You are on page 1of 16

THERE IS MUCH TO BE SAID ABOUT THE DECLINE IN English

proficiency in this country. But legislating English as the medium of


instruction—as proposed by the Gullas Bill—is not the solution. In fact
not just English, but also Science and Math proficiency will decline
should this law pass.
Rather than propose that English be the sole medium of learning, we
should in fact promote multi-lingualism: English, Filipino and the local
language or dialect.
The Japanese will never forego Nihonggo for English, nor will the
Chinese abandon Mandarin or Cantonese for the so-called global
language. Neither would the Scandinavians, Germans or (mon Dieu!)
the French. Why then are we so quick to ditch Filipino for English?
The overall concern about the decline in English proficiency is both
correct and misplaced. Many employers speak of job applicants with
appalling spoken and written English skills. They argue that this
deficiency is a “lost comparative advantage” as shown by the dismal
hiring rates of the growing call center industry.
But is poor English proficiency really the cause of our global
uncompetitiveness? Or is it our low productivity and the inability to
deliver consistent quality that hurt us?
The problem is not poor English. It is poor English, Science and Math
skills. Weak English proficiency is not the sole determinant of poor
overall achievement; it is merely a factor.
Unesco findings show that young children learn how to read and
acquire numeracy faster and better when taught in their mother
tongue. Their achievement rates in higher-grade levels are better than
those who are taught in a language other than what they speak at
home.
These findings have been replicated by the Summer Institute of
Linguistics (SIL), which uses the mother tongue for teaching young
children in Bukidnon and in other areas with indigenous people. These
pupils have had relatively high literacy and numeracy scores in DepEd
(Department of Education) tests.
The TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Survey) test is administered
here in English, making us one of the very few countries that take the
test in a language that is not generally spoken at home. We do poorly
in TIMSS. (The Japanese take TIMSS in Japanese; the Finns in
Finnish.) But would taking the test in Filipino make for better scores?
The Department of Science and Technology did conduct such a test in
Filipino and the results were equally dismal. Therefore, it’s not so
much language; it is simply that children aren’t learning Science and
Math well enough to solve problems.
On the other hand, “Sine’skwela,” the Science program on television,
is broadcast in Filipino.
Dr. Milagros Ibe, then head of the National Institute of Science and
Math Education (Nismed) at the University of the Philippines wrote:
“Testing in English does not significantly disadvantage pupils who are
taught in ‘Sine’skwela’ using Filipino as a medium. Understanding of
the concepts in Filipino appears to facilitate transfer of learning to
English.”
These children however are not fluent in English. In fact, “[they] find it
hard to communicate and express themselves in English during
recitations and discussions.”
But clearly, these children learn Science and Math: “Pupils in Grades 2
and 3 who watch ‘Sine’skwela’ attain master-level in 50-67 percent of
the concepts learned, while those not exposed to the program master
only 20-33 percent of the same …. Pupils in the lower grades are
capable of responding to 4-option multiple choice questions .… Longer
tests (i.e., more than 30 items) can also be used for them.”
In East Asia, the national or local language is used as the medium of
learning for young children. English is taught as a subject—not as the
medium of learning—and proficiency is seen as a key to connecting to
the world, not as the key to learning.
We, however, seem to want to shortcut learning. We want to connect
to the world to be competitive before we learn the fundamentals.
The current DepEd policy on the medium of learning set by former
Education Secretary Andrew Gonzalez is sound. Brother Andrew was
after all a linguist.
The policy says that the child’s mother tongue shall be the medium of
learning in Grades 1 to 3 because the 3 R’s and fundamental Math and
Science concepts are introduced at these grade levels. Makabayan
(Social Studies) shall be taught in the mother tongue as well.
English and Filipino are to be taught as subjects.
If Mandarin someday became the global language for business, would
you—an English speaker—learn your Science and Math concepts if it
were taught to you in Mandarin? Probably not. The same would hold
true for the young learner anywhere in this archipelago who does not
speak English—or Mandarin—at home.
For Grades 4 to 6, there is a progressive shift to English as the
medium of learning for English, Science and Math subjects. By this
time, the concepts have taken root, and problem-solving and
application are the learning objectives. Filipino will still be used to
teach Filipino and Makabayan subjects.
For high school, the mid-grade policy on language is expanded.
The Gullas Bill is now in Congress, having been passed at the House of
Representatives. Ironically, it does not deviate from the current DepEd
policy. It is a dangerous bill, however, because it places a misleading
emphasis on English as the medium of learning. As such, the young
learners and their teachers will concentrate on the language, not on
Science and Math and literacy (that is more fundamental to learning).
The key to better English is better implementation; more teacher
training in grammar, composition, vocabulary; more mechanisms to
expand English usage in schools such as campus journalism, campus
radio, assigned days for English and Filipino communication and the
like, more bilingual reading books and elocution contests and spelling
bees (both in English and Filipino).
English is essential for communication, but Science and Math are
crucial for competitiveness.
We need to be more creative and committed to better English
teaching, but not at the expense of Science and Math. Legislation is
not necessarily creative. The Gullas Bill in fact ignores world
experience on learning by prescribing a solution that misses the
problem completely: Why are Philippine schoolchildren not learning?

