For the foreigner with children considering relocation to the Philippines, a key consideration is finding good schools for them. Often this means living in Manila or Cebu City where there are well-regarded international schools. That’s fine for the corporate employee whose employer will foot the $5,000 to $10,000 tuition and who has to live in the cities for their work.
The international schools essentially create enclaves; secure, air-conditioned, English speaking cocoons of first world standards and values. Fellow students are a mix of the children of foreign businessmen, diplomats, NGO directors and the indulged offspring of the Filipino elite. Soccer fields often replace basketball courts. The students are being prepared for admission to universities in Europe, the United States and Japan and readmission to life in the first world. The main point of international schools is to provide an education based on an American [or British or Australian] curriculum. This approach tends to immerse students in the foreign culture and isolate them from Philippine culture.
Maybe you can’t afford the tuition to an international school. Maybe you don’t want or need to live in congested, polluted Manila or Cebu City. Here’s another alternative to consider. Iloilo has a very large, influential, and well-integrated Chinese-Filipino population. Early on, in an effort to keep their children connected to Chinese language, culture and values, Iloilo’s Chinese community founded and supported several thriving “Chinese schools” including Iloilo Chinese Commercial High School (ICCHS or “Washiong” or “Huasiong”), founded in 1912, and the nearby Sun Yat Sen High School.
Today these Iloilo Chinese schools welcome foreign students. They can be a good alternative for foreigners who want to prepare their kids for opportunities in Asia or back in the US or Europe working for employers doing business in Asia. The kids grow up in Asia and speak multiple languages (English, Tagalog, Mandarin). They are comfortable with life in Asia and are imbued with an Asian cultural literacy not obtainable in the US or Europe. After graduation, they go on to college in the Philippines or elsewhere.
I have a retired American friend who settled in Iloilo City to allow his son to attend ICCHS, get a Chinese education and learn Mandarin. So far, he’s happy. The cost is about $600 per year including tuition, uniforms, textbooks, and supplies. The facilities are generally adequate at these schools — a big step above public schools — but still will seem quite basic to most foreigners.
Another good possibility are the elite Catholic schools in Iloilo City. The one that I am most familiar with is Assumption Iloilo. The facilities and location are somewhat more upscale than the Chinese schools. There is an English-only rule in class. Students may have to pay a fine if they lapse into the local language, Hiligaynon. This works. Every Assumption-educated Ilongga I know speaks English well. We’ve spent a great deal of time with a Filipino family whose daughter attends Assumption. She an impressive young lady, poised and accomplished. We also know several other adult alumni of Assumption, including our landlady and our attorney. All are educated, well-spoken, urbane and decent people. Assumption is not only strong on academic skills, it also insists on discipline and teaching basic values, but not in an overly austere way. I’m not a Catholic, but I would not hesitate to choose Assumption for my daughter if I had one. Assumption does accept boys in the elementary grades but is primarily a girl’s school.
Please feel free to suggest corrections or additions. There are many other private schools in Iloilo City. I’ll try to add information and photos as I get them.