Philippines: English rebirth seen boosting total learning process in schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Dec 19 13:11:25 UTC 2006

 English rebirth seen boosting total learning process ...
Monday, December 18 2006 @ 01:21 PM GMT

English rebirth seen boosting total learning process in schools

The impending revival of English as medium of instruction will end the
"language interference" that has impeded in a big way the "total learning
process" in schools, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte said. One of the
leading contributors to basic education's general decline over the last 30
years is what linguists call "language interference,"  according to
Villafuerte. "The targeting of the simultaneous learning of two languages
(English and Pilipino) under the bilingual policy of 1974 is just too much
for our school children, especially in the lower grades," Villafuerte
pointed out.

"If the child happens to be a non-Tagalog speaker -- and majority of our
kids in school are non-Tagalog speakers -- learning English and Pilipino
actually means absorbing two 'foreign' languages at the same time, an
almost impossible task," he said. Villafuerte is one of the six authors of
the House-approved bill seeking to reinstate English as the teaching
language. The other authors are Representatives Eduardo Gullas, Edmundo
Reyes Jr., Cynthia Villar, Alipio Cirilo Badelles and Raul Del Mar. Gullas
earlier expressed confidence the Senate will pass the House-endorsed bill
shortly. This, after he obtained the support of Senate President Manny
Villar, Senate President Pro-Tempore Juan Flavier and Senators Edgardo
Angara and Panfilo Lacson.

Flavier is chair of the Senate education committee. Angara and Lacson
chair the subcommittees on higher and basic education. "The processing of
two languages at the same time under the bilingual policy served as a
formidable barrier not only to English mastery, but more importantly, to
the entire learning process in schools," Villafuerte said. He added:
"While long before, and immediately after World War II, the Philippines
was proudly number one in Asia in English proficiency, because English was
the medium of instruction then, this was abandoned in favor of bilingual
(Pilipino-English) instruction." Villafuerte described the bilingual
policy as "a case of trying to fix something that was not broken to begin
with." In the process, he said the policy merely created the unintended
consequence of spoiling not just the average Filipino's mastery of
English, but basic education as a whole.

"The policy became an obstacle for students learning Chemistry and Physics
for the first time. And as the complexity of the concepts and applications
increase, the more taxing the multiple-language processing becomes,
considering how most languages (outside English) do not have the
vocabulary of English when it comes to the subject of Science," he said.
Without adequate competence in English, Villafuerte lamented that students
are facing "increased difficulty in mastering core disciplines such as
Mathematics and Science." "There are numerous words, concepts, and ideas
in Mathematics and Science subjects that have no direct translation in
Pilipino. To invent new words for these concepts and ideas merely
heightens the complexity of the learning process," he said. "Other Asian
nations such as South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, not to mention China, are
now consciously developing skilled workers wholly competent in English,
and therein lies our diminishing advantage,"  Villafuerte warned. (PNA)


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