Study confirms need to establish English as medium of instruction also at elementary school levels

A study jointly conducted by the University of the Philippines’ Assessment Curriculum Technology Research Center-College of Education (ACTRC) and the University of Melbourne on the effectiveness of Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education in (MTB-MLE) in the Philippines has confirmed something many Filipinos have known for some time — that English remains a highly-prized skill that most Filipinos are betting their fortunes on.

This was the first of challenges identified after a series of tests to determine whether there is a need to re-assess the medium-of-instruction aspect of the Philippines’ education reform initiatives…

One problem is that stakeholders perceive limited use, as well as lower value of the mother tongue outside specific domains.

As expected, English remains more highly regarded and valued by the community. It is a perception that is borne by facts. Lost or ignored was the primary reason for MTB-MLE, which is to give students a head start in developing higher-order thinking skills, particularly in the elementary grades.


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Indeed, it has been long observed that command of the English language has strongly polarised Philippine society. Filipinos who are proficient in the use of English are at a huge advantage over those who don’t. The most plum jobs and careers are dominated by excellent English speakers who, in most cases, enjoy immense social advantages over the rest.

This is an increasingly critical issue now that relentless progress in technological development computers, robotics, and communications is rapidly eroding employment opportunities for low-skill-required jobs — a niche the Philippine economy desperately depends on to survive.

Much of the demand for high-paying work nowadays particularly favours professionals who are highly-trained in the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. And this is an area where India and China have acquired an advantage churning out hundreds of thousands of engineers and scientists from their respective universities every year. But the Philippines remains (for now) at an advantage when it comes to English language skills, which is important considering that any amount of technical acumen will be worth squat unless the person who wields it can communicate that knowledge.

Therein lies the tragedy in the way the Philippines is squandering this rapidly-eroding advantage in English language proficiency by continuing to allocate scarce public resources to this whole mother-tongue-as-medium-of-instruction effort. The same study has revealed the disturbing risks along these lines associated with a focus on implementing MTB-MLE in the Philippines as evident in the effect on teachers involved in the program…

Test results for the two years showed elementary teachers getting low mean percentage scores of 50.53 percent and 54 percent in the English test, and 46.7 percent and 49 percent in the process skills test for Science and Math.

Most important of all, humanity’s collective body of knowledge in the maths and sciences are overwhelming articulated in English. This means that focusing on teaching non-English language skills to the Philippines’ youth will doom an entire generation to a monumental struggle to access this body of knowledge or, worse, rely on an inifinitessimal trickle of that knowledge translated to their mother tongue.

The better way forward is to educate Filipinos exclusively in English. It does not make sense to bet already scarce public education funds on what are evidently dead-end languages that hardly add anything to the marketability of their speakers in an increasingly competititve market for jobs.

36 Replies to “Study confirms need to establish English as medium of instruction also at elementary school levels”

  1. benign0, there’s one area in the Philippines where the command of Tagalog is required for one to succeed in it – in showbusiness!


    1. very funny..explain them local shows mostly done in English then? Either way no body watches them.

      It truly is August again..

    2. Yet local showbiz is being dominated by non-national carpetbaggers or mongrel half-Pinoys (we’re looking at you, Derek Ramsay, Anne Curtis and Daniel Matsunaga). If you have a Panggalatok accent or dark skin, forget about a career in the klieglights.

  2. kudos for pointing this out.
    the day i see a programming script that looks like this:

    kapag x >= 100:
    x += 1
    sulat x

    would be the day i’d support filipino as the primary mode of instruction.

  3. The tribal mindset that espouses the “us against them” view of the world and the pernicious fundamentalist religion and nationalism that accompanies it, is the greatest threat to the planet. There is no unique story, flag, anthem, prophet, god or language. (see Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”) Power hungry politicians and clerics continue to advocate demagoguery despite the fact that human beings are 99.9% the same. We are individual threads in the fabric of life. The sooner we embrace universalism and one world government; the better.

    A filipino example of tribal stupidity is the renaming of a typhoon with a filipino name when it enters the filipino area of responsibility. All this does is create confusion; especially when asking international donors for help.

    English is no better or worse than any other language. It just happens to be the universal language.

  4. English is the language of our modern Science and Technology…If you are a multilingual person…the more you can find better job in any field; and in any advanced foreign country. Learn Spanish …it is the language of the past. I like French…however, German is hard to learn.
    Knowledge in :Japanese , Korean and Chinese can also help.

    1. I’m currently studying foreign languages, mainly for personal enjoyment, currently with Spanish. Here are my comments on each languages.

      Spanish – useful language if you live in Southern USA, Central America or in South America. ¿Te gusta aprender español?

      French – useful in diplomacy since it was once the lingua franca of the world. Useful in North West Africa. Shares with English that sometimes the written form does not match phonetically with the one heard.

      German – Useful mainly in Europe, though Germans are also studying (and better in) English.

      Japanese – concentrated in Japan though it’s useful if you work with Japanese or you like Japanese culture. Language wise, like Chinese, it has a simple grammar. However, you need to learn three writing systems: hiragana, katakana, kanji.

