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people of the Philippines are called Filipinos. Majority of them are of Malay
ethnicity who migrated to the islands long before the Christian era. The most
significant ethnic minority group is the Chinese, who have played an important
role in commerce since the ninth century, when they first came to the islands to
trade. As a result of intermarriage, many Filipinos have some Chinese and
Spanish ancestry. Americans and Spaniards constitute the next largest alien
minorities in the country. Small forest tribes live in the more remote areas of
Luzon and Mindanao.
The vast majority of the people are Christians (Roman Catholic 83% 9%) and most were converted and Westernized to varying degrees during nearly 400 years of Western rule. A large Muslim minority (5%) exists predominantly on the island of Mindanao and Buddhism and other faiths make up the remainder.
A total of one hundred seventy-two native languages and dialects are spoken, all belonging to the Austronesian linguistic family. The eight most spoken native languages are Tagalog (dialects: Lubang, Manila, Marinduque, Bataan, Batangas, Bulacan, Tanay-Paete, Tayabas) Cebuano (also known as Visayan or Sugbuhanon; dialects: Cebu, Boholano, Leyte, Mindanao Visayan), Ilocano, Ilonggo (also known as Hiligaynon; dialects:(Hiligaynon, Kawayan, Bantayan), Ilongot (dialects:Abaka, Egongot, Ibalao, Italon, Iyongut), Waray (also known as Samarnon or Samar-Leyte), Bicolano, Kapampangan, and Pangasinense. These are spoken natively by more than 85% of the population.
Foreign languages spoken by Filipinos include English, Chinese (Mandarin and Hokkien), Arabic (especially among the Muslim population), and Spanish (with its local creole, Chavacano). English is the predominant non-native language and is spoken to a great degree by majority of Filipinos. Spanish, which ceased to be an official language, is now only used by a very small number of Filipino families.
Since 1939, in an effort to develop national unity, the government has promoted the use of the official national language, Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. Filipino is taught in all schools and is gaining acceptance, particularly as a second language for a diverse population. While Filipino is the national languages, both Filipino and English are considered the official languages of the country according to its constitution and are used extensively in government, education, and commerce.
Despite this multiplicity of languages, the Philippines has one of the highest literacy rates in the East Asian and Pacific area. About 90% of the population 10 years of age and older are literate.