Juan Miguel Luz is president of the International Institute of


Rural Reconstruction and a former education undersecretary.

Copyright INQUIRER.net. All rights reserved. This material may not


be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Poor English will cost RP call centers


By Alexander Villafania
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:37:00 06/17/2009

Filed Under: business process outsourcing (BPO), Economy and Business and
Finance, Employment, Education
MANILA, Philippines—The country’s business process outsourcing industry
should maintain its high standards in spoken English training if it wants to stay
ahead in the cutthroat global outsourced call center industry, a report said.
Quoting an Australian English language academic Paul Robertson, the report
published in CallCentres.Net said poor English teaching methods could also lead
to fewer Filipinos who could speak English fluently.
Speaking to Radio Australia News, Robertson was also quoted as saying that
there are fewer English speakers outside of Metro Manila and Cebu.
“And if you do (find someone), local dialects impact on their English speaking.
The Filipinos are just not equipped for this,” Roberston said in an interview with
the Radio Australia News.
In the same interview, Robertson further described the Philippines’ spoken
English teaching as “substandard”
“They want to be the world’s leader in call centers, sparking off India. But they
are grabbing people ‘of the street’ who you and I couldn’t understand and giving
them a few days training. It’s just not good enough,” Robertson said.
But Robertson, who has offices in Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines,
acknowledged that the Philippines has become “the Mecca of English language
learning” in the Southeast Asian region in the last two years.
The Philippines’ BPO business is the fastest growing IT sector hiring nearly
500,000 people with over half of these in the call center business.
The Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) expects the
industry to grow between US$12 billion and US$13 billion by 2010.
BPAP is the biggest organization of BPO operators in the Philippines.
Such a “rapid decline in the English competency of Filipinos would eventually erode
the competitiveness of the country’s human resources, both here and abroad”… A quote
attributed to Senator Edgardo J. Angara.

This was in reference to a bill that passed last month restoring English as the primary
language of instruction from high school onwards. The bill was created as Congress’
response to the declining proficiency on the use of the English language in
communications. (The Education Department adopted a bilingual program in 1987 to
promote the use of Tagalog, the other official language.)
According to a recent government study, only 7 percent of high school graduates can
properly read, speak or understand English, and poorly trained teachers are partly to
blame, it said.

According to a (separate) study conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce of


the Philippines, 75 percent of the more than 400,000 Filipino students that graduate
from college each year have “substandard English skills.”

