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The Philippines, or in official circles, the Republic of the Philippines, is a sovereign island nation in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To the north of the country across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan and to the west across the South China Sea is Vietnam. Between the Philippines and Borneo is the Sulu Sea to the southwest and the Celebes Sea separates the country from Indonesia in the south. It is bordered on the east by the Philippine Sea and is officially categorized as an archipelago consisting of 7,107 islands, together totaling just less than 116,000 square miles of total land area. Due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the nation has a tropical climate and is very prone to earthquakes and typhoons. However, this location has also provided the country with a bounty of natural resources, making it one of the most unique areas in the world in terms of biodiversity. A geographically unique land, the Philippines is divided into three distinct regions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital and by far the largest city is Manila.
As of the official census of 2011, the Philippines had a population of over 94 million, making it the 12th most populous nation in the world. More than half of the population lives on the island of Luzon, the same island that plays host to the capital city. From an ethnic standpoint, approximately 28 percent of the Filipino population is Tagalog, followed by the Cebuano (13%), Ilocano (9%), Bisaya/Binisaya (8%), Hiligaynon (7.5%), Bikol (6%), Warray (3.5%) and other groups, accounting for the remaining one quarter of the population.
The Philippines is also very linguistically heterogeneous, with over 170 living languages spoken in various regions of the country. Most of the ethnic languages are either part of the Borneo-Philippines family of languages or the Malayo-Polynesian, the latter a part of the Austronesian language family. English and Filipino, a de facto version of Tagalog, are the only two official languages in the country. Filipino is most commonly spoken in Manila and other major urban regions, while both Filipino and English are used in government, print and broadcast media, commerce and education. Certain languages are designated regionally, including Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Kampampangan, Pangasinan and Tagalog, and Spanish and Arabic are optional and promoted only voluntarily. Over 90% of Filipinos are Christian: 80 percent belonging to the Roman Catholic Church and the remaining 10 percent to a number of other Christian denominations, including the Philippine Independent Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Islam is the largest religious minority and the practiced faith of between 5% and 10% of the population.
Education in the Philippines
Oversight for the educational system in the Philippines is granted to several different agencies. The Department of Education is responsible for elementary, secondary and non-formal education, while the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) oversees and administers all post-secondary middle-level education training and development, such as technical and vocational schools. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is responsible for all college and graduate academic programs and degrees and regulates the standards with regard to higher education.
The government spends 2.5% of the country’s GDP on education and schooling is free and compulsory through secondary school. The system itself is modeled after that of the United States (the Philippines gained independence from the U.S. in 1946) and is divided generally between three levels: primary or elementary education, secondary education and higher education.
Elementary education in the Philippines begins at age six and spans 6 years (Grades 1 through 6). Education at this level is split into two cycles: primary education (grades 1-3) and intermediate level (grades 4-6). The education in elementary school consists of many core (major) subjects as well as a few minor subjects. The major subjects are mathematics, science, English language, Filipino language and Makabayan, which includes social studies, livelihood education and values education. Minor subjects in elementary school include music, arts and physical education.
Secondary education in the Philippines spans four years called levels and is provided by comprehensive high schools. School is compulsory for all students, with a curriculum that includes designated courses in each level. In the first year of high school, Algebra I, Integrated Science, English I, Filipino I, and Philippine History I are required, while in the second year the curriculum includes Algebra II, Biology, English II, Filipino II, and Asian History. The third year becomes even more advanced, with courses such as Geometry, Trigonometry, Chemistry, Filipino III, World History and Geography leading the way, and the fourth year includes Calculus, Advanced Algebra, Physics, Filipino IV, Literature, and Economics. Non-compulsory subjects, often called electives, may include Health, Music, Arts, Technology, Home Economics, and Physical Education, depending on the institution.
Post-secondary education in the Philippines is provided by technical-vocational institutions and universities, the former offering a two to three-year program in which students train for certain occupational careers, and the latter offering programs leading to undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in a wide array of professional and academic concentrations.
As of the last census taken in the Philippines in 2011, the simple adult literacy rate was 96 percent, while the functional literacy rate was around 84 percent.