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chapter 11

Difusion and directions

English language policy in the Philippines
Isabel Pefanco Martin
Ateneo de Manila University, Te Philippines
Tis chapter presents the English language from the viewpoint of language policy.
English was frst introduced to the Filipinos through the American public school
system and, for half a century, the language was systematically promoted as a
civilizing tool. Today, beliefs and attitudes about English, as well as the various
ways in which the language is used, may be traced to the Filipino experience
of American colonial education. A brief survey of the English language policy
situation in the Philippines from the American colonial period to contemporary
times reveals difusions in language policy formulation. Such difusion has
resulted in conficting policies and practices that marginalize Philippine languages
and contribute to the further deterioration of education among Filipino children.
Keywords: language policy and planning, bilingual education, national language,
English as the medium of instruction
1. Te language policy of the American colonial period
In 1928, an American schoolteacher in the Philippines reported that his students com-
positions had the indelible impression of Henry Wadsworth Longfellows romantic
poem Evangeline. Te teacher noted that in these compositions
One nipa shack had acquired dormer windows with gables projecting and was
surrounded by primeval mangoes and acacia.
A mere tuba gatherer had a face
which shone with celestial brightness as if he ambled home with his fagons of
home-brewed tuba.
Every fair maiden in the class was endowed with eyes as
black as the berry that grows on the thorn by the wayside as she strode to church
with her chaplet of beads and missal, this last word usually being spelled missle.
(Annex Teacher 1928: 7)
1. A nipa shack is a house with leaves similar to coconut tree leaves as roof.
2. Tuba is coconut wine.
:o Isabel Pefanco Martin
What this American teacher had observed is a prequel to the cultural cloning of the
Filipinos. Decades afer the 1946 Philippine independence from the United States,
Filipinos continue to behave like so-called brown Americans. What specifc strate-
gies did the American colonizers use to create this brown American? Te answer
may be found in the language policy imposed by the colonial educators.
On 13 August 1898, a few months before American forces ofcially occupied
Manila, American soldiers had already begun to teach in Corregidor (Estioko
1994: 186). It is assumed that their frst lesson was English. It was no accident that the
frst English teachers in the Philippines were American soldiers. Public education was
introduced as an essential component of military strategy. General Arthur MacArthur
himself declared the following about public education:
Te matter [public education] is so closely allied to the exercise of military force
in these islands that in my annual report I treated the matter as a military subject
and suggested a rapid extension of educational facilities as an exclusively military
measure. (UNESCO-Philippine Educational Foundation 1953: 74)
Troughout the American colonial period, English was systematically promoted as the
language that would civilize the Filipinos. Te aim was to systematically confne the
native languages to outside the territories of schooling. Te policy was institutional-
ized through the heavy use of instructional materials of Anglo-American origin for
language instruction. Troughout four decades of American public education, Filipino
students were exposed to a canon of literature that included works of Henry Wads-
worth Longfellow, Washington Irving, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as those of
Shakespeare, George Elliott, Matthew Arnold, and the romantic poets. Meanwhile,
Filipinos were using their own language outside the schools.
When the Americans arrived in the Philippines in 1898, the Filipinos already had a
fourishing literature. In the frst decade of American occupation, with memories of the
revolution against Spain still fresh, secular values spread rapidly as a rejection of 300 years
of religious domination. Spanish declined but English had not yet gained a foothold. Tus,
the foodgates of literature in the native languages were fung wide open. With a new-
found freedom of expression under the American colonizers, poetry, fction, and journal-
ism in the Philippine languages fourished. However, this wealth of writing by Filipinos
did little to promote the recognition of Philippine literature in the colonial classroom.
In 1925, a comprehensive study of the educational system of the Philippines (also
known as the 1925 Monroe Report) reported that Filipino students had no opportu-
nity to study in their native language. Te report recommended that the native language
be used as an auxiliary medium of instruction in courses such as character education,
and good manners and right conduct (Board of Educational Survey 1925: 40). Still,
American education ofcials insisted on the exclusive use of English in the public
schools until 1940. Te policy propelled the English language towards becoming, in
the words of Renato Constantino, a ...wedge that separated the Filipinos from their
past (Constantino 1982: 12).
