Philippines: GMA's language policy should be reversed

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Apr 29 13:59:58 UTC 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Why GMAs language policy should be reversed (Part 2)

By the Coalition for a Correct Language Policy

(Continued from Saturday April 27, 2007)

Research by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in 1998 also
showed that the use of the mother tongue in the first years of school
provides the necessary bridge for a child to learn a second language. The
WB-ADB study verified that children are less likely to drop out of school
when classes are conducted in the home language. Pupils are active, not
passive, in class recitationand conceptualization, especially in
mathematics, begins almost from the first day of school.

 Policy geared to train call-center operators

In recent years, education authorities have expressed alarm at the decline
of English proficiency. President Arroyo was reportedly surprised to hear
of job vacancies in foreign-owned call centers, because applicants fail in
their English-language tests. Business leaders initially welcomed EO 210
as an effort to stem the decline. But we cant make the training of
call-center operators the aim of our education system, says Lumbera, who
also won the Magsaysay Award in (year).

David, the UP sociologist, says English as medium of instruction will
widen even more the cultural gap between the rich and the poor in this
country. When the language of the law is a foreign language, David notes,
users of the local language are immediately placed at a disadvantage. This
is why our judiciary is taking steps to sustain and propagate the use of
Filipino. The Supreme Court itself has set up an office charged with
translating landmark decisions in Filipino.

Educations budget share has been falling since 1997

The educators say the deterioration of English proficiency is part of the
decline of the entire education systemset off by declining budgets for
basic education. Educations share of the Budget has been falling
continuously since the financial crisis of 1997, according to the Ateneo
economist Cielito F.  Habito. The Arroyo Government has sought to reduce
its fiscal deficit by cutting down on social services, butas Finance
Secretary Margarito Teves concedesthis is not the ideal way of balancing
the Budget.

General decline of education system is the problem

The problem were facing is not simply the deterioration of English, says
Dr. Licuanan. Its also the deterioration of Math and Science, and it is
this general decline that undermines the competitiveness of the Filipino
and the Philippines. The Philippines devotes to public education barely a
third of the money that neighboring states do, proportionate to their
gross domestic products. We're not against the English language, which has
become the predominant global language, says UP Dean Almario. Indeed we
want all our people to learn more English than the minimum they learn at
present--which equips them only to become domestic helpers and caregivers
to more fortunate peoples. But for internal interaction and processes,
there is no substitute for the mother tongue. And Filipino has become the
true lingua franca of the Philippines.

Using a foreign language always stumbling block to learning

Dr. Licuanan says that, because learning is primarily mediated by
language, using a foreign language will always be a hindrance to learning.
There was a time when English use was widespread in this country, when
media were predominantly English, and many families even spoke English at
home. Children then also spent more years in school. That colonial social
environment enabled Filipinos of that earlier generation to develop
English proficiency and even expanded their intellectual horizons. But
those days are gone; and with them the support and reinforcement for the
English language. Now were on our ownand, in language as in everything
else, we must choose what is best for all of us.

Teach all subjects well--including English as a foreign language

What is best is to teach all subjects well-in the children's mother
tongues.  And teach English well--as a foreign language. This means having
good teachers and supplying them and the pupils with correct educational
materials in Filipino and in the other Philippine languages. There should
also be excellent teachers of English and proper materials for English as
a foreign language or even as a second language.


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