English is again instruction mode
Thursday, January 30, 2003
Manilatimes. net

By Ma. Theresa Torres, Reporter

President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday ordered Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus to restore English as "the primary medium of instruction" to reverse the decline of'English literacy "which we are fast losing."

The President gave the order in the speech she delivered at the 75th founding anniversary of Far Eastern University.

"Through education," she said, "we will promote fast-growing industries where high-value jobs are most plentiful. One of them is information and communication;technology, or ICT, where our English literacy, our aptitude and skills give us a competitive edge."

But she expressed alarm that the Filipinos are losing their English literacy competitive advantage. That is why she directed "the Department of Education to return English as the primary medium of instruction provided some subjects are still taught in Filipino."

Her order overturns a policy she set in August of 2001, when she ordered the Department of Education, Culture and Sports or DECS to observe the previously established education policy to use Filipino as the language of instruction in schools.

The President, aware that there might be questions about the legality of her new medium of instruction policy, explained: "After all, the Constitution specifies that the use of Filipino as language of instruction is subject to provisions of the law and as the Congress may deem appropriate. Therefore, until Congress enacts a law mandating Filipino as the language of instruction" she could give the order to make English the "primary medium of instruction."

Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye told reporters the President gave the order after she made a point of emphasizing the importance of keeping the Philippines ready and able to take advantage of the economic opportunities in the thriving ICT industry.

"Even China and Japan are emphasizing English in their curriculum," Bunye added.

He said the government wants to ensure that there are always many Filipinos to fill up positions in call centers and every field in the ICT industry.

"It's a world reality that English is the main language. Even in the Internet we use English to communicate," Bunye said.

Apart from the use of English as language of instruction, the President also emphasized the need to improve the Filipinos' ICT skills as well as skills in mathematics and science to make them more competitive.

The President's new policy is expected to draw criticism from cultural nationalists whose vision is to see Filipino becoming more universally and correctly used.

In the view of some experts, however, the previous policies, first, of using English and Filipino, both given equal weight in schools, and then the policy of using Filipino as the "primary medium" have both failed. They blame those policies on the decline of good speech, writing and literacy in both English and Filipino.

Other experts, however, believe the bilingual policy is the right one but its implementation has been seriously undermined by lack of funding, low quality of teachers and school administration and even corruption in the school system.

Foreign Secretary Blas Ople, one of the masters in the use of both English and Filipino, even believes the Philippines has a "tri-lingual language destiny."

"Filipinos have no choice but to accept, and cheerfully so," Ople has written, "the burden of our language destiny which means for most of us, we have to learn Filipino, English and our own native tongues. They must complement, not exclude each other."