      Korean – Personally, I’m not interested learning this language. It’s useful if you work with Koreans or you want to watch korean soap operas without translation.

      Chinese – I assume you’re referring to Mandarin here. One of the language with easy grammar – no tense, no mood, no subject-verb agreement, no gramatical gender. However, their written form is the hardest of all.

      1. @OnesimusUnbound:

        Spanish is used in America, especially in California. French is the second language of Canada. Germany has advanced Technology and Science…this is the reason, I’m learning German.

        Japanese, Korean and Chinese is just my hobby to learn them…

  5. yeah… kids these days have terrible english language skills…

    Tenses are mixed, they/ their, your/ you’re, then/ than, jejemon and text speak… ahhrrgg!!

    really distressing when you read their essay compositions, kinda funny when you read it aloud at the relative privacy of the faculty room though, terrible!

    1. You know what grinds my gears? Hearing kids talk in a mishmash of Taglish.

      I once caught a glimpse of an episode of the latest reality TV show fad here in the Philippines (Pinoy Big Brother) and the way these teenaged housemates converse are an example of the most ******* annoying butchering and scrambling of languages I have ever heard.

      Why can’t they speak either straight Tagalog or straight English? What the hell is wrong with saying either “Gusto ko po matuto…” or “I want to learn…” instead of saying “Gusto ko po i-learn…”?

      1. For me, a language evolves to meet the practical needs of its users. Taglish (Tagalog as the base, main language with English words) exists to meet the needs, especially of younger generations, to communicate, mainly due to prevalenace of techology. Modern English itself, from 15 century, and currently, evolves. Try reading Pilgrims Progress and it will cause you headaches reading it.

        One exception that I can think of is Jejemon. Simply put it, it’s not practical. Why communicate in numerous characters when the standard form is fewer and understandable. Though I don’t mind jejemons writing amongst themselves in that form, but once they send me a text message in that form, expect me to “nazify” his grammar.

        Anyway, I also think that “Gusto ko po i-learn…” is awkward, for me at least. 🙂

        1. Well, it can be said that jejemon evolved to meet the practical needs of its users, at least initially. I think it originated from text messaging shorthand or abbreviating words for quick typing, but it has since evolved (or rather devolved) into this stupid morass of unintelligible mess.

          Evolving a language for me is merited if it includes words and concepts that have otherwise no direct translation; for example, computer has no direct translation into Tagalog. Japanese has often employed this, borrowing foreign words and transliterate them into their own Japanese versions. I know Filipino speakers also did this with foreign loan words; for example, station – istasyon.

          But what irks me is the fact that even though words and concepts like ‘to learn’ have direct translations to Tagalog, they still use ‘i-learn’ which just seems lazy and stupid. What’s the point of including Filipino subjects in the curriculum if people are just going to talk this way?

        2. Practicality doesn’t always mean brevity; matters of impact and picturesqueness can shape the language as well (i. e., Elizabethan English, the Great Vowel Shift, the history of spoken American English). While I don’t text in jejemon personally (I like to be unambiguous, and if I have to have walls of text to do it, then I’ll do it), I won’t deny that the appeal is real amongst those who use it.

      2. You can’t teach someone multiple languages and then bash them for trying out novel ways of speaking, however awkward — and besides, it’s linguistic currents like Taglish that make me believe Tagalog can benefit from a massive infusion of English loanwords (preferably more than just the loanwords, and if it hasn’t already). Look what all those loanwords did for Nihongo as a language after World War II.

        1. Is “i-learn” a loanword? What’s wrong with “matuto”?

          Like I said, if you’re going to speak Tagalog, might as well speak it straight. Otherwise, countless hours spent studying Filipino in college or basic education are wasted.

          Unless the concept you’re trying to convey have no direct Tagalog translation, or you are unaware of the right Tagalog word for it, there is no excuse for using “i-learn” in place of “matuto”, and I don’t think the kid (in PBB) does not know what the word “matuto” means.

        2. And the reason, the whole purpose of loanwords is to convey a foreign word or concept that have no direct translation in the native language.

          It’s not the same as “schadenfreude” or “coup-de-etat” which did not have direct translations in the English language. A great example of something novel is “boondock” which as you know was taken from the Tagalog word “bundok”, though its etymology does not refer to the same thing, but it developed a different meaning altogether.

          There is nothing novel about “i-learn” when the kid can just simply say it in her native language. I think it’s a socially acquired habit, and a bad habit at that, that has little, if anything, constructive to contribute to the evolution and the development of language.

        3. “Is ‘i-learn’ a loanword?”

          No. But it is a more or less uncoordinated attempt to integrate whatever we think is desirable in English into the greater body of the Tagalog language, in line with ‘push mo ‘yan’ or the various gay neologisms. Just because ‘i-learn’ as a word doesn’t work for us doesn’t mean the entire enterprise is wrong or is doomed to failure.