Chapter 11. Difusion and directions ::
Language policy and planning during American colonial rule were geared to-
wards education and the civil service but [...] not guided by explicit language laws or
agencies (Gonzales 2003: 2). It was only in 1937, when the National Language Insti-
tute was established under the Romualdez Law, that the colonial government began to
formulate a language policy. Tis policy had to do with the establishment of a national
In 1939, afer some years of heated debates about the matter, Tagalog was ofcially
proclaimed as the national language. Soon, the language was taught as a subject in
schools. In 1943 to 1945, Tagalog was recognized by the Japanese-controlled Philippine
government which insisted on the rapid dissemination of the language throughout the
countrys educational institutions. During this period, specifcally in 1942, the nation-
al language was recognized as one of the ofcial languages of the country (together
with Japanese) by virtue of a military ordinance of the Commander-in-Chief of the
Imperial Japanese Forces (Bautista 1996; Gonzales 1998).
2. Post-colonial language policy
Except for the brief period of Japanese occupation, English was maintained as the
dominant language of government and education in the Philippines. Te identifcation
of a national language in the latter part of American colonial rule did not afect the
elevated status of English in the Philippine society.
Political independence from the United States, granted in 1946, saw the continued
spread of the national language as a subject that was taught at the basic education lev-
els, while English was maintained as the medium of instruction. In 1959, the national
language was renamed Pilipino. In 1987, shortly afer the People Power Revolution,
the language was renamed again, this time, to Filipino. Te renaming was an attempt
to promote the national language as one that was not biased towards Tagalog, but in-
stead, refective of the multicultural and multilingual context of the Philippines.
In the 1950s, visiting linguist Cliford Prator conducted studies in the Philippines
resulting in the implementation of the Vernacular Teaching Policy of 1957. Tis policy
prescribed the use of the major vernacular languages as languages of initial teaching
and literacy until Grade 3, with Tagalog and English taught as separate subjects.
Still, English was maintained as the medium of instruction from Grade 3 onwards
(Gonzales 1998).
Despite the continued dominance of English in the domains of education, govern-
ment, and business, there is no formal language-planning agency that sets directions
for this language. Linguist and former Education Secretary Andrew Gonzales believes
that in the Philippines, language planning is not under one unifed agency but is dif-
fused and located in diferent agencies according to the nature of the task to be accom-
plished (Gonzales 1998: 511). Until the 1990s, only one law and one department order
ensured the maintenance of English as one of the two ofcial languages of the country.
:i Isabel Pefanco Martin
Te 1987 Philippine Constitution states that for purposes of communication and in-
struction, the ofcial languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise
provided by law, English. Tis law is carried out through DECS Order No. 52 series
1987, also known as the Bilingual Education Policy (henceforth BEP) of the Depart-
ment of Education (henceforth DepEd), which was frst introduced in 1974 and then
re-issued with minor modifcations in 1987. Te BEP aims to develop bilingual Filipi-
nos competent in both English and the national language. Tis BEP is the recognized
language-in-education policy that is still in place today in the education sector.
