Philippines: House set to pass English bill

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Dec 22 19:53:39 UTC 2008

House set to pass English bill
December 21, 2008 3:44 pm by pna

MANILA, Dec. 21 — The House of Representatives is set to pass the bill
seeking to enliven the use of English in schools and build up global
competitiveness of the country's labor force. Cebu Rep. Eduardo
Gullas, an educator, said he is counting on the House to approve the
bill shortly after Congress resumes session on Jan. 19.  The passage
of the bill is now just a formality, according to Gullas, a champion
of English as a teaching language.  "Mounting global unemployment due
to the worsening economic slump has merely underscored the need for
our human resources to be proficient in English — the world's lingua
franca — in order to stay highly competitive in the job markets here
and abroad," Gullas said.

The House committees on basic education and culture and on higher and
technical education filed a joint report on Dec. 14, strongly
endorsing the bill for immediate plenary consideration and approval.
Of the 238 members of the House, at least 202 sponsored the report on
House Bill 5619 –the proposed Act Strengthening and Enhancing the Use
of English as the Medium of Instruction. Besides Speaker Prospero
Nograles (Davao City) and Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Sr.
(Iloilo), the bill's key endorsers include Del De Guzman (Marikina
City) and Cynthia Villar (Las Piñas City), chairpersons of the basic
and higher education committees, respectively.

Likewise, backing the bill are Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora (San
Juan); Joseph Santiago (Catanduanes), chairman of the information and
communications technology committee, which looks after the
English-driven business process outsourcing and other IT-enabled
industries; and Junie Cua (Quirino), chairman of the appropriations
committee. The bill's prominent proponents also include former Speaker
Jose de Venecia Jr. (Pangasinan); Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur);
Edcel Lagman (Albay); Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Makati City); and Roilo
Golez (Parañaque City).

In the previous Congress, the House, voting 132-7, approved the
English bill on third and final reading. This was in September 2006,
or just eight months before the May 2007 mid-term polls.

The Senate, however, failed to act on the bill because the smaller
chamber did not have a functional education committee then.

At the time, the Senate committee was chaired by Juan Flavier, who had
said he lacked time to consider any bills. As then concurrent Senate
President Pro-Tempore, Flavier also had to preside over the daily
Senate sessions, as other leaders of the chamber became preoccupied
with their reelection bids.

This time, Gullas said the House and the Senate would have ample
opportunity to pass the bill.

As proposed by HB 5619:

English, Filipino or the regional/native language may be used as the
teaching language in all subjects from preschool to Grade 3;

English shall be the teaching language in all academic subjects from
Grades 4 to 6, and in all levels of high school;

English and Filipino shall be taught as separate subjects in all
levels of elementary and high school;

The current language policy prescribed by the Commission on Higher
Education shall be maintained in college; and

English shall be promoted as the language of interaction in schools.

The bill also requires English as the language of assessment in all
government examinations, and in all entrance tests in public schools
as well as state universities and colleges.

Once enacted, the bill would supersede Department of Education (Deped)
Order No. 25, which proclaimed a "bilingual" teaching policy.

Meant to develop "a nation competent in the use of English and
Filipino," the bilingual policy was adopted in 1974.

Accordingly, the subjects of social studies, character education,
values education, industrial arts, home economics, physical education
were all taught using Filipino while other subjects were done in

Upon implementation of the bilingual policy, however, Gullas said the
subjects that were supposed to be taught in English were actually done
in "Taglish," or a blend of English and the local dialect. This
weakened English in a big way, he said.

"As a language is best learned through constant exposure and use, we
have to prescribe again by law, and not simply by administrative fiat,
the reinstatement of English as medium of instruction, except of
course in Filipino taught as a subject," Gullas said.

A previous survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) indicated that
while most Filipinos are convinced that English mastery leads to
greater employment opportunities, many still lack proficiency in the

In the March 2008 survey by the SWS, only 76 percent of voting-age
Filipinos said they could understand spoken English.

Of those polled, only 75 percent said they could read English; only 61
percent said they could write English; only 46 percent said they could
speak English; and only 38 percent said they could think in English.

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