Filipinos place great importance on education. The country has a high literacy rate (94%), which is the same for men and women and one of the highest among Asian countries. Even in isolated villages, people proudly display diplomas in their homes. Older family members often take on extra work to earn money for the education of younger members.

American colonizers expanded the accessibility of education in the Philippines by building schools in every village. Education is compulsory at the primary level and free until the end of high school, although parents must pay for costly supplies and uniforms. Children attend elementary school from age 7 to 13, and the enrollment rate is near 100%. Instruction begins in the local language, with Pilipino and English introduced later. By the sixth grade most Filipinos are bilingual or trilingual.

The majority of high schools are private and run by religious groups, though the schools use a common curriculum. About three-quarters of eligible students enroll in high school, but particularly in rural areas, the drop-out rate is high. Students study for up to four years, depending on whether they plan to enroll in university or a vocational college. If they choose to enter university, they must take the National College Entrance Examination at the end of high school.

The Philippines has numerous universities and colleges, most of which are private. Manila alone has a dozen post-secondary institutions, including two women's colleges and the country's oldest universities, San Carlos and Santo Tomas, both founded in the early 17th century. Many universities schedule their courses for the late afternoons or evenings to attract mature students who work during the day. Despite costs, about one-quarter of all eligible students attends post-secondary schools-a high percentage anywhere in the world.

Adult education includes classes in agriculture, literacy and occupational skills. People can also attend community programs on family planning, health and nutrition.

  Did you know?
Many Muslim students attend one of the country's 1,000 madrasa schools that provide instruction in Islamic principles and the Koran. The schools are privately funded by their communities.

  Did you know?
The majority of university students in the Philippines are female. Women earn two-thirds of the master's degrees and most doctorates.