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In recent years this advantage has helped win outsourcing contracts in the booming business-process outsourcing and call centers, one of the few areas of the nation\u2019s economy that are actually expanding.
But even that lifeline in this poor country appears tenuous as fears surface over a sharp decline in English compounded by falling school standards and an exodus of linguistically skilled professionals.
Eduardo Gullas, who filed a bill in 2004 to make English the medium of instruction at
all levels in schools, has warned that the rapid decline of English would \u201ceventually
erode the competitiveness of the country\u2019s human resources, both here and abroad,
in an increasingly globalized village.\u201d
\u201cThe employment of Filipinos overseas will soon be overtaken by China and India,\u201d
Gullas said, warning that Filipino engineers in the Middle East risk being dislodged by
Indian and Chinese engineers who not only speak better English but analyze and
write reports in English better.
Concerned about the decline in English education, the American and European chambers of commerce have begun ambitious training programs to reverse the trend.
The European Chamber, along with local business groups, recently launched a
program called \u201cEnglish Is Cool!\u201d intended to revive the popularity of English among
the country\u2019s youth.
In a globalized economy \u201cEnglish is a ticket to the future,\u201d the chamber said, noting
that only 3 out of 100 applicants meet proficiency standards of the outsourcing
The Makati Business Club\u2019s Philippines-US Business Council and the American
Chamber of Commerce are targeting their English proficiency program at teachers,
students and the workforce.
President Arroyo has ordered the Department of Education to make English the
primary medium of instruction nationwide, although the decree does not have the
force of law to compel schools to do so.
Some subjects will still be taught in the national language, Tagalog, but the Filipinos must recognize that English makes them internationally competitive, Mrs. Arroyo said in a policy speech earlier this year.
\u201cFilipinos are pretty good but they still have lapses with their tenses, verb usage, subject-verb agreement\u2014the basics,\u201d the Call Center Academy accent trainer told Agence France-Presse.
Peter Wallace, president of The Wallace Business Forum which regularly surveys
foreign businesses in this country, said that only 6 percent of people interviewed for
jobs in call centers had the required skills in English.
\u201cThere has been a steady decline since the Philippines prided itself on being one of the best English-speaking nations,\u201d Neil Perez, an English and Literature lecturer at Manila\u2019s University of Santo Tomas, acknowledged.
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