Thursday, May 3, 2007

English, the Rizal Law, and the Filipino Cultural Heritage

AMBETH OCAMPO wrote about the Rizal Law of 1956 (Part 1) and the Fight Over the Rizal Law in PDI this week, noting that he has been teaching Rizal for almost 20 years. The Rizal Law is relevant to the recent brouhaha over Media of instruction in the public schools because of its specific use of English in Rizal education:

Republic Act No 1425 (June 12, 1956) An Act To Include In The Curricula Of All Public And Private Schools, Colleges And Universities Courses On The Life, Works And Writings Of Jose Rizal, Particularly His Novels Noli Me Tangere And El Filibusterismo

Section 1. Courses on the life, works and writings of Jose Rizal, particularly his novel Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shall be included in the curricula of all schools, colleges and universities, public or private: Provided, That in the collegiate courses, the original or unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo or their English translation shall be used as basic texts.
Sec. 2. It shall be obligatory on all schools, colleges and universities to keep in their libraries an adequate number of copies of the original and unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as well as of Rizal's other works and biography. The said unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo or their translations in English as well as other writings of Rizal shall be included in the list of approved books for required reading in all public or private schools, colleges and universities.

Sec. 3. The Board of National Education shall cause the translation of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as well as other writings of Jose Rizal into English, Tagalog and the principal Philippine dialects; cause them to be printed in cheap, popular editions; and cause them to be distributed, free of charge, to persons desiring to read them, through the Purok organizations and Barrio Councils throughout the country.
In Section 1, the Rizal Law specifically requires that college level Rizal courses use as basic texts the original, unexpurgated (i.e. complete) versions in Spanish or in English translation.

In Section 2, the Rizal Law requires all schools to have in their libraries "adequate copies" of the Spanish or English versions of Rizal's writings, which are deemed to be included in the "approved lists for required reading" in all public and private schools.

In Section 3, the Rizal law says the government must make available free of charge to anyone popular editions of Rizal's works in English, Tagalog and the principal Philippine dialects.

But in a recent Petition to the Supreme Court regarding the use of English in education, one finds as a Cause of Action the following assertions:
9.4. Government and institutional studies have shown that children in the grade schools cannot learn how to read and write in English. Instead, it is the vernacular or Filipino, which is easy for them to understand, which will enable them to learn how to read and write and enable them to acquire the foundations of knowledge in the first few years of education.

9.5. The failure of Respondents to implement Filipino and the regional languages as the primary media of instruction has led to serious difficulties in learning among school children in elementary and high school, including herein Petitioner Minors, which has led to ineffective communication in the classrooms, low academic achievement, and high drop-out rate.

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.
On their face, several of the above statements are really far-fetched or are literally falsehoods. For example, it is most certainly not true that children in the grade schools cannot learn how to read and write in English. One wonders what government research proves this amazing claim.But what the heck? Petitioners blame the use of English as a medium of instruction for the high rate of functional illiteracy, emotional insecurity, feelings of ostracism, learning difficulties, low academic achievement and high drop-out rates in elementary school. English language use will allegedly produce a generation of young people who will have no cultural values or traditions that define their identity. Yet, after over one hundred years of the English language in Filipino society, one would think that English already IS a big part of the Filipino cultural heritage, unless we adopt a completely aboriginal conception of what constitutes cultural heritage.

If we are to adopt the attitude of the Petitioners in this case, however, we would have to throw the Rizal Law out with our Spanish and English-tainted cultural heritage.


jhay said...

English may have been part of our cultural heritage for a hundred years now but the strange thing is how come many Filipinos still can't read and write in English?

Who's cultural heritage are we talking about here anyways? The culture of the upper classes or of the lower masses?

To everyone I encounter that advocates the use of English as the primary medium of instruction I ask the following question:

Sa bahay ba, sa ordinaryo niyong pamumuhay sa araw-araw, Ingles ba ang ginagamit niyong wika? Gaya ng sa hapunan, "Dad, could you pass the rice please?" Or "Junior, go out to the store and buy some fish sauce."

It's like seeing dogs meowing and cats barking. :P

Jego said...

