English is medium of instruction soon
The Philippine Star

By Jess Diaz

   English could soon become the principal medium of instruction in all schools.

The House committee on education has endorsed a bill changing the present bilingual policy in schools and requiring that English be the principal medium of instruction, from grade school to the tertiary level.

The only exception would be when Filipino is taught as a subject.

 English would also be promoted as the medium of interaction among pupils and students.

Bill 2894, principally authored by Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, has been endorsed by 137 or a majority of the 236 members of the House of Representatives.

Gullas said yesterday President Arroyo has also agreed to support the measure.

 "In fact, she is making it part of the legislative agenda that she would recommend to Congress for its second regular session, which starts in July," he said.

He said there is a need to make English the principal medium of instruction again in all schools "because we have been losing our competitive edge in English proficiency to neighboring countries, including China, which used to abhor the English language."

"Even our graduates who are recruited by call centers have to be retrained so they will become fluent in English. I know, since there are many of these centers in Cebu," he said.

Gullas comes from a family of educators who own the University of the Visayas in Cebu City.

He recalled that English had been the medium of instruction until 1974 when the bilingual policy requiring the use of both English and Filipino was introduced.

"As a result of this policy, the learning of the English language suffered a setback. One reason is what linguists call language interference. Targeting the learning of two languages (English and Pilipino, actually Tagalog) is too much for Filipino learners, especially in lower grades. And if the child happens to be a non-Tagalog speaker, this actually means learning two foreign languages at the same time, an almost impossible task," he said.

He said the difficulty faced by the Filipino student in learning two languages at the same time could be one of the reasons why Filipinos lag behind their neighbors in science and mathematics.

He noted that books in these disciplines are written in English.

If the student cannot comprehend what is written in English, then learning science and mathematics and other disciplines becomes a tremendously difficult undertaking, he stressed.

In a related development, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. reminded the Department of Education yesterday of a provision in the 2005 budget law requiring that textbooks that public schools would purchase should withstand five years of use.

"Not only should textbooks be guaranteed for their contents but the quality of the paper used in printing them must meet standards, too," he said.

He said Congress had included in the 2005 budget  a provision requiring that books be printed on sturdy paper to save on government funds.

"Given the state of our finances, we cannot afford books that get torn or deteriorate quickly," he said.

The education department has P810 million this year for new textbooks. Jess Diaz