Primer on the Filipino Language as a Language of


Education

Late last year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order 210. Its most important point is
the establishment of “the English language as the primary medium of instruction in all public institutions of
learning at the secondary level.” On 29 September, the Standard Today carried a news item which
announced that “two congressional committees had approved and endorsed to the House of
Representatives the report prescribing the use of English as the medium of instruction in Philippine
schools, from pre-school to college, including technical and vocational courses.” According to the report,
the Committees on Higher Education and on Basic Education agreed to consolidate related proposals into
House Bill 4701. “If enacted into law,” the report continued, “the bill will supersede the ‘bilingual policy’”
which is in effect today.
The UP Forum reproduces here the Primer on the Filipino Language as Language of Education issued by
the National Committee of Language and Translation (NCLT) of the National Commission for Culture and
the Arts (NCCA) and the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino (SWF), UP Diliman, in response to EO 210. The
NCLT is chaired by Virgilio S. Almario, National Artist, and Dean of the UP Diliman College of Arts and
Letters.
I. Language Situation of the Educational System
1. What does the Constitution say about language in our educational system?
According to Article IV, Section 6: The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As
it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and
other languages.
Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps
to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of
instruction in the educational system.
Section 7 says: For purpose of communication and instructions, the official languages of
the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional
languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary
media of instruction therein.
2. Are these provisions about the medium of instruction followed? What language policy do we
have in the educational system?
No. The bilingual policy still holds in our educational system. In this policy, Filipino and English are taught
as subjects, and are used as media of instruction.
3. What is the Bilingual Policy in Education of 1987?
The 1987 Bilingual Policy in Education aims to improve the use of Filipino and English by teaching these
languages and by using them in all levels as media of instruction. The country wants its citizens to gain
proficiency in the Filipino language in order to perform civic duties, and to learn English in order to
respond to the needs of the country in the community of nations.
4. Is it true that the bilingual policy has lowered our students’ level of proficiency in English?
No. There is no reliable study that shows the bilingual policy has lowered the proficiency level of our
students in English. The accusations hurled against Filipino are more indicative of the deep-seated
prejudice of the supporters of English.
If ever, according to language experts, the students’ level of language proficiency has become low both in
English and in Filipino. They claim students experienced what they call subtractive bilingualism and not
additive bilingualism. The second language is introduced prematurely that the child does not turn into a
true bilingual, unable to learn neither the first nor the second language. What could have been done is
first to ensure the academic mastery in the use of the mother tongue before the child is allowed to learn a
second one. Numerous studies have shown that a child acquires a second language better and faster if
the first language is mastered before hand. Also the child learns the other subjects more easily if these
are taught in a language he knows by heart.
II. Steps Taken Against Filipino
1. Has the present administration done anything with regard to the language
provisions in the constitution?
Nothing has been done at all. In fact, the steps taken by the present administration are all against the
principles stated in the constitution.
2. What are the new and unconstitutional policies of the administration?
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has recently ordered that English be made the preferred medium of
instruction. She released an executive order titled “Establishing the Policy to Strengthen the Use of
English as a Second Language” (Executive Order 210) which aims to strengthen English by adding hours
devoted to its use as a medium of instruction.
3. What does Executive Order 210 mean?
The salient points of EO 210 are:
§ … English should be used as the medium of instruction for English, Math, and Science
from at least the Third Grade level;
§ The English language shall be used as a primary medium of instruction in all public
institutions of learning at the secondary level;
§ As the primary medium of instruction, the percentage of time allotment for learning
areas conducted in the English language in high school is expected to be not less than
