The English language debate in the Philippines

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 18 13:38:36 UTC 2007

The English language debate in the
a small portrait of this author] Sunday,
17th, <> 2007 @ 16:48 UTC by Mong
Palatino <>

  Last month, a group of educators, scholars and other prominent individuals
filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the policies of the
government which mandate the use of English as medium of instruction in
schools. This sparked a spirited debate in mainstream media and of course in
the blogosphere as to what should be the best language to be used in
Philippine schools.

*Wow Manila* <> gives a backgrounder to the
controversial memo of President Gloria Arroyo pertaining to the main
language to be taught in schools:

"On May 17, 2003, the President Arroyo promulgated Executive Order No. 210
titled "Establishing the Policy to Strengthen English as a Second Language
in the Educational System." The salient points of the EO are the following:

* English should be taught as a second language at all levels of the
educational system, starting with the First Grade;
* English should be used as the medium of instruction for English, Math and
Science from at least the third Grade level;
* The English language shall be used as a primary medium of instruction in
all public institutions of learning at the secondary level."

Petitioner Patricia Licuanan appeals <> for a
broader appreciation of the problems besetting Philippine education:

"It's not just English—it's the whole educational system! The deterioration
of English must be understood in the context of the general decline in
Philippine education. The problem we are facing is not simply the
deterioration of English. It is also the deterioration of Math and Science,
and it is this general decline that undermines the competitiveness of the
Filipino and the Philippines. Indeed, undue emphasis on English may distract
us from the bigger problem. Upgrading education in general should improve
the quality of English as well."

the memorandum order of the President.
*Blackshama's blog*<>contributes
in the language debate.
*A nagueño in the
with the arguments of the petitioners.
*Filipina soul*<>presents
two views on the issue, and her post generated a lively discussion.

*Philippine Schools Online* <> reviews
past proposals on the language issue and mentions the current legislative
measures favoring the use of English in schools. *My Philippine
into the language policies in the country.

A must-read: Manuel L. Quezon III <> uploads the
pertinent documents, news articles, opinion pieces and shares his
perspective on the 'language wars' in the Philippines.

Perhaps the most intelligible blogpost in advocating the adoption of English
comes from *Philippine
A sample of his views:

"The main point I think is that English is an integral and inseparable and
most substantial part of the Filipino cultural heritage–ineradicably a part
of our intellectual, educational, and historical patrimony. Its rejection
and treatment as "foreign" is a twisted form of the self-loathing that some
people wish us all to practice as "nationalism." What they actually are
propagating is a romantic kind of aboriginalism that masks a more modern and
leftist agenda…Nearly 100 percent of all major scientific papers are
published in English, even by non-native English speakers, not only in
Computer Science, but in Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine,
and the rest of the hard sciences. English is unavoidably the lingua Anglica
of the world in this historical epoch, even if it irks the Filipino
nationalists and their ideologies of resentment."

*Philippines Without
why the need to master the English language?

"Because everybody else is trying to do the same. Right now, there are
probably close to 400 million native English speakers, making English the
third largest language next to Mandarin Chinese and Spanish…We should not
dilly-dally on embracing policies that would restore the importance of
English in Philippine society."

*Seek no more*<>links
to an article written by Babe Romualdez on the mistake to reject
English as the medium of instruction:

"Filipinos are clearly losing out because of that very big mistake to
abolish the use of English as a medium of instruction 20 years ago. Today, a
lot of employers are complaining about the deteriorating quality of our
graduates, and the fact that majority of them lack the required skill and
facility in the English language."

*A small gleaning
an excerpt of a study on the origins of Taglish: a combination of
Tagalog and English. *The sane unstable2: fighting
temptations*<>on school
rules in learning English and the uses of this foreign language in
Philippine society. Voltaire
why English is patronized in the provinces:

"One common misconception about the Philippines is that it speaks only one
language–and that is Tagalog (honey-coated as Filipino). In fact,
Tagalog/Filipino speakers comprise only 29 percent of the total population
and the rest are non-Tagalog…If English is a threat to the Tagalog/Filipino
language because it is foreign, then Tagalog/Filipino is also a threat to
all the non-Tagalog languages for the same reason. The English language,
from the non-Tagalog point of view, is neutral in the sense that it is used

*The Pinoy* <> has an article which notes the
concern of foreign investors and business sector on the deteriorating
English proficiency in the country. But
that some Japanese companies are leaving the country, and
transferring to China, Thailand and Vietnam because few workers speak
Niponggo in the Philippines.

*hapoNessa* <> on why the
government wants students to learn English:

"Let's face it, the Philippine's biggest export is human labor, and the only
thing keeping our economy afloat are those dollar remmittances. The
government wants us to learn English so that we can find jobs abroad. We're
not learning English for our benefit, we're learning it to serve our

various studies on the importance of emphasizing native language in
the education of children:

"Beyond the preachy rhetorics, other studies on bilingual and multi-lingual
methods of education across the world also show that students do better in
school if they are taught in their mother tongue instead of an English-only
medium of instruction…Why is Malacañang then so petulant on insisting an
English-homogenized medium of instruction in schools?"

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