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By Renee F. De Guzman
Philippine Information Agency

Not too long ago, the Philippines was a top destination for foreign students seeking not just English proficiency but quality education in all fields.

Foreign students including Thais, Iranians, Pakistanis and even Americans went to Philippine schools to study medicine, engineering, education, commerce and other courses. For degree in agriculture, foreign students went to Los Banos. Philippine schools excelled in almost all disciplines, and the quality of education showed in the skills of the country's workforce.

All this changed as the nation became complacent and education particularly in public schools was neglected. The country has lost its edge in all disciplines. If foreign students are coming here in droves to improve their English proficiency, one big reason is not the high quality of education but, the lower tuition rates compared to those countries such as Singapore or Hongkong where English is also widely spoken.

For the past few years, the Philippines has been the favorite destination of Korean students seeking to improve their English proficiency. Special English schools have been set up in recent years to meet this growing demand.

An estimated 100,000 South Korean students are enrolled in various private and state colleges and universities in the country.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan reported recently that over 29,000 newly arrived Korean citizens were issued special study permits (SSP) and student visas (SP).

Soon, Chinese students are also expected to arrive, with the Philippine Government signing recently a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) "allowing Chinese students who could not be accommodated in China's universities to study in the Philippines."

Aside from Chinese, about 1,600 students from India are expected to enroll in the Philippine colleges and universities next semester.

In recent years the government has scrambled to reverse the deterioration in the quality of education especially in public schools. Steps are being undertaken to raise the level of the country's educational system to worldwide standards.

President Arroyo in her 2004-2010 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan MTPDP) encapsulated "initiatives in education targeting the four educational levels - daycare, grade school, high school and college with specific plans and programs of development.

Efforts are also being made to improve Filipinos' proficiency not just in English but also in the Tagalog-based national language and in the fields of Mathematics, Science and Technology.

As the government promotes education tourism to attract more foreign students to the country it is exerting efforts to improve the quality of education for all Filipinos to also address the country's unemployment. (PIA La Union)

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