Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Michael Tan's Arithmetic With Roman Numerals

Michael Tan's PDI column today, ABCD or A Ba Ka Da? addresses the use of English as a medium of instruction in the public schools (in the most eloquent and passionate English, of course!)
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?
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.”
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.

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

360 Minutes Per Day
Gr 1 Gr 2 Gr 3 Gr 4 Gr 5 Gr 6
English ENGLISH 100 100 100 80 80 80
Filipino FILIPINO 80 80 80 60 60 60
English MATHEMATICS 80 80 80 60 60 60
English SCIENCE** 0** 0** 40 60 60 60


80 80 100 100 100 100

*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
English ENGLISH 60 60 60 60
Filipino FILIPINO 40 40 40 40


60 60
English SCIENCE 80 80



Araling Panlipunan

48 48 48 48

Musika, Sining, PE, Health

48 48 48 48

MAKABAYAN Teknolohiya,
Pangkabuhayan at Ekonomiya

48 48 48 48
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?
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.”
The text-in-read above is Michael Tan's abbreviation of the following provision of the 1987 Constitution:
"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?
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.

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.

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 very idiom and vocabulary of modern computer languages at the most critical level of the source code IS English! Just because Michael Tan sees a few Tagalog words on his personalized Google page cannot erase the fact that for purely historical reasons, ALL modern computer languages are actually dialects of English. Take the famous language called BASIC ((Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)--all its commands and keywords (RUN, PRINT, INPUT, etc) are in English. So with Pascal, Fortran, C++, html, Java, Javascript, etc.

So if there is one college-level subject in which TRANSLATION makes absolutely no sense and is worthy of being called "even more unrealistic" it would have to be SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT at the level of executable source code-writing. Like I said, it would like using Roman numeral for arithmetic: doable, but why?

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.


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?
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.
Pay close attention because the tongue is faster than the eye!

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.


blackshama said...

If we want English as one of two National Languages, then the Philippines will be officially bilingual.

It may be a good idea to look into the experience of Canada though.

DJB Rizalist said...

I think the 1987 Constitution does make us officially bilingual. It's even written in one of the two official languages of the Philippines. As for Canada, our experience is our own. We have far many more dialects than they, 7100 times as many Quebecs.

wretchard said...

Seth Lloyd makes the interesting observation that English rose to its status as a neutral auxiliary language when the French and Germans abandoned the previous one, Latin, in favor of their own national languages. Lloyd tells this anecdote:

I happened to be in [Nobel Laureate Norman Ramsey’s office in Paris] when two members of the Academie Francaise came to call. “Why, Professeur Ramsey,” they inquired, “is French not the international language of Science?” Ramsey immediately answered them in his fluent French, with a thick midwestern accent. Horrified, they dropped the subject. In fact, the French Academy of Sciences caused the adoption of English as the international language of science in the seventeenth century by being the first national academy to abandon the previous international language, Latin, and publish their proceedings in their own language. The English and the Germans followed suit. The rest is just an accident of history.

Once the French had swept away Latin in favor of langue française they left it to the market to choose the next neutral auxiliary language -- and the result was English. Once the market sets a standard, like the meter (originally defined as the length of a platinum bar in a Paris institute), the origin of the standard becomes one of purely historical interest. The Chinese and the Japanese manufacture objects in meters and its use becomes a matter of convenience. People adopt the standard because it is convenient and do not want to burden themselves with troublesome conversions.

English is pretty close to being a de facto language standard on the Internet, and that fact, going back to Seth Lloyd's anecdote, suggests that that educators might actually damage Tagalog more than enrich it as a language of communication in science and technology. As a practical matter, "mother tongues" -- and that would include Ilokano, Cebuano and Tausug -- tend to coexist with languages like Latin and English but often for different purposes. And they coexist for a reason because each is used in the area of its relative advantage. Dean Bocobo points out that legal and scholarly arguments against the use of English by those wish to supplant it are themselves conducted in English precisely because of this relative advantage.

Filipinos are willing to pay for that advantage; willing even to patronize the Korean-run English language academy because its possession lowers the cost of acquiring technical and scientific skill -- skills which are required to get jobs and compete in the wider world. Once the French unmoored themselves from Latin, English emerged as the lowest cost neutral auxiliary language. When I was in Francophone Africa the youth would insist on practicing their English with me.

It would be ironical if Tagalog were ever to acquire an evil reputation as an intellectual ball-and-chain rather than be appreciated for its own qualities. It would be even worse if future generations of the poor saw in language policy a conspiracy to hold them in second-rate status while their so-called betters argued above their heads in English to keep them in Tagalog.

