by Jose Cortez
A recent World Bank report on “learning poverty”showed 90% of Filipino 10 -year -olds are poor in reading comprehension in English. How they conducted the study confounds me, since there is no attached full report to indicate the number of youths surveyed, the questionnaire and the methodology used.
Still we have to take this as a sort of indicator of how we are faring compared with other countries. Worse, we may consider this as a sign of the deplorable illiteracy of our students, and the failure of an educational system which is a lingering legacy of colonialism for the past 600 years.
Today, we must admit that Billions of funds have been poured into education, both by the government and the private sector. During the centuries of Spanish frailocracy, only a few youths, mostly coming from the elite families, were fortunate enough to be selected to study in church-sponsored schools. The youths so selected were made to memorize the Bible and catechism.
Under American rule, a public school system was instituted , very much like an assembly line in a factory, where students progress from Grade 1 to Grade VI, learning the rudiments of English, memorizing and writing the alphabet, and as they moved up, arithmetic, addition and subtraction, and a bit of geography, good manners and right conduct and the lives of American leaders. Yes, they are also taught American anthems and poems in English. Physical education was also introduced .
Those students. who excelled in their lessons, moved up to high school where earlier lessons in science, history, mathematics, reading and writing and civics were reinforced. English literature is further taught, and students were assigned to read and report on their readings, and in class they were made to write theme papers on specified topics. Sports like baseball, basketball and track and field were encouraged. And yes, Junior-Senior proms were much awaited high school events.
It’s all fun and games in high school. Still, many brilliant Filipino youths were selected as scholars to further their studies in the US , trained to become educational leaders when they returned to the islands. Normal schools and colleges were established , with English as medium of instruction.
That today’s Filipino youths are lagging behind other youths in comprehending English is rather unbelievably pathetic , even critical as some writers opted to describe this situation. But, then again English is a foreign language, and the Philippines has hundreds of dialects educators could use as a medium of instruction.
There is mandated by law, a national language, Wikang Filipino, to be used in the teaching – learning process. Linguists , like the late Brother Andrew Gonzales, observed that Filipino is already understood and used by the majority of the population, thanks to mass media. Moreover, young boys and girls learn better using the national language.
What must be done?
Nationalists have been vocally recommending the use of Filipino as the main medium of instruction and the language of all official government communications, laws, pleadings and jurisprudence.
So far, the University of the Philippines has made successful attempts, but not the courts, neither Congress and local councils, nor the executive departments, notwithstanding the translation into Filipino, of the official names of the agencies.
This is one campaign we, as an independent people, should now fervently pursue.
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About the writer: Jose Cortez has been a political journalist for 50 years, writer, and editor. In pre-Martial Law days, he wrote for Manila times, and post-Martial Law for Philippine Graphic and Metro Sun.
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