PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?Just so everybody knows what Michael Tan is talking about here, please check yesterday's post, The High Cost of Free Public Education for a breakdown of the Basic Education Curriculum of the Dept. of Education, showing each of the subject areas and the number of minutes per school day allocated to each.
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007
With the new school year upon us, I’m wondering what our schools are going to do, given the President’s Executive Order 210, which for the nth time revises our medium of instruction in schools.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the EO in May 2004. There was a delay with the Department of Education’s implementing rules and guidelines, which were released only in July 2006. In a nutshell, the EO and the implementing rules provide for the following:
English will be taught as a second language starting with Grade 1. Starting with Grade 3, English will be used as a medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and Science. (This is actually an old requirement dating back to 2002.) Finally, the President and the Department of Education require that English be the “primary medium of instruction” in all public and private high schools, “primary” defined as English being used in “not less than 70 percent of the total time allotment for all learning areas.”
There are five official Subjects in the Basic Education Curriculum (since 2002): English, Filipino, Mathematics, Science and Makabayan. The latter subject area, Makabayan, is actually composed of four component Subjects: Social Studies, Music and Arts, Technology and Livelihood, and Values Education. Below, the number of minutes per day per subject in the DepEd's current Basic Education Curriculum is shown for the Elementary and Secondary School levels
Medium of Instruction
|ELEMENTARY SCHOOL |
360 Minutes Per Day
|Gr 1||Gr 2||Gr 3||Gr 4||Gr 5||Gr 6|
*The MAKABAYAN subject area is actually composed of four other very large subjects: (a) Sibika at Kultura(1-2); Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Sibika(3-6); (b)Musika, Sining PE, Health (Mapeh); (c) Teknolohiya, Pangkabuhayan at Ekonomiya; and (d) Values Education.
** The SCIENCE subject has not been taught in Grades 1 and 2 of Elementary Public School since 2002 though it is said to be "integrated" into the English and Makabayan subject areas.
|Medium of Instruction||SECONDARY SCHOOL |
420 minutes per day
|Filipino||MAKABAYAN Values Education||24||24||36||36|
As Prof. Tan correctly points out, the use of English to teach the subjects of English, Mathematics and Science has been in place since 2002. And for over a century might I add! What the new Executive and Deped Orders seek to do is increase the use of English as a medium of instruction in the Secondary School level to 70% from less than 50% (200 minutes equal to the total of 60+60+80 minutes of English, Math and Science out of the 420 minutes typical high school day.)
Michael Tan says a "group of educators" don't want this to happen and have gone to the Supreme Court to fight it.
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?The text-in-read above is Michael Tan's abbreviation of the following provision of the 1987 Constitution:
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007
A group of educators has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the executive and department orders on grounds that they are unconstitutional. The group includes National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, University of the Philippines professor (and Inquirer columnist) Randolf David; Isagani Cruz, president of Wika ng Kultura at Agham [Language of Culture and Science], and Efren Abueg, writer-in-residence at De La Salle University.
The educators argue that the 1987 Constitution declares Filipino as the national language and mandates the government to “initiate and sustain [its] use ... as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”
"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."The ironies and humorous blindspots are to be found in The Medium is the Mess Parts 1 and 2. Chief among these are: (1) the Supreme Court itself has produced its "official communications" purely in English, perhaps because the Document it guards and interprets, itself, is in English; (2) If anything it is Deped which has "sustained" the use of Filipino as a language of instruction, by using Filipino as language of instruction for over 50% of its subject time; (3) Petitioners themselves, though they be National Artists and Noted Columnists submit an official communication in the most eloquent and passionate English--hardly exemplary of their own adovcacy.
The main point I think is that English is an integral and inseparable and most substantial part of the Filipino cultural heritage--ineradicably a part of our intellectual, educational, and historical patrimony. It's rejection and treatment as "foreign" is a twisted form of the SELF-LOATHING that some people wish us all to practice as "nationalism." What they actually are propagating is a romantic kind of aboriginalism that masks a more modern and leftist agenda. Then there is the Rizal Law!
ENGLISH AND COMPUTERS Michael Tan next addresses the issue of English proficiency in a globalized, computerized world. Incredibly he proves and concludes that English is not really needed and our attempts to improve the Filipinos' English language skills are the real reasons for their mediocrity!
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?Michael Tan makes two assertions here: (1) The call center industry is not all that important as a generator of jobs so we don't need more English proficiency; and (2) it is "even more unrealistic" to go for more English proficiency if the target is the broader ICT industry.
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007
The rationale for EO 210 is explained as “a need to develop the aptitude, competence and proficiency of our students in the English language to maintain and improve their competitive edge in emerging and fast-growing local and international industries, particularly in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).”
It’s an appealing argument, given all the publicity around call center jobs and how so many applicants are turned down because of lack of English proficiency. But the educators point out that call centers don’t generate that many jobs in the first place so trying to get all schoolchildren to speak English does not make sense. On the other hand, if it’s the broader ICT industry that’s being targeted, then English becomes even more unrealistic, given that tasks such as software development are not tied to English proficiency.
Both assertions are absurd and fallacious!
(1) At about half a million positions today, call centers and other offshore outsourced services may not generate as many jobs as the Tricycle Drivers Associations (Todas) and the honky tonks that hire Guest Relations Officers (GROs) and the fast food chains, but they certainly make up for it in typical starting salaries that are five to ten times minimum wage, the benefits, the contacts, the co-workers in the company, and relatively clean, safe working environment.