At present, there are many government agencies with stakes in language planning
in the Philippines. Te Commission on the Filipino Language (Komisyon sa Wikang
Filipino or KWF), which was founded in 1991, is the language-planning agency for the
national language and other Philippine languages. Since its founding, the KWF has not
been genuinely successful in enriching the national language, let alone contributing to
its wide acceptability as a language of instruction. Promoting the national language in
the Philippines remains a highly controversial and emotionally charged task, especially
when the issue of the language of learning comes into play. Gonzales (1998: 515) notes,
Until the mastery of Filipino becomes more necessary for livelihood than for sym-
bolic purposes, based on previous Philippine experience, the widespread use of
Filipino as a language of instruction especially for science and technology at the
higher level of schooling will be limited. (Gonzales 1998: 515)
Two government agencies direct education in the country, namely, the DepEd and the
Commission on Higher Education (henceforth CHED). Both are bound by the 1987
BEP, with the DepEd focusing on basic education and the CHED on tertiary-level edu-
cation. And then there is another agency that advises the Philippine President about
education policy matters. Te Presidential Task Force on Education was created in 2007
through Executive Order (henceforth EO) 635 to assess, plan, and monitor the entire
educational system (Villafania 2007). Tis task force has been at the centre of recent
language-in-education debates afer Presidential Adviser for Education Mona Valisno
reported that President Gloria Arroyo had agreed to the use of the lingua franca or
vernacular for grade one, but emphasized the need to intensify eforts of all concerned
to make the pupils learn more English, math and science (Nolasco 2008: 142).
One set of government agencies with stakes in language planning in the Philippines
are those agencies that have to do with trade and industry. Te exporting of Filipino
labour, also known as Overseas Filipino Workers (henceforth OFW), is believed to be
the single most signifcant force in promoting a high demand for English in Philippine
society. Gonzales writes:
Indirectly, since OFWs are hired largely because of their familiarity with English
and their technical skills, their infuence is considerable for the maintenance of
the English language and its continuing use in the specialised domains of seaman-
ship, the health sciences, technology, and management. (Gonzales 1998: 515)
Chapter 11. Difusion and directions :
Tis reality is evident in the following Employers Guide posting about the advantage
of hiring Filipino nurses:
Te facility in expressing himself/herself in English gives the Filipino nurse the
extra advantage. With a good command of the language, he/she is able to commu-
nicate efectively with his/her employer, co-workers, and most importantly, with
his/her patient or ward. (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration 2005)
Te Information Communications Technology (henceforth ICT) industry is also one
sector that has contributed to maintaining the elevated status of English in the country.
In the last decade, the call centre industry in the Philippines has been receiving a lot of
support from the government in an attempt to attract investors into the country. Soon
afer President Arroyo assumed the presidency, she called for structural reforms, which
included the creation of a telecommunications infrastructure to attract more ICT in-
vestments. In her 2001 State of the Nation Address (henceforth SONA), Arroyo, an
economist by profession, promised the following:
We will promote fast-growing industries where high-value jobs are most plentiful.
One of them is information and communications technology, or ICT. Our English
literacy, our aptitude and skills give us a competitive edge in ICT. (Arroyo 2001)
On 17 May 2003, President Arroyo issued EO No. 210, which aimed to establish a
policy to strengthen the use of English as a medium of instruction because of the
... need to develop the aptitude, competence and profciency of our students in
the English language to maintain and improve their competitive edge in emerg-
ing and fast-growing local and international industries, particularly in the area of
Information and Communications Technology. (Arroyo 2003)
In her 2006 SONA, Arroyo claimed success in the structural reforms her government
had implemented. She described having cofee with a call centre agent as a touching
I had cofee with some call center agents last Labor Day. Lyn, a new college graduate,
told me, Now I dont have to leave the country in order for me to help my family.
Salamat po. (Tank you.) I was so touched, Lyn, by your comments. With struc-
tural reforms, we not only found jobs, but kept families intact. (Arroyo 2006)
Arroyos 2007 SONA had a more boastful tone when she declared that the Philippines
ranks among top of-shoring hubs in the world because of cost competitiveness and
more importantly our highly trainable, English profcient, IT-enabled management
and manpower (Arroyo 2007).