I didnt know that the Rizal law specified only complete original and English translations of the Noli and Fili. We studied Noli and Fili in High School in Filipino. My school was violating the law! :-D

john marzan said...

English may have been part of our cultural heritage for a hundred years now but the strange thing is how come many Filipinos still can't read and write in English?

can't read, can't write, can't comprehend? eh paano pa ba naka-umabot hanggang high school (hanggang college!) ang mga estudyante natin? hindi ba halos lahat ng mga elementary at high school books natin ay nasa wikang ingles?

but i agree a significant majority of filipinos can't fluently speak in english like a native Brit or an American. and that's a MAJOR problem.

re the math and science thing, maybe it'd be better to send some of our deserving students to study in these Chinese High Schools in tondo. I hear they teach math and science way much better than your regular HS.

NineMoons Family said...

re the Noli and Fili:

- I had to study Noli and Fili in Filipino at Pisay - but passed the course by reading the English translations. I don't have any shred of idea why people keep reprinting the orange and blue books despite their archaic Filipino.

- which, between you and me, was the main reason I had to resort to the English translations - the Filipino ones went over my head.

- the Petition would likely start making more sense to me if it was a call for reintroducing Spanish to our roster of national languages - but I suspect petitioners are conveniently ignoring it for fear of more backlash.

- on a distantly related note: I was in the last group of UP students for whom Spanish I-II was mandatory, and it felt so similar to Filipino for some reason.

just two cents from NineMoons [hah!]

engineerOFW said...

If I knew then what I know now, I wish the schools had motivated me so that I am as now as fluent in Spanish as I am in English and Tagalog.

Amadeo said...

In today’s fractious environment, the education we got in our formative years may be considered by many as more “screwed up”. Here’s how.

Growing up in Mindanao, our native dialect spoken at home and in public was Bisaya, but once we started schooling a tiny flood of languages was heaped upon us. We had English as the medium of instruction, though we were taught Tagalog (Balarila) from the first grade up to I believe 2 years of high school. Since it was a Jesuit HS, we had Latin for 4 years. And because of the Spanish law, we had 2 years (or was it 4?) of Spanish in college. And oh, since we finished Latin lessons earlier, the Jesuit scholastic moderator started us on the road to Greek.

I do not believe anybody complained about what we went through, nor did anybody rue that we were not taught properly.

engineerOFW said...

to jhay : the influence of the upper classes, the cultural heritage of the upper classes affect the lower masses and in the strongest of manners to include jobs and religion.

DJB Rizalist said...

thanks for all the comments folks. It really is an impt question to ask and answer. It just occurs to me that the English language by itself is a big part of the Filipino's cultural heritage. And only more practical than Spanish for historical reasons. If Spain had taught us Spanish, we might never have taken to English.

But there should be no more prejudice against English as if it were some kind of harmful foreign influence.

engineerOFW said...

If Spain had taught us Spanish, then we'll truly be bonafide "banana republic".

Elections in a few days... voters need to get elected the right officials. There are so many issues for Filipinos, to include (1) day-to-day criminality, mulcting, corruption; (2) jobs, jobs, jobs; (3) the human rights issues, and the (4) overriding need to move the country forward where all share in the progress.

blackshama said...

In Spanish lit class, La Senora Profesora required us to read the Noli en la lengua Castellana!

In High School we survived the Noli and Fili using the graphic novel format!

Perhaps the most notable observation by Ambeth Ocampo is that nobody has applied for an exemption to read Rizal's novels on grounds of religious conscience. Filipino citizens are smarter than the obscurantist Roman Catholic hierarchy of the 1950s.

But it would have been interesting to see if the State had taken over Catholic schools as Recto threatened when the religious orders threatened to shut their schools. What would have been then
the direction of our society?

Would we fared like Cuba, which education became more available, when Fidel did kick out the Jesuits, Dominicans etc?

DJB Rizalist said...

EngineerOFW--But we surely cannot expunge Spain from our "cultural heritage"! How can we, when everything Rizal ever did of consequence was done in Spanish?

But I disagree with you. If Spain had given us the gift of Spanish, we might have responded with not such a cold shoulder in history towards Spain. No?