English or Pilipino in schools?

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Jun 20 14:14:18 UTC 2005

>>From the Manila Bulletin on-line,

English or Pilipino in schools? RP leaders cant seem to make up their


MANILA (PNA)  What should be the languages of instruction in school
English or Pilipino?

Congress, which is mandated by the Constitution to decide the issue,
remains silent about this. The Philippine Constitution provides that,
"Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate,
the government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of
Pilipino as a medium of official communication and as language of
instruction in the educational system." Since 1988, when Congress was
restored, no enabling law has been enacted.  Until Congress speaks, one
can only guess if it is English or the national language for schools and
official communication.

Meanwhile, Pilipino became the medium of instruction in schools in all
levels without efforts to truly develop Pilipino as an efficient medium of
instruction. Thus, the offandon debate whether it is English or Pilipino
goes on. In the last three decades or so, English proficiency in the
Philippines declined. Inaction in Congress has partly been blamed. Shortly
after her election, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared her new
language policy hoping to reverse the decline of English proficiency among
Filipino graduates.

"Until Congress enacts a law mandating Pilipino as the language of
instruction, I am directing the Department of Education to return English
as the primary medium of instruction, provided some subjects will still be
taught in Pilipino," she declares during her keynote speech at the Far
Eastern Universitys anniversary rites. The Presidents initiative was
well-received by Filipinos. English, which was first taught more than a
hundred years ago in the country, has given Filipinos a decided advantage
over other non-English speaking peoples in commerce, business, overseas
job opportunities, and other activities.

But President Arroyos directive to the education department is only a
temporary answer. Debates will continue until Congress gives its decision
to fashion out a long-term language policy. Meanwhile, the reasons to put
back English in its prominent place in the educational system continue to

Consider these:

A Filipino cannot be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, an agriculturist,
diplomat or even a teacher without learning English or using it in school
because English is the main language of textbooks, science and technology
used in Philippine schools and universities. For the Filipinos, English
means money. For example, the number of call center jobs prove this.
Conversely, Filipinos are losing out in overseas maritime jobs because
former English non-speaking foreigners (Taiwanese, Koreans, etc.) have
learned English to qualify as seamen.

There are now an estimated 12,000 South Koreans who come to the
Philippines to learn English since its cheaper here than in, for example,
the United Kingdom, where around 700,000 people go to learn English,
spending as much as one billion British pound. English enjoys official or
special status in at least 75 countries with a total population of over
two billion. About 80 percent of the worlds electronically stored
information is in English.


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