MLQ3 said...

Henry Cabot Lodge, writing in Harper's Magazine, 1930:

We not only try to implant our nations
of government and education; we
are trying to implant also our law and
our language. IT the Americans going
to the islands went via Suez and thus
noted the experiences of others, instead
of going via San Francisco, we might not
be repeating the mistakes which other
colonizing powers have made and have
now ceased to make. We might, for
instance, have seen what the Dutch
are doing in Java, and emulated them.
The Dutch have been in Java for three
hundred years and have discovered that
the Malay has his own ideas of right and
wrong, which may seem strange to us,
but probably no stranger than our ideas
seem to him. The Dutch did not force their law on their peoples. Instead,
they studied the Malay customary law,
codified it, and learned to live by it.
The Malay has confidence in his own
law; he understands and respects it.
In certain sections of the Philippines,
on the other hand, a year may go by
without a civil case coming to court.
The native, not being able to adjust
himself to our system, is apt to feel that
"pull" is all which counts in our courts
and prefers to settle outside.

The same thing holds true of language.
We did not remember that in medieval
Europe Latin was the language of the
school and that English, French, and
German were the language of the home.
We are trying to make the Philippines
into an English-speaking nation; but in
the homes Tagal, Visayan, and the other
native dialects are spoken, lending color
to the belief that English will always be
as infrequently spoken in the islands as
Latin is in the Western world. The
language of the home is the language
which survives. The Dutch have realized
this and do not seek to impose their
language on the native.

blackshama said...


What if all the Cebuano speakers declare themselves to be a "distinct society with its own language". We will have our very own Quebec!

To avoid that let's celebrate and promote our regional languages and develop our national identity that values regional diversity.

DJB Rizalist said...

We had three hundred years of the Spanish NOT teaching us their language, making it a steadfast "education" policy. Then we had fifty of the Americans teaching us English. Which of the two regimes was better?

But what I find difficult to understand, is that having become freed of both colonial masters, we would now reject as "foreign" the cultural contributions of both, as if our nationalism were TOO SMALL to absorb them as part of our cultural heritage.

Yet isn't it obvious, that at least in the case of English, it is surely a living part of that heritage, as manifest right here in this discussion.

I would say that of the two colonialisms, we appreciate one far more than the other, flattering it far more with constant use of the gift that may have been forcibly given, but cannot really be returned.

DJB Rizalist said...

The 1995 Census claims that there are 20 million native Cebuano speakers and only 14.5 million native Tagalog speakers, though of course the promotion of Filipino has vastly increased familiarity with its Tagalog core in the whole population.

But perhaps the distance between French and English is much greater. Also in this case, it is the Cebuanos who are fighting for English as the national language, not Cebuano!

MLQ3 said...

djb, we are all the products of our times. the teachers we had simply aren't there any longer. i grant that there may be people who want to keep the population wilfuly ignorant of foreign languages to keep them ignorant, but that's not the case with most people, who know a foreign language is always an advantage. the difference is with the onset of truly mass media we also now know ignorance of the local language is a distinct disadvantage, too.

again, the more productive debate is: do we teach english under the assumption it's an inherently living language among the majority, or pursue teaching it as others in the region learn it: as a distinct foreign language? to you and i, english is inherently native, Filipino-flavored, and our appreciation of our country has not been diminished in the least. but we are the exception, even within our own class, simply look at the products of lsgh, admu, etc. today -they speak to each other in filipino more often than not.

DJB Rizalist said...


You ask: "Do we teach english under the assumption it's an inherently living language among the majority, or pursue teaching it as others in the region learn it: as a distinct foreign language?"

The controverted E.O. 210 states explicitly that English shall be taught starting at Grade 1 as a second language.

I support this BILINGUAL education policy.

Regarding "others" in the region. My position might be different if we were Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Hindu, with a cultural past and language comparable to the West and English. But even they are actually pursuing multilingualism.

The present debate is over the use of English as a Medium of Instruction in the teaching of Math, Science, and other subjects even within Makabayan like Technology or Music and Values Ed.

My position is that the Medium of Instruction should be both a spoken and WRITTEN language for those subject areas that make extensive use of symbols, formulae and abstract scientific concepts.

In terms of familiarity, universality and overall ease of use and goodness of fit to the present, English is simply the more sensible and practical choice for Filipinos, in my opinion, than Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese or Korean!