          “Like I said, if you’re going to speak Tagalog, might as well speak it straight. Otherwise, countless hours spent studying Filipino in college or basic education are wasted.”

          Languages don’t usually work like that. The general impulse of the people with regards to language (especially spoken language) — the dynamism of the language — is not scholastic formalism but social need, the need to convey emotions and expressions with the needed verve and impact and freshness. It just happens that in a people awash in two lingua franca that both fit the social need, linguistic miscegenation will happen (and, if we are to catch up intellectually to our neighbors, it must).

  6. The languages spoken in the fils are impossibly futile to learn.Not once did it even get sounds like it was contrived by a child: vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant….mind numbing.

    and WTF is an umma-lay-lay,what?

    teach the kids english and maybe they can get the hell out of the mess of a country and have a decent life.

    1. If I were you (as I picture you), I’d be a lot more tactful (or at least a lot less ignorant) about our languages and dialects. It’s one thing to be ignorant, another thing to shove that ignorance down the throats of the subjects of said ignorance, and still another to be so goddamned superior about it all. At the very least you can keep your parochiality to yourself.

      1. DO Filipino’s ever imagine that their actions towards visitors in the Philippines are going to affect Filipino’s living/working in other countries?
        “parochiality”,really? and because you take it as an insult, that means it was intended as an insult?
        If I were you, you say?and BTW,I am glad I am not you.
        if you met me, what is it you imagine you would do? OR maybe,if I met you? MAYBE in my home country? EH?
        Where do you ‘imagine’ the attitude comes from? The loving way ex-pats/HK Tourists are treated in your country? EH?

        it is too bad that Filipino’s are very easily offended, and that is your problem.Coz it sure isn’t mine.The next Ex-pat you see in the Fils just might be me.AND?

  7. Lack of English may also divide the country. This is because of the language barrier existing between Tagalog-dominated Manila and the outer provinces. One case in point (one I’ve stated before): a former co-worker whose province is in Mindanao but was raised in Manila knows only Tagalog. Her grandmother doesn’t know Tagalog, just the local language. So how do they understand each other? They both understand English. So English helped bridge generations here. There is resistance in other provinces to Tagalog. So, to make it neutral, let them all learn English.

    1. Wouldn’t that also be an argument for propagating Tagalog instruction throughout those parts of the country where Tagalog hasn’t gotten far?

  8. I got nothing against English but I got something against those who just wishes the local dialects away.

    This page is so anti-Filipino(language-wise).

    If it’s after having jobs then it just goes to show that there are no jobs locally and it’s people aren’t into job creation. Somehow despite our “greatness” in the English it doesn’t even seem to get us in a better place. If you’re going to talk about Science and all if it’s easier explain in the local dialect..(sure go taglish if you need too) then go for it.

    I never understand why do you guys just want Filipino to just go away? Why would you assume that posts like this one is about “I shouldn’t learn English then?”?

    It’s an underdeveloped language yes..because it never developed because no one developed it anymore and so might as well be done with it?

    What about national identity? Oh, it doesn’t feed you or pay the bills so what then? If we’re about nation-building then it’s necessary but I suppose it doesn’t matter for people like you.

    The need for English proficiency doesn’t justify forsaking one’s local my case Tagalog for others might be Cebuano or Waray..Even other countries are seeing the need to learn English but then don’t trash their own culture and identity like we try to.

    If you think this whole Filipino thing is holding us back it’s’s our inferiority complex and lack of foresight.

    1. wag naman brad. tandaan mo mayaman tayo sa kultura. ilocano, tagalog, bisaya, ilonggo. etc. dapat pagyamanin natin ang sariling atin. tignan natin ang bansang hapon, lahat ba marunong mag ingles? mayaman ang bansa nila pero hindi wikang ingles ang may gawa nito. lahat ng pag-aaral at alitutunin sa kanilang paaralan ay naisalin sa sariling wika nila. dapat ganun din sa atin.

  9. paano naman ung mga taong matalino pero wala talagang talento sa ikalawang wika o wala talagang interes sa wikang ingles/banyaga? sayang naman. wag lang sana maging basehan ang ingles sa pagiging edukado ng isang pinoy.

  10. Tangalogista Fliptards [or Tangalogista forieng trolls/shitposters/hoaxers/race-baiters] totally recommend:

    “Let’s totally Tangalogize Fliptardize all other peoples in the Philippines, and all other countries!”

    “Let’s totally genocide all other cultures in the Philippines, and all other countries!”

    “Let’s totally linguicide all the other languages in the Philippines, and all other countries!”

  11. Mastery of English is a valuable life skill that is in demand right now. A lot of call center applicants are denied that job because of their poor English. It’s not just that their English speaking skills are bad, but they don’t understand English itself. Unfortunately, the tagalogists made sure that the average Filipino will never get that opportunity. The tagalogists keep bringing up about korea, japan being successful with no English skill. That factoid will not help Filipinos get jobs. Tagalogists need to start dealing with reality, Filipinos need to find jobs, English is what they need to get it.

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