However, there is a widespread perception that English language profciency
among the Filipinos is deteriorating. Robert S. Keitel, Regional Employment Advisor
of the United States Embassy in Manila, reports that only four percent of Filipino ap-
plicants are hired by call centres while the remaining ninety-six percent were not
:| Isabel Pefanco Martin
because of their sub-standard English skills (Keitel 2008), this, despite 400,000 grad-
uates being produced every year. Keitel (2008) notes the mismatch between the call
centres expectations of applicants and the preparedness of graduates from Philippine
HEIs, thus forcing call centres to collaborate closely with colleges and universities
higher education institutions or HEIs. Keitel writes:
It has been an evolution for academe to recognize that call center employment is
an appropriate career opportunity for their graduates. Such recognition has neces-
sitated changes in the curriculum. Initially, one reaction was, we speak English al-
ready... are we not one of the largest English speaking countries in the world? Yes,
Filipinos speak English but it is a variety called Filipino English, and it is not the
international (global) English required for call center employment. (Keitel 2008)
Like Keitel, American businessman Russ Sandlin, in a letter to a national daily, pres-
ents a less than rosy picture of the call centre industry in the Philippines. Sandlin
I closed my call center here. Filipinos have much worse English than their Indian
counterparts. Not even three percent of the students who graduate college are
employable in call centers. Trust me; all of us are leaving for China.
... Te Philippines has a terrible talent shortage, and the government and the press
are in denial... English is the only thing that can save the country, and no one here
cares or even understands that the Filipinos have a crisis...God save the Philip-
pines. I hate to see the country falling ever deeper into an English-deprived abyss.
(Sandlin 2008)
Tis English-deprived abyss is indeed what the Philippine government is desperately
attempting to prevent, sadly at the expense of the more basic needs of the Filipinos.
Te Philippine governments formula for economic success has become painfully sim-
plistic: English equals money. Whether Filipino graduates are capable of critical and
creative thinking, or have acquired basic life skills other than language skills, does not
seem to be a major concern. Te Philippine governments language policies seem to be
fxated on English alone.
To be sure, a good command of English is benefcial in employment situations
where the language is used. However, language profciency alone may not ensure eco-
nomic success. As the language is not equally accessible to Filipinos, an over-emphasis
on English profciency because of the proliferation of call centres and medical tran-
scription agencies in the Philippines, as well as increasing demands for Filipino work-
ers abroad, may push schools to propagate the illusion that only profciency in English
guarantees economic success.
Te policy of the Philippine government on the use of English and Filipino is
aptly described by Gonzales (1998: 515) as the product of a compromise solution to
the demands of nationalism and internationalism. On the one hand, advocates of na-
tionalism push for the establishment, spread, and maintenance of Filipino, the national
Chapter 11. Difusion and directions :,
language. Ten there are those who support the continued dominance of English in
important domains in Philippine society. Tese pro-English advocates promote the
language as the countrys main defence against economic doom.
In 2003, at the 75th founding anniversary of a Manila university, President Arroyo
made the following statement that set of a series of reactions among language stake-
Our English literacy, our aptitude and skills give us a competitive edge in ICT
(information and communications technology)...Terefore, until Congress enacts
a law mandating Filipino as the language of instruction, I am directing the De-
partment of Education to return English as the primary medium of instruction,
provided some subjects will still be taught in Filipino. (Pazzibugan 2003)
Although the statement did not depart from the BEP, language stakeholders regarded it
as an afront to the promotion of Filipino, the national language. A few months later, EO
No. 210, entitled Establishing the Policy to Strengthen the Use of the English Language
as a Medium of Instruction in the Educational System, was issued, followed by DepEd
Order No. 36, which detailed the implementing rules and regulations for EO 210. A
group of language stakeholders, Wika ng Kultura at Agham Incorporated (henceforth
WIKA, meaning in English Language of Culture and Science Incorporated), chal-
lenged EO 210 and DepEd Order 36 by petitioning the Supreme Court to declare the
orders unconstitutional. In its petition, WIKA claims that EO 210 subverts the present
status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and violates the constitutional injunction that
the regional languages shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction (Torres 2007).
