Is the Philippine Education System Too Harsh On Its Students?

The average number of classes that a student will take in the Philippines per semester is 6 to 8, or around 18-24 units. Other colleges might even go beyond this to 30 units or more. In comparison, top educational institutions around the world like Ivy League universities would only require 3 to 5 classes per semester. Harvard University implements a maximum load of 4 classes per semester while Dartmouth lowers that to 3. There is a stark difference between those numbers and our minimum load of 4 classes per semester.

stressed girl

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These numbers are significant because they tell of the workload a student would typically take on per semester. Units usually pertain to the number of hours you would spend inside a classroom per week and so the disparity between Philippine colleges and top tier international universities is concerning. If some of the best schools in the world would rather take a more moderate approach to a student’s load then why does the Philippines veer the opposite way?

First, let’s put this into perspective. 1 class will usually ask this much effort from you: 3-hour lectures each week with readings to accompany them, quizzes every other week and exams every other month, with a couple of projects or papers thrown in to boot. Multiply that workload 3 times and it’s manageable. But multiply it 5 or 7 times and it begins to become overbearing.


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Having to attend to all that work takes away time for little else. Students dedicate their lives to only being students and forget they need other things too — time with family and friends, rest, and even some fun. Depriving them of these things negatively impacts their mental health and overall wellbeing.

Yet the Philippine’s educational system continues to apply so much pressure on our students. They instill a mindset of prioritizing getting things done quickly over getting things done well. You see this in the premium placed on college students graduating on time when there really is no shame to being delayed.


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There seems to be confusion between quantity and quality, as well. Schools would cram in as much knowledge as possible into a student’s head with no regard for best practices. It’s as if they pour out information in a rush without caring to consider what the best way in which it can be digested is.

The harm is that caring more about the number of things a student knows than about their mastery of it skews the way things are taught. Topics come out in spitfire succession, hardly giving students room to breathe. It only brings further complications to making students do too much, too quickly.

All of this pressure, work, and anxiety begs us to ask if our students are becoming too stressed. While yes, some stress and hard work are normal parts of student life, there is still a line to be crossed when it comes down to it. Putting too much on college students, most of whom are barely even adults, is more likely to break them rather than make them. Restrictive environments and overwhelming expectations have led students to nervous breakdowns, feelings of depression and anxiety, and worse. It begs us to rethink how we’re currently teaching and treating our students here in the Philippines.

What’s your stance on this?