seventy percent (70%) of the total time allotment for all learning areas;
§… the Filipino language shall continue to be the medium of instruction in the learning
areas of Filipino and Araling Panlipunan.
Thus, no change is made at the elementary level. But at the high school level, English is turned into a
major medium of instruction by employing more time in its use as a medium of instruction.
4. If so, how come EO 210 is titled “Establishing the Policy to Strengthen the Use of English as a
Second Language in the Educational System?”
The title implies the intensification of the use of English as a second language in the educational system,
but by reading closely, we learn the EO will actually make English the primary medium of instruction.
Maybe the title is so phrased as to skirt the language provision of the Constitution that says the
government must take steps to make Filipino the primary medium of instruction.
5. If not the primary language, what is the more appropriate description of English in our present
language situation?
In our present language situation, Filipino is the lingua franca, making it the second language in non-
Tagalog areas. Thus the declaration of English as a second language is a subversion of the present
status of Filipino in the non-Tagalog areas. What should be done is to declare English as a third
language, or more appropriately, a foreign language.
6. What does Gullas Bill or House Bill 1652 proposes to do with Filipino?
Some of the important proposals of HB1652 are:
§ The medium of instruction in all curricular levels beginning in Grade I shall be English,
provided that in Grades I and II, the regional language may be used as auxiliary language
of instruction;
§ English and Filipino shall be taught as separate subjects in all grade levels in the
elementary and in the high school levels.
The proposed bill puts an end to the use of Filipino as a medium of instruction. It relegates Filipino to the
status of a mere subject in the curriculum.
7. What reasons does President Arroyo have in making English the primary medium of
instruction?
It came to the attention of the President that our students’ level of proficiency in English has lowered in
recent years. She was surprised to hear about job vacancies in call centers as a result of applicants
failing to pass the English examinations. She said English is the language of the Information and
Communications Technology or ICT. The President’s solution to the problem is to hastily propose the
improvement of English as a medium of instruction.
8. Does the President have a basis for believing that our students’ level of proficiency in English
has lowered in recent years?
The administration has not presented any concrete proof of our students’ lowering level of proficiency in
English. Only the call center applicants’ failure to pass the English examination is cited as the main
reason for the order to improve the teaching of English teaching through the employment of English as
the primary medium of instruction.
9. Is there a basis for saying that the Filipino language has caused the deterioration in English?
The deterioration claim is totally unfounded. No study has yet proven that using one’s first language
interferes with the learning of a second language. In fact, language educators believe that the first
language even aids in the quick and easy learning of a second one.
10. If so, then the administration does not have a concrete basis for sponsoring a very
fundamental policy change in the educational system?
That is right. What the President announced regarding the shift of emphasis in the medium of instruction
in our schools is a serious and fundamental policy change. It should be based upon a comprehensive,
systematic, and scientific study, analysis, and evaluation of the medium of instruction in our educational
system.
The presidential directive gives away the administration’s lack of a clear and holistic vision in the
improvement of our educational system. A new curriculum is set in place, the textbooks in the new
Makabayan subjects are being written, with the teachers seriously undergoing retraining programs, and
then without warning another language policy is introduced. So then, students and teachers become
unwitting victims to the ever-changing whims of our administrators.
11. Wouldn’t it be better to intensify English as a medium of instruction to improve our students’
English?
Improving the method of teaching English, and intensifying its use as a medium of instruction are two
different things. In fact, the early introduction of English as a medium of instruction negatively affects the
learning of English itself and then interferes in the learning of subjects taught in the language. On the
other hand, if the national language is used as a medium of instruction, students will only have to contend
with learning the lessons and learning a foreign language.
In addition, if teachers not proficient in English are allowed to use the language as a medium of
