English soon to be medium of instruction in Philippines

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon May 30 15:30:16 UTC 2005

English is medium of instruction soon

By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star 05/30/2005

 English could soon become the principal medium of instruction in all
schools. The House committee on education has endorsed a bill changing the
present bilingual policy in schools and requiring that English be the
principal medium of instruction, from grade school to the tertiary level.
The only exception would be when Filipino is taught as a subject.

English would also be promoted as the medium of interaction among pupils
and students. Bill 2894, principally authored by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas,
has been endorsed by 137 or a majority of the 236 members of the House of
Representatives. Gullas said yesterday President Arroyo has also agreed to
support the measure.

"In fact, she is making it part of the legislative agenda that she would
recommend to Congress for its second regular session, which starts in
July," he said. He said there is a need to make English the principal
medium of instruction again in all schools "because we have been losing
our competitive edge in English proficiency to neighboring countries,
including China, which used to abhor the English language."

"Even our graduates who are recruited by call centers have to be retrained
so they will become fluent in English. I know, since there are many of
these centers in Cebu," he said. Gullas comes from a family of educators
who own the University of the Visayas in Cebu City. He recalled that
English had been the medium of instruction until 1974 when the bilingual
policy requiring the use of both English and Filipino was introduced.

"As a result of this policy, the learning of the English language suffered
a setback. One reason is what linguists call language interference.
Targeting the learning of two languages (English and Pilipino, actually
Tagalog) is too much for Filipino learners, especially in lower grades.
And if the child happens to be a non-Tagalog speaker, this actually means
learning two foreign languages at the same time, an almost impossible
task," he said. He said the difficulty faced by the Filipino student in
learning two languages at the same time could be one of the reasons why
Filipinos lag behind their neighbors in science and mathematics.

He noted that books in these disciplines are written in English. If the
student cannot comprehend what is written in English, then learning
science and mathematics and other disciplines becomes a tremendously
difficult undertaking, he stressed. In a related development, Camarines
Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. reminded the Department of Education yesterday
of a provision in the 2005 budget law requiring that textbooks that public
schools would purchase should withstand five years of use.

"Not only should textbooks be guaranteed for their contents but the
quality of the paper used in printing them must meet standards, too," he
said. He said Congress had included in the 2005 budget a provision
requiring that books be printed on sturdy paper to save on government
funds. "Given the state of our finances, we cannot afford books that get
torn or deteriorate quickly," he said.

The education department has P810 million this year for new textbooks.

Jess Diaz




 Copyright Philstar Global Corporation

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