Philippine High School vs Canadian High School Upgrading

Before anything else, let me just say that I’m neither a teacher nor an expert in the education system of both countries. I am a student and this is obviously from my point of view. 

To make things easier, courses (subjects) that I’ve taken in the Philippines will be written as “high school [course]”, for example “high school Bio”. Courses taken in Canada will be written as “[course] upgrading”, for example “Bio upgrading”. 

I graduated high school in the Philippines. We’re one of the last few high school batches that graduated with only 10 years of basic education. As of SY 2011-2012, the Philippines’ Department of Education has started to implement the first phase of k-12. Before k-12, high school was only 4 years which means that even if I already graduated in high school, I’ll still be considered a high school student in Canada because of that missing 2 years. Luckily, I was already done with my first two years of Nursing education and so I didn’t have to go back to a traditional high school. 

When I say traditional high school, I mean going to a high school, prepare for prom and graduate with a toga and cap. I would have spent two years doing Grades 11 and Grade 12. But hey, I actually told myself that would have been better rather than spending money just to get my Grades 11 and 12 courses. 

Academic upgrading is pretty much taking up some high school courses in a college/university for various reasons.(Though a student can also do some upgrading in a high school but s/he’ll be stuck with the high school kids.) Some of the reasons could include:

  • the student needs higher grade than what s/he currently has.
  • higher GPA is needed to get into a program.
  • It’s been years since the student has graduated from high school and s/he needs to take it again for his/her desired program
  • an immigrant where his/her high school qualifications aren’t at par with the Canadian system.
  • Blew up the diploma exam and now has to get better grades (because there’s no diploma exam in upgrading!)

These are some of the reasons of a lot of my classmates in upgrading. I have classmates who just graduated in high school and some who are over 30 years old just figured out what they really wanna do or finally have the time to do what they want.

Back to the topic, what’s the difference between my high school education in the Philippines compared to my high school upgrading courses in Canada? To make things clearer, I’m doing my upgrading in a college (nope, not a university… that’ll be too expensive). I’ll try to compare it using only the courses that I’ve taken namely  Biology (0120&0130/Gr 11&12), Chemistry (0120&0130/Gr 11&12) and English (0130/Gr 12). I took Math (30-1/Gr 12) but I won’t include it since I had four Maths in high school: Elementary and Secondary Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. I feel like it’s sort of unfair to compare just one Math upgrading course to four different Math disciplines. 


Biology was very interesting. I’ve done Bio in second year of high school. I remember memorizing different bacteria, families and parts of a plant. I remember genetics (it was in the 2nd grading and my fave topic until now) and planting corns without fertilizer (we produced tiny corns). One of the highlights of our Bio class was dissecting an earthworm. We were quite disappointed that we didn’t dissect a frog like some schools probably do. Our teacher told us that it wasn’t allowed anymore and we have to just settle with the earthworm (we had a fat, long one). Needless to say, we found soil in the earthworm. 

In Grade 11 Bio, some of our lessons consisted of respiratory and circulatory system. It’s not surprising to me considering that I already did my Anatomy and Physiology course in college before but it’s the fact that we took this in detail. I don’t remember much doing this in high school. We might have but not in enough detail that we have to memorize the parts and functions of the respiratory system or which chamber does oxygenated blood goes. I DID THAT IN COLLEGE!

When I moved on to Grade 12 Bio, we did much more complicated stuff. We did the nervous and endocrine systems. Aside from all these hormones that I have to get familiarize again, we also had to memorize it and know which affects which. Our second experiment is by far the most exciting experiment I’ve done for all of Bio. WE DISSECTED A FETAL PIG. YES! We didn’t do a frog, we had a pig. Apparently, even some high schools do it. They buy off a pig (killed/died humanely) and have us cut it open and look at the different body systems. We were able to identify which one is a pancreas or how squishy it actually is. We also have genetics as one of our topics and thank goodness I still remember Punnet square. But I don’t remember doing a dihybrid cross nor doing a sex-linked trait (might/might not have done it in high school). 


I did English pretty much since I started going to school. Therefore, I didn’t have much problem in my English upgrading. For this course, we barely did anything orally in front of the class. We had 2 or 3 reportings then the rest of our oral grades is just from our seat. Since our class is more focused in writing, we did a lot of essay assignments and made our own poems. We had classes held at a computer lab where our teacher blocked any web browsers to avoid Googling (but thank goodness I have a phone). It was actually my English teacher who caught a lot of my writing mistakes such as tenses and punctuation, something that no one has done yet even after reading some of my essays. 

Compared to my English upgrading, we did a lot of oral practice in my high school English. It was in fourth year high school that I finally started to have less fear on going up front and talk to the crowd because of the various speaking exercises that we did. Even though we’ve been doing declamations and orations since first year high school, it was my fourth year high school teacher who really pushed us to think fast and talk flawlessly (I’m still working on the “flawlessly” part). 

In both English courses though, we had to make a final written output. For my high school English, I had to a term paper and successfully defend it to graduate (my topic was about conformity). For my English upgrading, we had to make an essay about a foundation or philanthropist “who makes the world a better place” (my essay was about Gawad Kalinga). 


I did Chemistry in 3rd year high school. I remember answering “Dihydrogen monoxide” for H20 and our teacher said it was wrong because it’s just supposed to be water. I asked this question in my Grade 12 chem teacher and she said it’s “sort of” acceptable but not much actually uses it. 

The one experiment that I can remember from my high school chemistry was titration. We had this burette and flasks and fancy chemicals that we’ve barely used. We were so excited to titrate and was disappointed one titration after another as we kept on overshooting our solution. Actually, this is the only experiment I remember. Probably because some aren’t as memorable as this one. A lot of my high school Chem lessons came back to me as I do my upgrading. But maybe because we only had one Chem course in high school that almost half of the lessons that I learned in Chem upgrading is new. 

In Grade 11 Chem, we learned how to name compounds, something that I also learned in high school Chem. The first few lessons were a breeze, actually… Grade 11 Chem was fine. A lot of the lessons were not new to me except for some like identifying the nonpolar/polar compounds and stoichiometry problems. I was able to get good marks in this course because I feel like a lot of these were review. In addition, we also did cool experiments which included titration! This time, I was able to get the perfect peach colour that we want. There were also a lot of boiling and dangerous chemicals that were able to handle. I felt like a mini scientist!

Grade 12 Chem is different though. Lesson started off easy, enthalpy change then moved on to more stoichiometry questions then voltaic/electrolytic cells then organic chem stuff (of course there are some more lessons in between). The experiments includes some corrosive materials and lots of boiling. At one point, I BROKE A MERCURY THERMOMETER! I was so scared and nervous because I thought my teacher would scold me. But she didn’t! And I asked her if I have to pay for it and she told me not to worry because it was an accident. They only charge those who were obviously playing. Phew! I remember breaking a cover slip in high school Bio and I had to replace it.

The coolest thing that we did though was making Nylon 6,6. I felt like a little kid while mixing the chemicals and trying to pull out some strands. A few days ago, I was browsing through our lab manual for Grade 11 Chem when the last page included making soap. MAKING SOAP! I’ve made soap before, IN COLLEGE! And here it’s in the Grade 11 course. 

The biggest thing that’s very different in my Philippine high school experience compared to my Canadian upgrading is of course the language. However, being taught in English isn’t really new to me. My high school see to it that our subjects are more or less taught in English (except if the teacher is struggling already ^_^). This is one of the reasons why I was able to adjust fairly well in the new educational environment. 


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