Philippines: Why GMAs language policy should be reversed

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue May 1 14:06:49 UTC 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why GMAs language policy should be reversed (Part 1)

By the Coalition for a Correct Language Policy

OUR coalition of educators, writers and students has petitioned the
Supreme Court to stop the Department of Education from continuing to carry
out Executive Order 210. That EO strengthens the use of English in the
school system at the expense of Filipino and other Philippine languages.
We are asking the Court to order the administration to desist from
carrying out EO 210 and any of its implementing regulations, principally
DepEd Order 36 S 2006. We also ask the Court to declare EO 210 and DepEd
Order 36 null and void because these violate the Constitution. The
educators seeking EO 210 to be repealed include Dr. Patricia Licuanan,
President of Miriam College; National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera and
Virgilio Almario; University of the Philippines sociologist Randolf David;
President of WIKA Inc., Isagani R. Cruz; and Efren Abueg,
writer-in-residence at De La Salle University. Atty. Pacifico A. Agabin,
former dean of the UP College of Law, is our legal counsel.

EO 210 and DepEd Order 36

Article 14 of the 1987 Constitution, which declares Filipino the national
language and mandates the government to initiate and sustain [its] use as
a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the
educational system. EO 210 and Department f Education Order 36 violate the
Constitution. The implementation of EO 210 would emaciate this
constitutional provision propagating the use of Filipino. An important
Congressional study in 1991 refutes both EO 210 and a House bill with a
similar intent, written by Rep. Eduardo Gullas of the First District of

HB 4701 on Strengthening and Enhancing the Use of English as the Medium of
Instruction in Philippine Schools, certified as urgent by President
Arroyo, passed the House but was not acted on by the Senate in the
Thirteenth Congress. The Gullas bill goes against the findings of the
Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) in 1991. The
commission--made up of ten senators and congressmen, and chaired by Sen.
Edgardo J. Angara--recommended specifically that Congress make the
vernacular and Filipino the medium of instruction for basic education. The
EDCOM report was written only after 11 months of serious study. It became
the basis for reform laws that restructured the Department of Education
and created a separate Commission (CHED) to supervise higher education.

EDCOM also ordered the DepEd to develop instructional materials in
Filipino. EDCOM envisioned that all subjects in elementary and high-school
educationexcept English and other languageswould be taught in Filipino by
the year 2000.

Pupils taught in mother tongue learn faster

Dr. Licuanan, a psychologist, has found that since students learn more and
faster when taught in their mother tongue, the emphasis on English in
basic education will actually have a damaging effect on Filipino student
learning. She says the English-first policy will further disadvantage the
Filipino poor who drop out of school at elementary and secondary-school
level. According to DepEds statistics, of every 10 pupils who enter Grade
1, only 5 finish Grade 6. Only 2 students go on to high school but only 1
make it through to college.

In most provinces, net enrollment rates continue to decline, because of
economic hardship. Negros Oriental has begun to provide school lunches for
some 135,000 pupils in its 527 public elementary schoolsin an effort to
keep these children in their classes. Dr. Licuanan warns that early
dropouts revert to illiteracy. In 1989, functional illiterates made up
16.8 percent of the Philippine population aged 10 years and above. These
high dropout rates make an effective way of teaching at elementary level
imperative. The very limited time that so many Filipino children spend in
school must be put to the best use.

English-first policy will hurt learning

Former Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz has associated himself
with our (the petitioners) complaint. He points out that the emphasis on
English is misleading and dangerous because it will force both the young
learners and their teachers to concentrate on the language and not on
Science and Math and literacy, which are more basic to learning. Luz cites
Unescos studies which show that young children learn how to read and to do
sums faster and better when taught in their home-language. These
international findings were validated at the national level by research in
Bukidnon province. There, the Summer Institute of Linguistics teaches
indigenous people in their mother tongue. The Bukidnon pupils score
relatively high in literacy and numeracy tests given by the Department of

(Concluded tomorrow)


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