instruction, students will just be exposed to less than satisfactory kind of English. In effect, students all the
more do not learn English and do not learn the lessons taught in the language.
12. But isn’t English the language of Information and Communication Technology?
It is not true that English is the exclusive language of ICT. DepEd itself in the Departmental Order No. 54,
s. 1987 states “…(maintain English) as a non-exclusive language of science and technology….”
In the Internet, the number of sites that translate its contents to International languages like German,
Spanish, Japanese, French, Russian, Chinese, and others, is on the rise.
In another view, the language of ICT is an entirely new and different language. Words like “escape,”
“enter,” “control,” “bold,” “window,” “save, and such other lexicon acquire meanings unlike the common
and existing definitions of these words. In like manner, we should not worry about translating these words
into Filipino on our own terms and relearn them if need be.
13. But isn’t it necessary to intensify English to enable graduates to land good paying jobs?
Knowledge and not English proficiency is primary in doing well in one’s profession. Doctors are able to
cure patients, architects design homes and buildings, and experts prepare programs using computers, not
because of English but because of the acquired disciplinal expertise.
If Filipino, the language known by the majority of our people, is going to be used, even the ordinary farmer
or fisherman can become a better farmer or fisherman. Reading and study will likely inspire him to
improve his livelihood. And he can now more likely avoid being duped or exploited by others.
14. What about English as the key to knowledge?
Any particular language is a repository of knowledge. English is just one of these languages. So it must
not be treated as the sole key in gaining access to the unlimited wealth of world knowledge. In fact, our
unbelievable emphasis on English limits the scope of what we can use from the major languages of the
world like German, Spanish, Japanese, French, Russian, Chinese, and others.
The Filipino language also has the power to become a repository of knowledge. And the continuous
development and popularization of Filipino as an academic language plays a major part in making
ourselves intellectually independent.
15. But are there jobs that really require English proficiency?
Yes. The ones who want to go into these kinds of job must really learn and even undergo additional
training in English. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the teaching and learning of English must not
be allowed to go downhill. But not every job requires English, and so educational reforms must not
concentrate on this language alone. Establishing an English center of excellence can do the all out
support to the teaching of English especially for the sector that need it. Schools can open special English
courses for those who are more than interested in taking them.
16. So then it’s just reasonable to improve the students’ proficiency in English order to fill in the
call center job vacancies?
This is unreasonable. Call center job vacancies for English speaking Filipinos is a temporary and limited
opportunity. There are only 40,000 to 60,000 job positions in call centers. It is unreasonable to change our
educational system’s language policy based on this measly figure.
More urgently, we must denounce the administration if it considers the training of operators in call centers
the primary aim of the educational system instead of giving priority to the formation of intellectuals who
will become leading professionals, scientists, and scholars in their respective fields.
17. But isn’t English the international language, the language of globalization?
Language and globalization experts define a new linguistic order in the time of globalization: global,
regional, and local languages are fast developing. English has become the predominant global language.
Regional languages or languages that can serve as lingua franca among neighboring countries, as well
as movements that go for the preservation of local languages are also on the rise. In other words, we do
have a global language for world communication, regional ones to serve regional communication and
processes including education. We need to learn the languages that suit our varied national requirements.
For external affairs, we need to use English and other international and regional languages; and for
education, we need the language best understood by our students—none other than the Filipino
language.
18. What mission should the educational system uphold?
The educational system must strengthen the capacity for the progress of a country. It should produce
graduates who are critical and creative thinkers. It should produce a new generation of intelligent and
skilled citizenry who will lead the industry, manage businesses, and find ways to raise the living standard
of the people. It should not aim merely to train its people to become domestic helpers, construction
