Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Medium is the Mess (Part 2)

randishing National Artists awards and hoisting their professorial chairs at prestigious national universities (or perhaps hoping to eventually get the same Soviet-style distinctions), a self-proclaimed group of nationalists has filed a petition for certiori and prohibition against government orders and plans to strengthen the use of the English language in the teaching of Math, Science and other subjects in the public schools. I have already noted some of the humorous ironies and paradoxical dilemmas attendant upon this recent development and refer Philippine Commentary readers to numerous commentaries and caveats of mine and many others on Manuel L. Quezon's weblog last week.

But now it is time to get down to brass tacks, and perhaps put on the logical and factual brass knuckles...

Petitioners make a very important admission in the very first "Cause of Action" against the assailed Orders:
8.1. The provisions of EO 210 and DepEd Order No. 36 that English shall be taught as a second language starting with the First Grade violates the above-quoted provisions of the Constitution since Filipino is actually only the second language in non-Tagalog areas. The EO thus subverts the present status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and violates the constitutional injunction that the regional languages shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction.
CAVEAT: They acknowledge herewith the reality that the so-called Filipino national language is really just the Tagalog of Imperial Diliman and the dominant ethnic group that led the fight for independence from Spain and later the United States of America. Although Tagalog has become quite widely used in the Archipelago, it is most certain NOT the native language or "mother tongue" of a vast number of the Filipinos. A quite up-to-date and authoritative listing of the Languages of the Philippines is maintained by in which one discovers that there are at least 175 in active use by some 87 million people in the Islands with the main ones and their native populations (those who learn the particular language at home from their mothers and fathers) as follows:
Cebuano: 20,043,502 in the Philippines (1995 census). Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Visayas and parts of Mindanao. Also spoken in USA.

Ilocano: 8,000,000 in the Philippines (1991) Northwestern Luzon, La Union and Ilocos provinces, Cagayan Valley, Babuyan, Mindoro, Mindanao. Also spoken in USA.

Hiligaynon (Ilongo): 7,000,000 in the Philippines (1995). Iloilo and Capiz provinces, Panay, Negros Occidental, Visayas. Also spoken in USA.

Bicolano: 5,000,000; Waray-waray: 2.4 million; Tausug: 900,000; and millions of others with "mother tongues" from Agta to Yogad.
I mention this remarkable linguistic diversity in order to emphasize the fact, readily admitted by Petitioners that, perhaps just as much as English is, Tagalog, masquerading as the Filipino National Language, is just as much a "foreign" language to the vast majority of the Filipinos. Of course, necessity and the realities of commerce, politics, government, mass media, telecommunications and indeed education soon enough cause both English and Tagalog to be acquired by most people as second and third languages, with the "mother tongue" relegated to the more informal aspects of life.

In light of this, Petitioners' allegation that the assailed Orders "subvert the present status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas" is true only in the sense that government policy will not now be used to impose Tagalog on these non-Tagalog native speakers. Indeed, I aver that such a policy, if Petitioners vain prayer were granted, is bound to fail anyway for other reasons that will soon become clear to the gentle reader...

In their second Cause of Action, Petioners allege that:
8.2. The provision of the EO that the English language shall be used as a primary medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and Science from at least the Third Grade level is a clear violation of the constitutional duty of Respondents“to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as language of instruction in the educational system.
CAVEAT: In Part 1 of this series, I have already made the observation that if Respondents are guilty of the alleged violation, then so is the Supreme Court itself, the Congress, and most laughably, the Respondents themselves since the Constitutional provision cited states:
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.
It cannot be denied that every single Decision, Resolution, Letter and other communication rendered by the Honorable Supreme Court itself has been written in English since before 1987! Likewise, every Bill, Law, Resolution, Letter and other official communication of the Congress are likewise done in English, not Tagalog aka Filipino. Petitioners themselves submit the instant pleading in the fine and eloquent English found in the laurel-filled groves of Academe and the official Soviet-styled Nationalism of Mass Media.

In their 3rd and 4th Causes of Action, Petitioners display a good deal of clever disingenuity and intellectual dishonesty when they allege that:
8.3. The provision of the EO that the English language shall be used as the primary medium of instruction in all public and private institutions of learning in the secondary level, and the provision that encourages the use of English as the primary medium in the tertiary level, undermine both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution on the national language, which has prescribed Filipino as the medium of instruction on pedagogical grounds.

