Stop denying the masses a piece of the action

25 September 2003

Can Filipinos come up with knowledge indigenously at a rate that can be converted to significant economic output or at least satisfy the intellectual needs of its growing population?

If not then Why Tagalog?

Let's try to answer that question by asking more questions:

When was the last time you saw a Tagalog-language textbook about Math, Physics, or any "hard" science? Do you know of anyone or any organisation that is even contemplating publishing such books to compete with foreign publications? Would sensibly-managed institutions of learning even contemplate prescribing such textbooks?

When was the last time you actually saw a Tagalog movie that truly impressed you?

When was the last time you attended a business meeting conducted in pure Tagalog? Would you even contemplate presenting a business proposal to a potential investor in Tagalog?

Have you ever seen any technical and procedures manuals written in Tagalog?

What do you think makes the average Filipino most insecure when attending a business meeting? Who is more likely to speak up during such meetings?

We fancy ourselves a nation undertaking all efforts to alleviate its citizens' poverty. Yet we have consistently failed to add to the poor's arsenal of employment tools an ability to match the English proficiency of the rich so that, at least in the communication aspect, they will be on equal footing with them. We can only do this by changing our approach to education and the underdog mentality of the poor that motivates them to ridicule English speakers as "pa-sosyal" (i.e. that "them and us" attitude).

It is this divide between the English-proficient elite and the Tagalog-speaking masses that contributes to the increasing polarisation of Philippine society.

Command of English provides instant access to a vast knowledgebase accumulated by the English-speaking world over the last 200 years. It is a knowledgebase to which knowledge is relentlessly being added at an ever increasing rate -- far faster than our Tagalog-articulated knowledgebase is being augmented by both original material and translated material. Considering the English-proficient Philippine elite's mastery over the language of this knowledgebase, it's the old concept of the rich-get-richer-while-the-poor-get-poorer gone ballistic!

Many "cause-oriented" groups trumpet the practicality of the Tagalog language as a key ingredient for progress and nationalism (see a more insight on this here). Yet they fail to provide any solutions to the dearth of knowledge material to lift Philippine society out of its intellectual bankruptcy. Are we going to continue denying the poor basic access to what the elites of Philippine society already monopolise -- a monopoly they use to further their dominance over the dynamism of our society that all Filipinos are entitled to?

Let's not waste valuable classroom time with a language that gets us nowhere. When was the last time you've seen a job ad that read "Tagalog-proficiency will be highly-regarded"? Tagalog is at best a quaint medium for expressing emotion -- something that Filipinos are already world-class at. The objective future, however, is written and expressed in English. Given the whole point of education being an investment in the future and the meager resources of the Philippine Education System, it would be in our best interests to put these resources where they will yield real results.

We need to ask ourselves the very simple question considering we are making a huge investment in our future:

Why Tagalog?

Some statistics:

Number of book titles published per year.

US: 120,000 (source).
Canada: 50,000 (source).
UK: 120,000 (source).
Australia: 10,000 (source)

Book in Print

1.5 million titles in print (currently available in the U.S.)
Since 1776, 22 million titles have been published.
--Jerrold Jenkins, 15 May 99.

Book Exports from the US

$837.5 million in 2001. To Canada, UK, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Singapore, Netherlands, Germany, South Korea and others, in that order.
--Publishers Weekly, September 3, 2001.


5,000 ISBNs issued p.a. 2001 (source)

250 titles sent to the Asia International Book Fair in Singapore by the National Book Devt Board in 2000 (indicates potential contribution) - Source.

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The Intellectualization of Filipino. The challenges we face should we decide to stick with Tagalog. Bonifacio Sibayan writes.

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