Rep. Villafuerte tells Edcom II: Medium of teaching in schools needs rethinking

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte

With the Second Congressional Commission on Education (Edcom II) set to begin this year its study on follow-up reforms to the educational system, a senior lawmaker has asked the new bicameral panel to consider as one of its priorities a review of what medium of instruction to use from hereon in the country’s schools.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, who is also president of the National Unity Party (NUP), made the proposal to the newly-formed Edcom after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. heralded in his latest overseas trip the country’s demographic “sweet spot” comprising a formidable work force of mostly young, tech-savvy and English-speaking Filipinos as one of its competitive edge as a post-pandemic  investment destination.

“Edcom II’s intent to begin studying further education reforms following the reopening of the 19th Congress after its yearend break would be a splendid opportunity for us lawmakers to consider a serious  rethinking of what medium of instruction to use in our schools,” he said.

For Villafuerte, such a review has gained greater  urgency following President Marcos’s remarks in a one-on-one dialogue with World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende on the sidelines of WEF’s annual forum in Davao, Switzerland that the Philippines’s boasts of a “demographic dividend” advantage  of having Asia’s youngest work force that is well-trained, sophisticated,  on equal footing with that of any other country in terms of technological know-how, and proficient in English.

“We are hoping that Edcom II would look into further reforms that need to be put in place to allow Filipino workers to preserve our ‘A’ game in English, so to speak, given that this  language is known as the world’s lingua franca  because there are reportedly 350 million people across the globe who speak it as their first language and 500 million more who use it as their second language,” he added.

He noted that proficiency in English has opened a lot of opportunities for those looking for jobs as well as for workers to keep their current employment or get promoted, as most corporations require from their employees and would-be hires a fair amount of skill in this language.

“Keeping our labor force highly attractive for local and international employers is one means for the Marcos administration’s desired economic transformation to succeed, as it would go a long way in, first, attracting more overseas investors to set up shop here; and, second, for  international  businesses to keep hiring our workers and thereby increasing  the dollar remittances of migrant Filipinos,” Villafuerte said.

Edcom II is reportedly set to begin its study following  the reopening of the 19th Congress after its year-end break,  further reforms to Philippine education about three decades after the original Edcom studied and pushed major initiatives that led to the enactment of a host of laws benefiting our elementary, secondary, tertiary and vocational-technical (voc-tech) schools as well as our teachers and school administrators.

The Senate and House of Representatives passed their respective measures setting up Edcom II last May 23, 2022, and the consolidated  bill lapsed into law—Republic Act or RA 11899—last July 23.

Edcom II is tasked to set “specific, targeted, measurable and time-bound solutions” aimed at developing a “more holistic, harmonized and coordinated education ecosystem.” Via a review of the mandates of the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

This bicameral panel’s tasks include, according to RA 11899, coming up with reform proposals in response to the pandemic and the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe) that is marked by the digital revolution or information technology (IT) developments like “artificial intelligence [AI], automation, data analytics, blockchain data sharing, quantum computing and internet of things analytics.”

In his dialogue with Brende in Davos, the President said the country’s demographic dividend would help drive its rapid development.

Marcos and Brende agreed that possible stumbling blocks to this goal are the country’s infrastructure, research and development (R&D), bureaucratic red tape and the quality of education.

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