workers, care givers, and call center operators.
19. Then what measures should the government take regarding the medium of instruction in our
educational system?
The Constitution clearly states what the government must do: “the Government shall take steps to initiate
and sustain the use of Filipino as a mdeium of offical communication and as language of instruction in the
educational system.”
The Department of Education and the Commission for Higher Education must together plan and
implement a comprehensive and systematic program toward the optimum use of Filipino on all levels and
discipline.
The government must also extend its full support to the Commission on Filipino Language to enable it to
effectively carry out its mandate and mission as the primary government agency to promote the Filipino
language.
III. Filipino as the Language of Education
1. Why should Filipino be used as the medium of instruction in the educational system?
Filipino should be used as the medium of instruction in the educational system because students learn
best in this language. The Constitution recognized this when it declared Filipino as a language of the
educational system.
As Filipino is used as the medium of instruction, students learn the language, and at the same time get to
know the richness of their own culture—the soul of Filipino nationhood. The government’s dream of a
strong republic can come true when people know and love their own culture.
2. Maybe Filipino is good only for the Tagalogs. For non-Tagalogs, Filipino can be another foreign
language?
All Philippine languages belong to a single family of languages. In Panganiban’s dictionary (1972), more
than 27,000 major entries are listed, and 11,000 of these have cognates in the 12 native languages
included in the thesaurus-dictionary, plus 12,000 are homonyms although they differ in meaning. It will be
relatively easy for an Ifugao or a Tausug to learn Filipino compared to the difficulty of learning English or
some other language that do not belong to the Philippine family of languages.
Filipino is the true lingua franca of the Philippines. A 1989 nationwide Ateneo de Manila University survey
found out these facts: 92% understood Filipino, 88% read it, 83% spoke it, and 81% wrote it. It also turned
out that only 51% understood English. These are 1989 figures. The numbers of those who understand
and speak Filipino must have increased as a result of social and linguistic factors that promote the use of
a language, like the mass media, transportation and communication, migration, population centers,
education, and others.
3. We need English because almost all the disciplinal publications, especially in mathematics and
science, are written in this language. Is this true?
Indeed many books especially in mathematics and science are written in English. But we can access
these by translation into Filipino. We must also translate books from other major world languages to make
the wealth of knowledge stored in them accessible to us.
4. Can we really use Filipino to express concepts in science and mathematics? How about in high
order fields of knowledge?
Take note: there is no language superior or inferior to another. Each one possesses a system that
perfectly suits and responds to the needs of its users. It must be able to even adjust to the changing life
condition and interest of its users.
There is no doubt that the Filipino language is highly suitable for use in scientific and technical
discourses. Researches and experiments have also shown its effective use in any other discipline. In the
University of the Philippines, aside from the use of Filipino in science and mathematics subjects,
textbooks in various academic disciplines are written and published in this language.
5. Isn’t it costly to translate books into Filipino?
Translating books into Filipino is not costly. We can include the institution of a comprehensive translation
program and most likely, it will cost less than the amount of money and effort the government and
students waste on an inefficient practice of teaching and learning in a foreign language.
6. Is it only through translation that knowledge can be disseminated among the people?
No. One more objective for the educational system is the formation of a tradition in excellence in the
various fields of knowledge. We will no longer be dependent on the intellectual largesse from other
nations but we will truly contribute to the growth of research and knowledge. This will come true if we
discover and form theories, concepts, and methods suited to our experiences; and if we invest on the
formation of students and scholars who are both critical and creative thinkers.
In fact, a wealth of academic and scientific publications is already available in Filipino. This is a proof of
the ability of Filipino language to become a medium of serious and intellectual discourses. We only have
to exert more effort in this endeavor, be generous in our support, prizes, financial patronage, and with the
government upholding a more democratic policy in education.

