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English or Filipino as Medium of Instruction

The medium of communication in the government especially in Philippine schools has brought about confusion from the national officials down to the common tao.

History points out that English has been used as the medium of instruction since the American regime. In the 1935 Constitution, Tagalog was launched as the national language. This constitutional mandate was followed by the Bilingual Policy by virtue of Department of Education and Culture which specified the use of the national language, Filipino, as the medium of instruction in such domains as Work Education, Health Educational, Physical Education, and Social Studies. Meanwhile, English was for the use in Science and Mathematics and as a subject. Soon, this was superseded by Department Order No. 52, series of 1987 which ordered the use of Filipino and English as the media of instruction at all levels where the citizens are expected to possess skills in English in order to meet the needs of the country in the community of nations.

Pascasio (1981) gave this answer to the question of requiring English competency among Filipino students:

To majority of the educated Filipinos, the function of English is for utilitarian purposes mainly in the domains of the school, business industry, and the judiciary courts. It is the language of international relations for the Philippines. It continues to be the language of worship. It is maintained as the language of wider communication, of trade, as well as entertainment, and as the language of instruction at all levels for Science, Technology, and Mathematics as provided in the bilingual policy.

The need for English in world communication is given stress in the words of Lyons (1983):

Foreign students will have to interact with members of the host culture on the superficial level of shops, restaurants, etc., and on the more important academic levels of lectures, seminars, libraries, with professors in their offices and laboratories, with their co-researchers, etc. There is a need to find some way how they can make sufficient behavioral adaptations to attain their goals, without compromising their cultural values.

Some Philippine educators attribute the poor performance of students to the fact that they have to study most of their subjects in the second language such that several attempts have been made to utilize Filipino in all subject areas especially Mathematics.

Tomas C. Ongoco in this article “Ang Kurikulum ng SEDP sa Matematika,” (Liwayway, 1989) explained that it is not hard to teach Mathematics in Filipino. He enumerated some skills to be mastered by a students, as “pagtitipon ng impormasyon, malinaw na proseso ng pag-iisip, mabisang pakikipagtalastasan, pag-unawa sa kapaligiran,” and “sariling kapakanan.” Moreover, he exemplified that the contents of the Mathematics curriculum is spiral.

As a Filipino professing in the English language, who does not want to get rid of the litany of errors committed by college student nowadays? Who does not want to progress from the ruins of the past and shout to the world that the Filipinos are English – speaking people but also have their own national language?

Before plunging further into the use of Filipino only as medium of instruction, will you take a look at the following questions?

1. Do you think there are enough materials such as textbooks and other instructional materials, equipment for the students and teachers as well?

2. Are you sure the teachers are “ready” to teach all subjects in Filipino?

3. Do you firmly believe that the government can shoulder the translation of needed materials? in due time?

4. How about the non-Filipino speakers, can they cope with the change?

5. If English remains as one of the international languages, what would be the stand of Filipino students? overseas workers?

6. Is the Philippine society ready to do away with foreigners who could only communicate with Filipinos in the English language?

Let me remind you that on October 26, 1989, President Aquino invited foreigners especially the Americans to invest more in the Philippines banking on the people’s proficiency in English as one of the assets to support such invitation (Pacis, 1989).

This invitation contradicted a previous Executive Order  number 335, issued on August 25, 1989 where she enjoined all departments, bureaus, offices, agencies, and instruments of the government to do the following:

1. Take steps to enhance the use of Filipino in all official communications, transactions, and correspondence in their respective offices, whether national or official.

2. Translate into Filipino the names of offices, buildings, public offices, and signboards of all offices, divisions or instrumentalities and, if desired, imprint below in small letters the English texts.

3. Familiarize the “Oath of Office” for government officials and personnel.

4. Make it a part of the training programs for personnel development in each office in official communication and correspondence.

Furthermore, the Executive Order instructed the Institute of Philippine Languages “to formulate and implement programs and projects, which include: (1) information campaign on the importance and necessity of Filipino as effective instrument for national unity and progress; (2) translation into Filipinos of this order, as well as government terms to be utilized as reference materials for all offices; (3) training of all government officials and personnel in the use of Filipino; (4) monitoring of the implementation of the Office of the President of the Philippines through the Department of Education, Culture and Sports; and (5) taking into account other strategies for the full implementation of the objectives of this Order.”

Finally, the Constitution ratified by the people on February 2, 1987 states that “for the purpose of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.”

Indeed, the use of English or Filipino is still in a quandary. Is the possession of a national language congruent to and/or a predictor to the status of one’s economic development under the present conditions of the country?

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