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Buwan ng Wika and the appropriate medium of instruction

Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II

Today marks the start of the country’s celebration of Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa, which is observed every August as proclaimed in the 1987 Constitution. This year’s theme is “Filipino at mga Katutubong Wika: Kasangkapan sa Pagtuklas at Paglikha.” We are celebrating not just our national language, Filipino, but also the other Philippine languages.

Lately there have been some discussions about the proposal to use both Filipino and English as the main medium of instruction in schools. The Commissioner of Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, Arthur Casanova, said that KWF is not opposed to this because they don’t believe it will hinder the development of our language and will not be a barrier to our students’ progress. Being multilingual has its advantages, he said. In fact, KWF’s Casanova does not believe the problem lies in the language used in teaching, but rather in the capacity of some teachers specializing in Filipino.

Better teacher education is key, he said. Actual studies have proven a few times that quality of instruction is more crucial than the language of instruction when it comes to effective teaching and learning. The Undersecretary of the Department of Education, Epimaco Densing, has suggested to the Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte to make both English and Filipino the medium of instruction in our schools. Even President Marcos mentioned it in his SONA. Apparently, most people believe that a good command of the English language equates to success. They say that it will arm our students as they go out into the world, as English is the language of business and international relations.

The question is, is this true? Some argue that despite knowing more languages and speaking better English than most developed Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and China, we are not doing better than them economically. Even as we have been teaching Math and Science using English, our students are not necessarily doing better in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in the international arena. In fact, we ranked 76th in the 2018 PISA, a global study of the scholastic performance of students in almost 80 countries in the areas of Math, Science, and Reading. The non-English-speaking countries like China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea topped PISA. Even Vietnam, which is considered a poor country, ranked 17th and 8th in the 2012 and 2015 PISA, respectively, doing better than developed nations like the UK and the USA. Vietnam uses its native language in school.

To improve teacher education requires that we allocate more of the national budget to education and also to revisit our standards and policies related to teaching. Better educational and teaching tools have to be provided, as well as additional classrooms and higher wages for our teachers. It’s time to look at the real needs of our students and our teachers and create reforms to ensure that these are met.

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Ballet Philippines presents a free masterclass for all creatives like writers, musicians, graphic designers, photographers, choreographers, and more. On August 2 at 3:00 p.m. hop on over to Ballet Philippines’ FB page for the Creators Masterclass featuring Atty. Lorna Patajo-Kapunan (moderator) and Atty. Rico Domingo (main speaker). They will be discussing intellectual property, copyright, and related topics.

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