Youth Spotlight Report for SDG4 – #GAWE2019 Philippines

The Philippines has one of the youngest population in Asia where the youth, aged 15-24, accounts for 30 million (National Youth Commission). Given a supportive environment to develop their full potentials such as good education, the youth is a driving force for sustainable development. However, there are persistent challenges facing the country which affects the Filipino youth and their right to education. The 2017 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showing the number of out-of-school youth aged 16 to 24 at 3.6 million does not paint a positive outlook for the long-term sustainability of the country. Nationwide, about 53% of OSYs belong to families whose income fall at the bottom 30% based on their per capita income (PSA, 2017 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey).


Poverty is the major reason why many Filipino youth have become vulnerable and marginalised – the urban poor youth and from the largely poor rural areas, indigenous youth and Muslims, youth with disabilities. Additional factors such as natural disasters and conflict situations further aggravate the situation. Though basic education is free, direct and indirect costs such as transportation, school supplies, uniforms, school projects continue to grow. In many cases, hunger, lack of nutrition, poor health and sanitation services as a result of poverty, impact on school attendance and performance. Participation in education becomes more dismal at the tertiary level where 88% of HEIs are privately owned. This translates to a commercialised cost of education while public tertiary suffers low-funding levels and limited capacities.

GAWE activities in the Philippines E-NET Philippines (Civil Society Network for Education Reforms)

Another growing problem of the Filipino youth today is early marriage and adolescent pregnancy. PSA cited that early marriage and pregnancy has now become the main reason for dropping out of school specially among women OSY with 59.3% of the total OSY. According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS 2017) from the Department of Health (DOH), 9% of women from the age of 15 to 19 have already started childbearing. This is almost twice as high compared to the overall adolescent pregnancy rates in Southeast Asia.


The Philippine government has intensified its programs to address the education of OSY. Since introducing Senior High School in 2016, DepEd reported that it has improved the profile of school participation of the country’s youth. The attendance of Balik-Aral learners or students who returned to school after dropping out – grew from 158,131 learners in school year (SY) 2015-2016 to 301,744 in SY 2017-2018 (DepEd). Non-formal education or the Alternative Learning System (ALS ) has also been a key priority of DepEd. It has integrated skills education and training within the ALS (ALS-EST) to produce scholars who complete their years of basic education and also acquiring technical skills suitable for immediate employment. DepEd’s cumulative target for three years (2016, 2017, 2018) is 2 million ALS enrollees. However, programs for indigenous youth, with disabilities, Muslims need improvement as they remain to be severely under-resourced and only account for less than 1% of the education budget.


It remains to be seen if the Philippines can achieve its SDG4 targets. Poverty which is the main cause of the youth’s vulnerability, needs to be addressed significantly so that efforts in boosting education can have substantial results for the youth. Education interventions for the youth should include the following: (Output from Youth Consultations done by ENet for SDG4 Spotlight reporting)

  • Increased budget for more targeted education programs for indigenous youth, children and youth with disabilities, Muslim youth, child/youth labourers, rural and urban poor youth and other marginalized youth;
  • Encourage young people to stay in or return to school by providing scholarships specially at the tertiary level, meal and transportation subsidies, funding and expanding different modes of attending school such as through night school and open high school;
  • Significant financial allocation for expanding coverage of ALS-EST;
  • Installing appropriate community-based TVET in more communities which are sensible and suited to the unique needs and situations at the local level;
  • Provide effective and age-appropriate continuing education on sexuality and reproductive health within schools and non-formal education;
  • Strengthen coordination of agencies to ensure productive exit points for Senior High and ALS graduates;

GAWE activities in the Philippines E-NET Philippines (Civil Society Network for Education Reforms)

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