Erosion of English Skills Threatens Growth in


the Philippines

Top of Form
Erosion of English By CARLOS CON http://w w w .nytim default NOV 24 2006 The New York Tim

nytimes.com

Bottom of Form

• SIGN IN TO E-MAIL THIS


• PRINT
• REPRINTS
• SAVE

By CARLOS CONDE
Published: November 24, 2006

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Angeli Boteros speaks English like an


American teenager. A lifetime of watching American television and movies
has left her sentences peppered with the trademark phrases of American
youth, including “like” and “you know.”
Skip to next paragraph
Related
Filipinos Are Taking More Calls in Outsourcing Boom (Nov. 24, 2006)

Ms. Boteros, 26, is so steeped in American popular culture, and has such a
good accent, that on the phone, she could pass for a girl from California.
Over the last year, she has been doing exactly that. As a call center agent at
GCom, Ms. Boteros helps customers half a world away overcome problems
with products or services they have purchased.
“My friends used to tease me because of the way I speak English,” Ms.
Boteros said at an open-air cafe in this booming southern Philippine city.
“Not anymore.”
Davao City is one of several areas outside Manila where call center
companies have been venturing, drawn by lower labor costs and large
numbers of available workers.
But there has been concern lately that the industry’s growth may be limited
by the deterioration of its main advantage: the English proficiency of the
work force. According to a study conducted by the European Chamber of
Commerce of the Philippines, 75 percent of the more than 400,000 Filipino
students that graduate from college each year have “substandard English
skills.”
A survey in June by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines
found that English proficiency was among the top three areas that the
country should seek to improve, behind only the country’s poor
international image and political stability.
“English proficiency is also an urgent impediment to growth,” the group
said in the study. “Fifty-one percent of respondents indicated that English
proficiency has a ‘very significant impact’ on their organizations’ ability to
grow.”
The same survey indicated that most call center companies hired only 5
percent to 10 percent of the job applicants they interviewed, mainly because
of inadequate English proficiency.
The Philippine Congress responded to those concerns last month by
passing a law restoring English as the primary instruction language from
high school onward. Local dialects can be used up to third grade, and from
third grade to sixth grade English will be taught separately under the new
law.
The Philippines is always referred to as an English-speaking country, with
more than 95 percent of the population able to speak or understand it.
English, an outgrowth of American colonialism, was the medium of
instruction in schools for decades.
But in 1987, the Education Department adopted a bilingual program to
promote the use of Tagalog, the other official language. The government
was swayed by studies indicating that children tended to learn better in
their native languages. Moreover, the nationalist lobby to restore Tagalog,
also called Filipino, was overwhelming in 1987 — a year after the revolt that
toppled Ferdinand Marcos.
Over the years, Tagalog became more commonly used in schools, pushing
out English. Yet English has always been a major attractor of investment
and a source of pride.
The deterioration of English proficiency has been linked to an overall
decline in Philippine education. Public schools often lack books and
teaching materials, and even classrooms, desks and chairs. In many remote
villages, pupils must bring their own chairs and chalk to be able to attend
class.
Public school teachers are paid meager wages, and many are forced to
augment their incomes by taking second jobs. The better ones, meanwhile,
seek employment abroad; today, teachers are among the most sought-after
Filipino workers in developed nations.
Then there is the rise of “Taglish,” a highly popular language combining
Tagalog and English that skews all the rules of grammar and usage.
Moreover, a majority of news shows on television and radio are in local
dialects.
Senator Edgardo J. Angara, a former educator who co-wrote the new law,
described the problem as a “ticking bomb.”
Such a “rapid decline in the English competency of Filipinos would
eventually erode the competitiveness of the country’s human resources,
both here and abroad,” he said after its passage.
Mitchell L. Locsin, executive director of the Business Processing
Association of the Philippines, conceded that there was a problem but
pointed to initiatives under way to help solve it, including better training
for English teachers. “We should begin in the primary and secondary
schools,” he said.
According to a recent government study, only 7 percent of high school
graduates can properly read, speak or understand English, and poorly
trained teachers are partly to blame, it said.
The country’s Commission on Higher Education said it would put English-
proficiency centers in hundreds of schools to teach these teachers.
The call center industry has also encouraged the establishment of private
English training centers, especially for those who want to work in the
industry. Some companies even offer this training free.
Business groups led by the European Chamber of Commerce have likewise
begun a program called “English Is Cool.” There have also been suggestions
to integrate what some have called “call center subjects” — with emphasis
on how to speak better English — into school curriculums.
Peter Wallace, an Australian business consultant based in Manila who
advises several multinational companies, said that one of the ways to
reverse the trend was to “strictly enforce English as the sole medium of
instruction in both public and private schools as it was in the 1950s and
1960s.”
The Philippines, Mr. Wallace said, could be a major player in information
technology, in the call center industry, and even in health care services and
tourism. “But only if it speaks English,” he said.
1. Did you know that there will be an approximately 280,000 employee shortage in the BPO
industry between now and 2010?
Did you know that of all the applicants, only 3-5% are hired in the BPO industry because
a majority lack English communication skills?
There will be 280,000 available jobs for Filipinos in the next three years. These jobs are
actually higher paying than most other jobs. It’s the Call Centers and BPOs that are
helping to improve the Philippine economy.
American Institute for English Proficiency can help. Learn American Accent and Culture.
English Conversation.

English erosion hurts Philippines


It has often been referred to as an `English speaking
country,' but since the introduction of a program to
promote Tagalog in the 1980s Philippine
proficiency in the language has declined

