English is again instruction mode
Thursday, January 30, 2003
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
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
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
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