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Recent education reforms have sought to boost enrollment levels, graduation rates and mean years of schooling in elementary and secondary education, and to improve the quality of higher education.
According to the Asian Development Bank, close to 25 million Filipinos still existed on less than USD $1.51 per day in 2010.
In 2017, the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines published the Philippine Development Plan, 2017-2022, detailing the country’s aspirations for the next five years.
Such deficiencies were reflected in the poor performance of Filipino students in international assessment tests, such as the .
In 2003, the last year the Philippines participated in the study, the country ranked only 34th out of 38 countries in high school mathematics and 43rd out of 46 countries in high school science.
At the secondary level, problems were omnipresent as well: the net enrollment rate in secondary education, for example, had by 2005 dropped down to 58.5 percent, after increasing from 55.4 percent to around 66 percent between 19.
Tellingly perhaps, the country’s youth literacy rate, while still being high by regional standards, fell from 96.6 percent in 1990 to 95.1 percent in 2003, making the Philippines the only country in South-East Asia with declining youth literacy rates.Heavy military fighting in 2017 triggered the imposition of martial law in the Mindanao region, with President Duterte publicly contemplating the extension martial law to other parts of the country – an announcement that raised the specter of a further erosion of civil liberties in the Philippines.Duterte’s “war on drugs” and his authoritarian ambitions are not without detractors – the Catholic Church of the Philippines, for instance, has condemned the extrajudicial killings.Education spending as a percentage of overall government expenditures, meanwhile, declined from 18.2 percent in 1998 to 12.4 percent in 2005.Between 20 alone, average annual spending per public elementary and secondary school student fell from PHP 9,500 (USD 2.7) to PHP 8,700 (USD 7.3) in real terms.The plan envisions the Philippines becoming an upper-middle income country by 2022, based on more inclusive economic growth that will reduce inequalities and poverty, particularly in rural areas.Human capital development is a key element in this strategy and has been the impetus behind various political reforms over the past years.A UNESCO mid-decade assessment report of Southeast Asian education systems, published in 2008, for example, found that participation and achievement rates in basic education in the Philippines had fallen dramatically, owed to chronic underfunding.After rising strongly from 85.1 percent in 1991 to 96.8 percent in 2000, net enrollment rates at the elementary level, for instance, had dropped back down to 84.4 percent by 2005.To address these shortcomings, the Philippine government initiated structural changes in the basic education system and significantly boosted education expenditures.Crucially, the “Kindergarten Education Act”, passed in 2011, enacted a mandatory pre-elementary year of Kindergarten education, while the “2013 Basic Education Act”, extended the elementary and secondary education cycle from 10 to 12 years.