8.4. Indeed, in the 1991 Report of the Congressional Commission on Education, it was recommended that the vernacular and Filipino should be the medium of instruction for basic education. It enjoined the Department of Education to develop a plan such that between 1991 and 1998, a program for the development of instructional materials in Filipino is adopted and implemented and that, by the year 2000, all subjects, except English and other languages, shall be taught in Filipino.
CAVEAT: The 1987 Constitution is very clear (Art XIV, Section 7):
Section 7. For the purpose of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.
There is nothing in the entire Constitution, which itself was originally written and presently adjudicated in English, whether in letter or spirit, that "prescribes Filipino" as medium of instruction on pedagogical grounds, as Petitioners allege. Moreover, the recommendations of the Congressional Commission on Education, as Petitioners well know, were merely that: recommendations that the Congress, which is empowered by the Constitution to provide by law for the use of Filipino, has not in fact seen any wisdom in what both that Commission and the present Petitioners now urge: that all subjects except English and other languages, be taught in Filipino. In order to understand WHY instructional materials in Tagalog have not been developed to teach, for example Math and Science subjects , one may well turn to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for an explanation:
The Mother Tongue Dilemma (PDF) Language and identity are linked – as the term ‘mother tongue’ implies. A healthy identity balances different aspects of our personalities. A community expresses part of its identity in its languages of instruction and a healthy society makes choices that promote harmonious communities and confident individuals. Fortunately these goals are usually congruent. Years of research have shown that children who begin their education in their mother tongue make a better start, and continue to perform better, than those for whom school starts with a new language. The same applies to adults seeking to become literate. This conclusion is now widely implemented, although we still hear of governments that insist on imposing a foreign language of instruction on young children, either in a mistaken attempt at modernity or to express the pre-eminence of a social dominant group. … Real life, however, is not always so simple. Some languages do not have the range of vocabulary and concepts to be useful beyond the early stages of schooling without additional codification and the invention of new words, which can take years.
Some readers will surely find other portions of this quote useful to their own points of view, with which I shall deal shortly, but I emphasize the latter statement to point out that for the purposes of teaching such things as Math and Science all languages are not created equal, nor suited to that purpose in a practical and realistic sense. There is NO SHAME in the fact that Tagalog has little hope of ever effectively transmitting the required information contained in Trigonometry or Meteorology or Computer Science or Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine and indeed even of simple Arithmetic, Law and Finance.

The UNESCO position is clearly that multilingualism is an essential requirement in the world of the 21st Century. I think Petitioners will find much that contradicts their position that ALL subjects should be taught in a putative "national language" except for English and "other languages".

Not even Petitioners avail of Tagalog for their own professional activities as professors, pundits and Laureates, except for those whose living is actually made from the Florante at Laura and Ibong Adarna, and the making of nationalistic speeches on those rare occasions when it becomes too absurd not to do so. They could not manage to do so even in the filing of this very Petition to the Supreme Court!

In their fifth, sixth and seventh Causes of Action, Petitioners harp upon a single theme with several variations:
8.5. In 1998, the results of a World Bank/ADB education research demonstrate that the use of the vernacular in the first years of school provides the necessary bridge for a child to learn a second language (in this case Filipino or English), and that children are less likely to drop out of school during the first years of school when instruction is in the language spoken at home.

8.6. Thus, in 1998, an attempt was made to revive vernacular teaching through the use of the three major local lingua francae of the Philippines (Ilokano, Cebuano, Tagalog) as media of instruction until Grade 3 and in English thereafter, under the bilingual scheme. The pilot project was conceptualized with the help of specialists from the Summer Institute of Linguistics. The initial feedback from the pilot schools set up was overwhelmingly positive (pupils were active, not passive; they asked questions spontaneously instead of answering in monosyllables and phrases in a language they hardly understood, conceptualization especially in mathematics took place almost from the first day in school).

8.7. In 2000, the Philippine Commission on Educational Reforms, while reaffirming the bilingual policy and the improvement in the teaching of English, proposed the introduction of the use of the lingua franca or vernacular as the medium of instruction in Grade One. Studies have shown that this change will make students stay in school longer, learn better, quicker and more permanently, and will in fact be able to use the first language as a bridge to more effective learning in English and Filipino.
CAVEAT: Petitioners are blaming high drop out rates in public schools on the allegation that public school teachers do NOT use the vernacular in the first years of school to teach the children, as if such teachers are not the very SOURCE of Petitioners' acquired wisdom that the vernacular is the most effective tool for beginning learners! I assert that public school teachers DO USE the vernacular already in those early years, since there is no other choice in most cases. But even Petitioners do not oppose the eventual acquisition of "foreign" language skills in English and Tagalog. They merely insist upon the vernacular as a bridge to such acquisition. But I think that good teachers already implement their demand, making the petition quite moot. There is however, no practicable or equitable way of formalizing or standardizing such good practices, as Petitioners want, because our public schools, both in the provinces and the cities are necessarily MIXTURES of the various ethnic and language groups.

