section 2, Paragraph 1.[90]

The national education policy framework for indigenous peoples was signed in 2011 by the DepEd to help promote the rights of Philippine indigenous peoples. The framework directs the DepEd, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and other government agencies to provide adequate and culturally relevant learning to Philippine indigenous peoples. Government agencies are also tasked to develop textbooks and other learning materials.[91][92]


There are 876,842 public school teachers in the Philippines as of 2021.[93]

The teacher-learner ratio in Philippine public schools in 2020 was 1:28 in public elementary schools, 1:25 in junior high school, and 1:29 in senior high school.[94]

There are 500,000 teaching and non-teaching staff members in private schools as of 2022.[95]

The starting pay for public school teachers in the Philippines is ₱20,754 monthly.[96] As many as 92% of public school teachers receive a monthly salary of ₱25,000 to ₱30,000.[97] Some private school teachers are paid ₱6,000 monthly.[97]

There are pending bills in Congress proposing salary increases for public school teachers.[98][99][96]


More than 27.2 million students are enrolled in 2021, 23.9 million of whom are in public schools.[100] An estimated 2 million students aged 16 to 18 were not attending schools as of 2023.[101]


A public school classroom in Pasay
A public school classroom in Pasay

As of 2023, there are 327,851 school buildings in the country, 104,536 of which are in good condition.[102] The 2019 National School Building Inventory reported a shortage of 167,901 classrooms in the country.[102] The Senate Committee on basic education estimates that ₱420 billion is needed to build classrooms for the country's education system.[102]


The neutrality of this section is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. (May 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
PSHS Main Campus. There is a disparity between rural and urban education facilities in the Philippines.
PSHS Main Campus. There is a disparity between rural and urban education facilities in the Philippines.
Signage showing the different shifts for students in a school in Marikina, Metro Manila. Different year levels are given different class hours and are scheduled to go to school in different shifts to compensate for the lack of school buildings, teachers, and materials.
Signage showing the different shifts for students in a school in Marikina, Metro Manila. Different year levels are given different class hours and are scheduled to go to school in different shifts to compensate for the lack of school buildings, teachers, and materials.

Most of the Philippines need help with the educational system. The education system struggles with policy implementation, and many government schools need more classroom space, textbooks, desks and learning equipment, such as libraries, computers and science laboratories. Most government schools with large class sizes run in two or three shifts. A local context of political and socio-religious tensions and a high rate of school principal turnover compound these bureaucratic weaknesses.[103]

The Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI)[104] finds that the Philippines is fulfilling 79.0% of what it should be for the right to education based on the country's income level.[105] HRMI breaks down the right to education by examining the rights to both primary and secondary education. While considering the Philippines' income level, the nation is achieving 87.8% of what should be possible based on its resources (income) for primary education but only 70.2% for secondary education.[105]


A prevalent issue the Philippine educational system continuously encounters is the affordability of education. A significant disparity in academic achievements is evident across various social groups. Students from low-income families have higher drop-out rates at the elementary level.[106]

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Further information: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and Mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Several schools shut down and student enrollment dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.[107] As schools shifted to remote learning, students and teachers experienced difficulties due to the lack of gadgets, inadequate allowance for internet fees, and poor internet connection.[108]

Students experienced learning loss and increased incidence of mental health issues.[107]

The Philippines and Venezuela were the last countries to resume face-to-face classes.[108]


There needs to be a significant match between educational training and actual jobs. This stands to be a major issue at the tertiary level. It is, furthermore, the cause of the continuation of a substantial amount of educated yet unemployed or underemployed people.

Brain drain

Brain drain is a persistent problem evident in the educational system of the Philippines due to the modern phenomenon of globalization,[109] with the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who worked abroad at any time from April to September 2014 estimated at 2.3 million.[110] This ongoing mass emigration subsequently induces brain drain alongside grave economic implications.

See also

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Further reading