Te petition betrays a myth about languages in the Philippines that the English
language is in direct opposition to the national language. Ofen, when stakeholders of
the national language are confronted with attempts to institutionalize English in the
education domain, they cite nationalism, or the lack of it, as a reason for resisting
English. Tis defensive stance towards the national language may be symptomatic of
the inability of the Philippine government to efectively promote the use of Filipino in
important domains in Philippine society. Gonzales (1996: 236) notes that a deterrent
to the full fowering of a national code would be competing policies of government
caused by special economic situations; hence, language ambivalence becomes the rea-
son or manifestation of economic and social forces present outside the language.
Tupas (2007: 75) describes this situation as propagating a simplistic dichotomy
between instrumentalist and identity positions in the language debate in the Philip-
pines. He writes that the framework of the language debates in the Philippines contin-
ues to be:
... not only simplistic in the sense that it marginalizes important dimensions of the
debate, it also fails to capture the underlying social tensions and fssures which are
themselves constitutive of the complex dynamics of power relations in the Philip-
pines. (Tupas 2007: 75)
:o Isabel Pefanco Martin
An unfortunate casualty of difusions in language policy and planning in the Philip-
pines is the basic education sector.
3. Philippine basic education in the periphery
In the 2008 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, United Nations Educational,
Scientifc and Cultural Organization or UNESCO describes the Philippines as having
performed dismally in the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science
Study or TIMSS, when Grade 4 students came out third to last in both Maths and
Science tests. In addition, the Philippines ranked 41st in Maths and 42nd in Science
(out of forty-six participating countries) at the second year high school level
(Caoili-Rodriguez 2007: 13). It was noted in this report that the low scores in Maths
and Science prompted the government to re-evaluate science and math education in
the country and implement remedial actions such as intensifed teacher trainings.
(Caoili-Rodriguez 2007: 13)
In addition to international measures of profciency, there is also a national assess-
ment of the competencies of students in the elementary and high school levels that the
DepEd administers every year. Te National Achievement Tests, also known as NAT,
have been posting disappointing results over the last six years in Maths, Science, and
English (Department of Education 2008b). Te tables below illustrate this point.
Te NAT results for the elementary and high school levels reveal that the mean
percentage scores in Maths, Science, and English since 2003 have not exceeded 65% at
Table 1. NAT elementary school results
School Year Maths Science English
SY 200304 59.45 52.59 49.92
SY 200405 59.10 54.12 59.15
SY 200506 53.66 46.77 54.05
SY 200607 60.29 51.58 60.78
SY 200708 63.89 57.90 61.62
Table 2. NAT high school results
School Year Maths Science English
SY 200304 46.20 36.80 50.08
SY 200405 50.70 39.50 51.30
SY 200506 47.82 37.98 47.73
SY 200607 39.00 41.99 51.78
SY 200708 42.85 46.71 53.46
Chapter 11. Difusion and directions :
the elementary level and 53% at the high school level. Te DepEd identifes the mas-
tery level as being 75% and above. Following this rubric then, one may conclude that
Filipino students have not achieved mastery of Maths, Science, and English (National
Statistical Coordination Board 2007).
In 2008, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus launched the DepEds fagship pro-
gramme known as Project Turning around Low Performance in English (henceforth
TURN). Lapus explains that the project recognizes the importance of English prof-
ciency as an important building block in learning (Department of Education 2008a).
Lapus notes that English profciency is critical in learning as other key subjects such
as Science and Mathematics use English in textbooks and other reference materials
(Department of Education 2008a).
Project TURN was launched through DepEd Order 7, which required all teachers
of English, Maths, and Science in low-performing elementary and high schools to take
an English Profciency test and be trained in oral and written communication in Eng-
lish. Php 500 million (roughly USD 11 million) was earmarked for the in-service
English retooling of public school teachers (Martel 2008).
Tese government interventions illustrate the prevalence of the illusion that Eng-
lish is the cure to the students low achievement scores that English is the only lan-
guage through which knowledge, especially of maths and science, can be accessed.