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2006, Page 9

Angeli Boteros speaks English like an American teenager. A lifetime of


watching American TV and movies has left her sentences peppered with
the trademark phrases of American youth, including "like" and "you
know."
Boteros, 26, is so steeped in US popular culture, and has such a good
accent, that on the phone, she could pass for a girl from California.
Over the last year, she has been doing exactly that. As a call center agent at GCom, Boteros
helps customers half a world away overcome problems with products or services they have
purchased.
"My friends used to tease me because of the way I speak English," Boteros said at an open-air
cafe in this booming southern Philippine city. "Not anymore."
Davao City is one of several areas outside Manila where call center companies have been
venturing, drawn by lower labor costs and large numbers of available workers.
But there has been concern lately that the industry's growth may be limited by the deterioration
of its main advantage -- the English proficiency of the work force.
According to a study conducted by
the European Chamber of Commerce "[A] rapid
of the Philippines, 75 percent of the decline in
more than 400,000 Filipino students
that graduate from college each year
the
have "substandard English skills." English
A survey in June by the Business competenc
Processing Association of the y of
Philippines found that English
proficiency was among the top three Filipinos
areas that the country should seek to would
improve, behind only the country's eventually
poor international image and political
stability. erode the
"English proficiency is also an urgent competitiv
impediment to growth," the group eness of
said in the study.
the
"Fifty-one percent of respondents
indicated that English proficiency has
country's
a `very significant impact' on their human
organizations' ability to grow,"the resources,
study said.
both here
The same survey indicated that most
call center companies hired only 5 and
percent to 10 percent of the job abroad."
applicants they interviewed, mainly
because of inadequate English Edgardo
proficiency.
Angara,
The Philippine Congress responded
to those concerns last month by Philippine
passing a law restoring English as the senator
primary instruction language from
high school onward. Local dialects can be used up to third grade, and from third grade to sixth
grade English will be taught separately under the new law.
The Philippines is always referred to as an English-speaking country, with more than 95 percent
of the population able to speak or understand it. English, an outgrowth of American colonialism,
was the medium of instruction in schools for decades.
But in 1987, the Education Department adopted a bilingual program to promote the use of
Tagalog, the other official language.
The government was swayed by studies indicating that children tended to learn better in their
native languages. Moreover, the nationalist lobby to restore Tagalog, also called Filipino, was
overwhelming in 1987 -- a year after the revolt that toppled former president Ferdinand Marcos.
Over the years, Tagalog became more commonly used in schools, pushing out English. Yet
English has always been a major attractor of investment and a source of pride.
The deterioration of English proficiency has been linked to an overall decline in education in the
Philippines.
Public schools often lack books and teaching materials, and even classrooms, desks and chairs.
In many remote villages, pupils must bring their own chairs and chalk to be able to attend class.
Public school teachers are paid meager wages, and many are forced to augment their incomes by
taking second jobs. The better ones, meanwhile, seek employment abroad.
Today, teachers are among the most sought-after Filipino workers in developed nations.
Then there is the rise of "Taglish," a highly popular language combining Tagalog and English
that skews all the rules of grammar and usage. Moreover, a majority of news shows on TV and
radio are in local dialects.
Senator Edgardo Angara, a former educator who co-wrote the new law, described the problem as
a "ticking bomb."
Such a "rapid decline in the English competency of Filipinos would eventually erode the
competitiveness of the country's human resources, both here and abroad," he said after its
passage.
Mitchell Locsin, executive director of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines,
conceded that there was a problem but pointed to initiatives under way to help solve it, including
better training for English teachers.
"We should begin in the primary and secondary schools," he said.
According to a recent government study, only 7 percent of high school graduates can properly
read, speak or understand English, and poorly trained teachers are partly to blame, it said.
The Commission on Higher Education said it would put English-proficiency centers in hundreds
of schools to teach these teachers.
The call center industry has also encouraged the establishment of private English training
centers, especially for those who want to work in the industry. Some companies even offer this
training free.
Business groups led by the European Chamber of Commerce have likewise begun a program
called "English Is Cool."
There have also been suggestions to integrate what some have called "call center subjects" --
with emphasis on how to speak better English -- into school curriculums.
Peter Wallace, an Australian business consultant based in Manila who advises several
multinational companies, said that one of the ways to reverse the trend was to "strictly enforce
English as the sole medium of instruction in both public and private schools as it was in the
1950s and 1960s."
The Philippines, Wallace said, could be a major player in information technology, in the call
center industry, and even in health care services and tourism.
"But only if it speaks English," he said.