Which of our dialects qualify in this regard to the same degree as the older Asian languages?

It would be sheer aboriginalism to return to the "old" alphabet to spell out modern Tagalog or Filipino.

I think if we thought more of language like we do our Internet browser or cellphone, we would see that the best choice is whatever works the best to solve our real problems.

The medium of instruction issue is separate from the NEED to teach English as a separate subject in its own right. Because English proficiency is indispensable to life in the Philippines.

Teaching English in the basic education levels as a separate subject is necessary for preparing students to enter college and beyond, for careers in journalism, broadcasting, entertainment, publishing, teaching, etc... any area that requires the explicit use and manipulation of the English language, which is indeed the medium of our Media, Academe, Business, Courts, Congress, Government and Law.

The Constitution itself recognizes English as an official language, mainly because it recognizes the social reality that all important transactions are conducted in English in this society. That all the laws are in English, and Court decisions are in English, means that it has become a CIVIC DUTY of the Deped to teach English as an official language of the country.

Along with Filipino.

baycas2 said...

Whoa, Spanish may become the new language in call centers

…time to hone up on my Spanish…

baycas2 said...

A, Be, Ce, De...

engineerOFW said...

Baycas2: The news article you linked to about Spanish for call centers reinforces the need for BETTER English.

The headline is sloganeering. It says: "Spanish may become the new language in call centers"; it should say "... may become A new language..."

The reporter Vincent Cabreza did not even know that he had been conned into echoing flawed logic. He writes that because some thing is happening (some foreign companies need Spanish-speaking call-centers)... that
"The government's campaign to produce English speaking workers for the business outsourcing industry may soon become an outdated goal".

baycas2 said...


Please enlighten us on the definite article “the” and on the indefinite article “a.” Thanks.

wretchard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wretchard said...

The Philippines provides thousands of hours of instruction in Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano or Yakan. But it does it in the home or in family settings. Hence these languages are called mother tongues. It is taught so effectively that there is probably no market in Cebu, say, for instruction in Cebuano to children. A father would probably not pay a professional teacher to instruct his child in something he already knows or can be taught better at home or in the playground.

But he will hire a teacher to teach his child arithmetic. Arithmetic, as well as the rest of mathematics, is based on an artificial, standard notation. Decimal places. Arabic numerals. Standard operations, be they unary or binary. Constants, like Pi, etc. Normal mathematical notation is a neutral auxiliary language which is the Rosetta Stone to further mathematical education. When we teach it to students it gives him the chance, having learned the language, to learn more. In the realm of the nonmathematical, English constitutes the de facto neutral auxiliary language. It is the Rosetta Stone to the rest of knowledge which a student cannot be taught in school. And unlike a mother language, it is not widely taught at home.

The advantage of mathematical notation is that it had no political baggage, except perhaps in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany where there were murmurings about "Jewish science". Nobody complains that we use "Arabic" numerals or the decimal system. We simply use it for convenience, though of course we could do the same in binary just as well. But English, alas, can never be discussed without dragging in politics.

Which is a pity. Because English is just a language.

Econblogger said...

It's time to depart from the rhetoric of cultural imperialism and legalism, and shift towards a pragmatic approach to this issue.

I was intrigued by Tan's claim that students learn faster with the mother tongue. Not being an education language expert, I did a little googling and found that, voila (Pranses iyan, uy), there is good evidence that mother tongue teaching is associated with better education outcomes, compared to second (or third) language teaching. However there is by no means a consensus - mainly because the "all other factors constant" condition is difficult to meet.

The best paper I've read about the subject is found here:

Paper No. 9 argues for a "market-oriented" approach. Rather than a dogmatic, one-size-fits-all approach, why not devolve the language issue to the schools? (And that's not the only choice that needs to be devolved. I happen to think the entire public school system should be privatized and education support extended through school vouchers. But that's another debate). Public resources can indeed be devoted to production of mother tongue learning materials. But there should be no ridiculous language quota one way or another.

And note that I am not talking about Tagalog. All the studies have been about the "mother tongue" - which for most Filipinos, is certainly NOT Tagalog (which is my mother tongue).



Re: "The controverted E.O. 210 states explicitly that English shall be taught starting at Grade 1 as a second language.

" I support this BILINGUAL education policy."

I am all for a bilingual education and I see your point but I think we need to calibrate your idea of a bilingual education to truly comprehend why it isn't quite true that Filipinos can't possess a bilingual education.