We should also note that in the Grades One and Two of ALL public schools, the Science Subject has been abolished since the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum was promulgated by the late Sec. Raul Roco, and that only English, Filipino, Math and Makabayan (Patriotism) are formally taught as subjects in those two critical grade levels. The latter subject, Makabayan is actually a supersubject and accounts for nearly 60% of the Curriculum, and therefore of the budgetary expenditures of the Dept. of Education. I am sure that students get more than the required dose of the vernacular in all these subjects, but most especially in the Makabayan subject area. Philippine Commentary readers may wish to review my analysis last year of Our Patriotic Curriculum and the Classroom Shortage to discover the REAL reason why kids are dropping out and not learning.

enophobia (but only ideological xenophobia of the most ludicrous and hypocritical variety) is displayed by Petitioners in Section 9 of their Pleading. Consider the following examples:
9.6. The harmful effects of using a foreign language for learning are not just limited to low academic achievement and cognitive growth; it also impairs the emotional security and the sense of self-worthiness and the ability to participate meaningfully in the educational process by lower class children who develop inferiority complex as they are stigmatized by their use of the native tongue.
CAVEAT: It doesn't occur to Petitioners that the harmful effects of using a foreign language has apparently not hindered their own high academic achievements, though I might agree with them on the matter of "cognitive growth"!

Finally, take a look at this bit of nonsense from Petitioners:
9.9. Furthermore, the use in education of English alienates children from their own cultural heritage and will produce a generation of young people who have no cultural values and who lack the traditions that make for a nation's identity. This has beclouded the responsibility of Petitioner Minors to pass on the cultural heritage of our nation to the next generations. Such a grave responsibility can only be accomplished through the use of the national language in school.
Is our cultural heritage limited to what comes to us through Ilokano, Cebuano, Pampango and Tagalog???? Isn't it through the agency of the English language that Filipinos came to know anything of themselves and the world? Wasn't it America that taught us about Spain, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Democracy, History, Science and all the rest? Why is English not considered a HUGE part of our cultural heritage? Have we not had over a century of English language achievement? Aside from the minor industry of pious nationalistic speech making, aren't the entire life's work of almost all the Petitioners themselves conducted in English? Who has an inferiority complex? Do the laurel leaves of National Artist award contain such mind-numbing toxins and vision-impairing blinders that we must be oppressed by such stupidity and ignorance?

Petitioners' own lives of accomplishment and prestige are the only rebuttal the Supreme Court needs to reject this hypocritical petition, though of course that will only increase their reputation as "nationalists"! Meanwhile the debate will continue along the moot and academic lines they have prescribed as the students and teachers continually suffer from a Curriculum and public school system that doesn't recognize the necessity of laboratories, computers, textbooks and even classrooms and school buildings in favor of puerile and infantile pieties.


Cocoy said...

*nods in agreement*

Amadeo said...

Why is English not considered a HUGE part of our cultural heritage?

Good relevant question.

Are a vocal English-articulate number of our intellectual elites in both media and academe so dismissive of, or so repulsed by, those 40-odd years of American “occupation” and its continuing influences that it would try whatever means possible to rid the country of any vestiges or remnants of those arguably enlightenment years?

Allow me to paraphrase John McCain in a different context: C’mon, ease up and get a life.

We shouldn’t t run away from nor attempt to obliterate that segment of our past that has become quite integral in our collective lives.

Let’s play the cards dealt us.

blackshama said...

English makes a huge part of our heritage. You have Nick Joaquin, Sionil-Jose etc as proof that our identity can be expressed in that language.

Would the world be poorer if Swift or Joyce wrote only in Irish? Ireland contributed more per capita to English literary heritage than England itself.

Tiki said...

Most of DJB's points also work against him. For example, if Filipino is as "foreign" as English, then the same arguments that favor English can also favor Filipino! And if he's implying that a foreign language shouldn't be used (that's his intention for not supporting Filipino), then another Philippine language and not English should be used a mother tongue.

Even Amadeo's argument about not wanting to "obliterate the past" works against him, as many Philippine languages are also part of the past and can be used in place of English!

Are most Filipinos more fluent in English than in Filipino? From what I remember, results of past national exams reveal that Filipinos do poorly in English than in Filipino, and I think they will still do poorly in English than in their own local language.

Finally, FLEMSS shows that 70 percent of Filipinos are literate in Filipino. There is a strong possibility that they do not do as well in English. (Of course, if anyone has contrary evidence, then we should note it.)

DJB Rizalist said...

Ninetynine percent of this very debate, in the blogosphere and MSM, is being conducted in pure, eloquent English--including your own contrary points.

More evidence?

DJB Rizalist said...

The 70% of Filipinos detected by FLEMSS to be "literate" in Filipino, may very well be the 70% of Filipinos who are also Tagalog-literate.

It only means that the concept of a "national language" hardly applies. We cannot make of Tagalog a gussied up national language by calling it Filipino.

I'm beginning to see the point of some Cebuanos.

Tiki said...

DJB, your comment about this discussion being conducted in English is not logical because it implies that those who post these comments represent the Philippine population.

I don't understand the second comment: whether it's Filipino or something else, if it's spoken by most Filipinos, then it should be considered the national language. Can the same apply for English? I can only remember one national exam concerning English, and that was the section in NCEE. From what I remember, Filipinos scored 10 to 30 percent for that.