I don't know who is trying to "get all schoolchildren to speak English" as Michael Tan complains, but I think the point is the call center industry is able to hire only about 5 to 10% of its applicants, so that no matter what their total employment potential is at the moment, they surely could use more Filipinos with the simple skills of speaking English that used to be far more common in this archipelago.
(2) Prof. Tan's statement that the ability to perform "software development tasks is not tied to English proficiency" is true only in the same silly academic sense that such arithmetic tasks like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division COULD be taught and done using Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV...) and so numeracy is not essentially tied to proficiency in the use of the Arabic decimal number system (1, 2, 3, ..., 10, 100, 1000...).
So, it is fallacious for Michael Tan to conclude that the promotion of greater English language proficiency among Filipinos is "even more unrealistic" for targeting the "broader ICT industry" considering that English is the COMMON language not only of the ICT industry, but of business and international commerce in general.
Perhaps I should put it like this for the Linguist Michael Tan, whom I suspect has never written a line of machine-readable code in his life:
The textbooks, instructional materials, hardware and software reference manuals at the international standards levels are all developed in English, before being translated into other languages. Design specifications, engineering documents and production conventions of all sorts are similarly English.
Nearly 100% of all major scientific papers are published in English, even by non-native English speakers, not only in Computer Science, but in Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, and the rest of the hard sciences.
English is unavoidably the lingua Anglica of the world in this historical epoch, even if it irks the Filipino nationalists and their ideologies of resentment.
I think that is why the Dept. of Education has correctly adopted the policy of teaching Mathematics and Science in English.
THE MOTHER TONGUE HYPOTHESIS
This is the currently very popular line of reasoning that Michael Tan next employs in his column:
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?Pay close attention because the tongue is faster than the eye!
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say there is indeed a bonanza out there -- in terms of outsourced and overseas jobs -- waiting to be reaped if we could produce better English speakers.
The President and her advisers presume that this is best done by making English the primary medium of instruction. But this runs counter to all the scientific evidence. The research into language and education shows clearly that learning is best done through a local language.
The mother tongue (which can be Ilokano or Kapampangan or Tausug, whatever is spoken locally) should be used in the first year of school to build a bridge for learning other languages. That would be Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and could, later, include English, Spanish, Chinese or other global languages.
One study by the Summer Institute of Linguistics’ Diane Dekker and Catherine Young, “Bridging the Gap: The Development of Appropriate Educational Strategies for Minority Language Communities in the Philippines,” describes an innovative program in Kalinga where the community worked with educators to develop a curriculum and teaching materials for primary school in Lilibuagan, the local language. The article is so fascinating I’m going to save a more detailed description for another column, but the authors show that this approach can produce good literacy and numeracy levels.
The conclusions of local and international studies are simple: pupils learn faster when taught in their mother tongue. By imposing English as the medium of instruction as early as Grade 1, we actually further slow down the learning processes in our schools, including those for English.
In fact, I’d argue that the continuing predominance of English for teaching has produced a labor force that is barely literate in English or Filipino, and that this translates into mediocrity in the work place. It’s not surprising that overseas investors set up production facilities in other countries that may have poorer English proficiency than we do, but far surpass us with technological development and labor productivity.
TOO MUCH ENGLISH? A simple examination of the tables above shows that there is actually NO predominance of English for teaching in the Basic Education Curriculum, since majority of the classroom time is spent in subjects using Filipino as a medium of instruction. That is what the new Executive Order seeks to change at the high school level by making teaching 70% in English.
And no one is "imposing English as a medium of instruction as early as Grade 1," as Tan asserts. The controverted Executive Order merely reiterates a long standing reality that English is taught as a second language as early as grade 1 because English has traditionally been a part of the public school curriculum. (From the very beginning!)
Prof. Tan posits the existence, "just for the sake of argument" that there is a bonanza in overseas and outsourced jobs. How generous of him! But OFWs indeed repatriated over a billion US dollars per month in 2006 and the Philippine Call Center industry is in the global Top Five. Since no one involved with overseas employment or the outsource industry could possibly agree with Prof. Tan's position that less English would be better than more English instruction, he makes a curiously convoluted argument: that students would learn even the English language faster by having it taught in "the mother tongue"!
This I find extremely hard to swallow or even follow! The practical difficulty arises in the fact that there are nearly 200 mother tongues involved here, and given the equities assumed of the public school system, there would be insurmountable practical difficulties in situations where student populations are of mixed mother tongues.
Also, it turns out, that all mother tongues are not created equal, since the vast majority of the Philippine dialects are NOT written languages as such, and therefore would be unsuited to be a full fledged "a medium of instruction". At best, most of these mother tongues can serve as means of communication.
Even the bigger mother tongues, like Cebuano, Tagalog, Pampango, Ilokano, do not have the vocabulary to handle most of the modern science and math subjects, and would require extensive investment in translation by probably nonexistent linguists. How many mathematician or physicist authors do we have proficient also in English and say Hiligaynon?
That is why Michael Tan and the Language Petitioners really cannot go whole hog, and must limit their advocacy of the use of the mother tongue to Grade 1.
Hohum, the public school teachers say. They've known all that all along and OF COURSE use whatever langugage is required to communicate with first grade pupils.
TAGALOG IMPERIALISM Prof. Michael Tan also reveals an embarrassing streak of Tagalog imperialism in the statement that "local languages should be used to build a bridge for learning other languages. That would be Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and could, later, include English, Spanish, Chinese or other global languages." I always hear or read Cebuanos batting for English as the common national language, because though they numerically outnumber the Tagalogs, they see through the official disguise of Filipino as National Language.