I think you'll find that in general, the teaching of a second language at school does not translate into a bilingual education automatically. (Btw, Belgium is an example but won't expound on the Belgian problem now)

The policy is a good start, teaching a child a second language before the child is 12 is the best time to do it, but I don't believe it it is going to achieve what you want to achieve, i.e., a bilingual education. For instance, France has a mandatory elementary and secondary education second language subject which is either German or English with English being the most dominant, a total of 10 years of second language learning (a student cannot pass his Baccalaureat - high school diploma -
if he fails the subject) but it hasn't helped. Same in Germany, in Italy, Portugal, Spain and everywhere else in Europe. Very very few students who did their mandatory 10- year course could say they are bilingual. They have to go abroad to learn English or to go to private language schools and pay a fortune to learn it.

Technically, a bilingual education means courses, subjects, the whole cursus must be taught en toto in two languages for a student to accede to a bilingual education or if I understand what you said, in the Philippines, English is taught merely as a second language..

Obviously it is difficult to have a school curriculum taught in two languages on the same level but it can be done (there are private bilingual schools in France and Belgium but not many.)

There is a way to achieve a realistic bilingual education though. The old educational system in the Philippines - even in public or state run schools until the early 70s, if my memory is right - taught all courses in English with Pilipino as a mere subject, while at home the spoken language is the child's mother tongue, i.e., Tagalog or another Filipino dialect.To my mind, this is the only way to realistically possess a"bilingual education."

I don't believe that the majority of our high school graduates today can be called bilingual. The young Filipinos I meet here (age 30 and younger) may understand English; they may even perhaps write basic English, possess the vocabulary to speak it, but as to being bilingual? May not be the case. I've met many Filipinos here who cannot articulate their thoughts in neither Filipino nor English easily.

I believe that Filipinos of the pre-70s era, just before Pilipino became the medium of instruction could lay claim to being bilingual precisely because the medium of instruction in schools at the time was completely in English.

However, if English is taught merely as a second language, a couple of hours here and there, while the rest of the subjects are taught in Pilipino, you will find it difficult to institute a bilingual education.

In a way, the Filipino labour force has an advantage over its Asian neighbours, they are already exposed to the English language virtually at birth but I do believe that in spite of this advantage, most Filipinos are not readily bi-lingual. The only way to do that is to go back to the old fashion educational system of using English as a medium of instruction. You will find that when that happens, there is a realistic possibility that Filipînos could lay claim to possessing a bilingual education (English at school and their mother toungue at home). Like you, I don't believe we will be less nationalistic if we are formally educated in English because we will always be speaking our mother tongue at home and outside the school.

This is a very emotive subject for most Filipinos because of the sense of nationalism issue but as I see it, English is so predominant in the lives of Filipinos anyway. Perhaps the debate should be focused on a different plane altogether and that is on what sense of nationalism is in order to determine what makes the young generation of Filipino tick.

the bystander said...


I read Renato Constantino’s views at face-value, regardless of whether it was original or not or whether he got it from some anti-American / pro-communist group in the United States.

As long as we live in a society with a basically colonial mentality, there will always be activists, leftists and similar-minded individuals ready to challenge the status quo.

Tiki said...

I attended one conference about it and what was revealed was this: according to the most reliable studies conducted by educators and linguists, the solution is to use the student's local language as the medium of instruction for the first half of pre-tertiary education and the foreign language for the second half.

Tandand Tasyo said...

Ewan ko lang kung may nakaka remember sa inyo diyan na kailangan ng 24 credits ng espangol bago makagraduate ng college noon. Aba e A ang grado ko pero paglabas ng classroom e wala na!

Maaring iba itong Ingles. Okay yata ang bilingual. Basta magamit walang problema.

Huwag lang sana ipolitica - na pang supermaid yan ni Gloria!

Ala-ala ko noong nasa elementary ako(1960s) e Ingles na ang medium ng turo. Sa high school ganoon din.
Sa public school ako nag elementary at high school. Sa UP ako nag college at sa America nag-trabaho, naging IT manager sa isang malaking Investment bank sa Wall street.

Hinde sa pagyayabang, ngunit mas mahusay pa ako magIngles kaysa ibang Kano. Maraming pinoy dito na magaling mag-Ingles. Bisaya ang punto pero magaling umintindi ng ingles.

Huwag na sanang pakialaman ni Gloria ang edukasyon diyan sa Pinas. Lahat na lang ng bagay na hipuin niya e nabababoy!

Iyon lang po.

tandang tasyo said...

1950s pala yung elementary ko. Pasensya na at medyo, alam niyo na.

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