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JR Lopez Gonzales 10:13 PM 1

If you missed the first part, please click here for the first segment of this two-part article.

A decade ago, the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued the Executive Order 210 which aimed to strengthen English as the second language of the Filipinos. This is maybe also the reason for the pursuance of the bill in the lower house to strengthen English as the sole medium of instruction. According to this ‘English Bill’ sponsored by Representative Eduardo Gullas, the Philippine educational system is wrong for it needs a dynamic language which is English.
If this store doesn't convince you, I don't what else would.
Well, the gentleman from Cebu might have been right in saying that English is more of a static language than Filipino or other vernaculars for that matter. But I guess, we’ve been “too hasty” for globalization despite the fact that our tool for readiness, our educational system, is in decline. This is, for the most part, due to our present medium of instruction which is English.

To illustrate what I meant, let’s look at the figures:

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), for the years 2006 to 2007, the number of dropouts rose from 8.6 to 9% - a number far from there supposed target of 5.5% and 4.3% (for 2009). In fact, for June 2010, 23 million Filipino students went back to school but two million of them are expected to drop out of school.
For every 100 Grade 1 students, only 65 reaches Grade 6. Eighteen (18) of these elementary dropouts are in between Grades 1 and 2. We can thus infer, that 1 in 3 elementary students stop from schooling.
The country’s net enrolment ration from 2003 to 2007, too, is in decline from 90.3% to 83.2%.
According to the National Education Support Strategy of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the poor quality of Filipino education is alarming. Only twenty-six (26%) of the graduating elementary students has “mastery” [1] in English. They also have thirty-one percent (31%) mastery in Mathematics, and fifteen percent (15%) in Science. Identical findings are seen for the secondary schools: seven percent (7%) in English, sixteen percent (16%) in Mathematics, and two percent (2%) in Science.
The figures in the tertiary education tell us the same: two to seven percent (2-7%) of the college graduates who aimed to enter to call center jobs have the necessary proficiency in English. And despite being hired, call center agent-aspirants still need to undergo the English Language training for three months.

And for the Filipino general population statistics, only twenty percent (20%) has the ability to converse in straight English.

According to Ricardo Nolasco of the Linguistics Department of the University of the Philippines, the number one reason for the huge dropout rates in primary school is the inability of the students to understand their teachers. In the cognitive aspect of mental development of a Filipino child, the use of English as the medium of instruction becomes a burden.
For example, an elementary student from Iloilo who grew up to Hiligaynon would surely have a hard time studying English. It becomes much arduous when a child’s first language is non-Tagalog considering that both English and Tagalog are the current media of instruction. It would be difficult to study both Filipino and English juxtaposed with Hiligaynon (regional dialect) he or she was used to.

The usual belief of many in studying foreign language is the assumption that one would get used to it due to a longer time of exposure to the language. Basing on the figures and (a little keenness in observing our schools), English as a medium of instruction is not as effective as we think it is. And the reason is right in front of us – it is not the ‘natural’ language of the child.
Filipino teachers are not native English speakers unlike the Thomasites during American Period. For this reason, we fail to fathom the historical depth and nuances that go with the language. We should put in mind that according to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the archipelago has 78 groups of language and 500 dialects. Add to that the fact that we can’t even form a “purely English-speaking community”, says Dr. Jovy Peregrino of the Center for Filipino Language at the University of the Philippines.

Language is the vehicle of the mind. It is the way through the heart of a person, and most importantly, the mirror of his culture and experiences as a people. Regarding this medium of instruction dilemma, I believe that the use of the native language together with the national language is the more effective medium in the early years of Filipino education.

It was just two years ago since the approval of the actual use of Multilingual Education (MLE) in the whole country on the virtue of Department Order No. 74 of the Department of Education (DepEd) but this has already been practiced in the Kalingan municipality of Lubuagan. For more than a decade, this 4th class municipality of Lubuagan has been the national model for Multilingual Education. For more than two decades, they consistently belong to the Top 10 non-performing schools in the entire Philippines.
In the said town, only the Libuagen dialect (a variety of the Kalingan dialect) is used in the town’s elementary school from Grades 1 to 3 which makes it easier for students to learn various subjects including English. For the two decades of teaching using their vernacular, the school has zero dropout rate. In 2006, the Lubuagan District attained the highest mark for the National Achievement Test for Grade 3 Reading Test both in English and Filipino with a mean score of 76.55% and 76.45%, respectively. With these achievements, Lubuagan Elementary School was awarded the “Best School for Kalinga” and “Model of Multilingual Education in the Philippines”.

The Lubuagan Elementary School is truly worth emulating; for us to reach maximum learning potential, we have to uphold the child’s first language as the cornerstone of our educational system. If France, Germany, China, Japan, and other countries were able to use their own language at schools, the Philippines can also do the same. One’s ability in the English language can never be the yardstick for one’s understanding of the world around.
Studying English is important, but true intelligence and skill should never be taken for granted. While the subject matter itself is of utmost importance, equally important is how it was served to the intellect of our youth.

The proposed transition from the dialect to the official language should be gradual and preferably be done in the later years of primary education. The main purpose of schools is obviously for students to learn. And the better way to have it is to have the means where they can easily comprehend.

Note:
[1] ‘Mastery’ meant having the grades 75% or better in the English subject.

This article, originally written in Filipino, was published in Banwag magazine, the publication of Saint Michael’s College of Iligan in 2010. The author decided to translate and refurbish the article to English.

Photo Credit:
"AL & J Convincing Store" courtesy of Alexis Chua.

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1 comments A Critique on English as a Medium of Instruction (Part 2)

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