Tis is further reinforced by persistent attempts by lawmakers to pass laws to institu-
tionalize the sole use of English as the medium of instruction. Cebu Representative
Eduardo Gullas was successful in getting 205 co-authors for House Bill 305 (the Gullas
Bill), or An Act to Strengthen and Enhance the Use of English as the Medium of In-
struction in Philippine Schools (Sunstar Cebu 2008). Gullas claims that the bill:
... aims to correct the defects of the current bilingual education program of the
Department of Education. Its ultimate objective is the improvement of the learn-
ing process in schools to ensure quality outputs. (Te Manila Times 2007)
Te BEP has been widely criticized for many reasons, one being the perception that it
does not contribute to upgrading the students mastery of language and content areas.
Te KWF believes that the BEP must be reviewed and revised. Ricardo Nolasco, for-
mer Chair of the KWF, in pushing for laws that support mother-tongue literacy, writes
about a basic weakness (that) is plaguing Philippine education (Nolasco 2008: 133).
He is referring to the mismatch between the students frst languages and the languag-
es of schooling, which are English and Filipino. Nolasco presents the following facts
about the Philippine language situation (Nolasco 2008: 134):
Te Philippines is a multilingual nation with more than 170 languages.
According to the 2000 Philippine census, the fve biggest Philippine languages
based on the number of frst language speakers are Tagalog (21.5 million),
Cebuano (18.5 million), Ilocano (7.7 million), Hiligaynon (6.9 million), and Bicol
(4.5 million).
:8 Isabel Pefanco Martin
Te 2000 Philippine census also reveals that 65 million out of 76 million Filipinos
are able to speak the national language as a frst or second language.
Tese facts, in addition to studies done on the efects of the BEP, demonstrate that
Filipino school children may be marginalized by a policy that promotes languages that
are not their own. Tere are lawmakers who are aware of this reality, as evident in the
fling of House Bill 3719 by Valenzuela Congressman Magtanggol Gunigundo. Known
as the Multilingual and Literacy Act of 2008, the Gunigundo Bill aims to ...upgrade
the literacy program of the government by making the native tongue as the medium of
instruction for the formative years of basic education (14th Congress of the Republic
of the Philippines 2008).
Some sectors of the government, particularly those in the executive branch, are
also cognizant of the marginalization of the schoolchildrens frst languages. Te chair-
man of the National Economic Development Authority or NEDA and Socioeconomic
Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, in a letter to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita,
endorsed the Gunigundo Bill and explains that it is:
... consistent with the goals of the Philippine Education for All (EFA) 2015 Plan
and the Updated Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004
2010, which supports the utilization of the mother tongue as a fundamental tool
to enhance the learning process itself and improve the relevance of basic educa-
tion. (Personal communication, 12 August 2008)
Te DepEd has also begun to accept the long-term benefts of mother-tongue literacy,
which the department believes does not run counter to the spirit of the BEP. Te
DepEd has recently partnered with universities and associations in training primary
school teachers on the use of the mother language as a medium of instruction. Tis
training programme is presented as an extension of the 1999 Lingua Franca Education
Project that linguist Andrew Gonzales introduced at the DepEd when he was Educa-
tion Secretary (Villafania 2009).
It is unfortunate, however, that President Arroyo remains cold to the issue of
mother-tongue literacy despite the endorsement of the Socioeconomic Planning Sec-
retary and the Education Secretary, both members of her Cabinet. To this day, Arroyo
has not certifed House Bill 3719 as a priority bill of her administration.
In the 1990s, linguist Andrew Gonzalez, who later became Secretary of Education,
refected on the BEP and wrote about his obsession ...to make Filipinos linguistically
competent to be able to think deeply and critically in any language (Gonzalez
1999: 13). Gonzalez appealed for:
... a maximum of fexibility in the media of instruction...Not everything in Philip-
pine education has to be uniform; in fact, even if we have policies towards uni-
formity, we never accomplish enough to be able to attain uniformity of results. So
why not recognize this limitation and exploit it so that we can move faster towards
development? (Gonzalez 1999: 13)
Chapter 11. Difusion and directions :
It is in this spirit of fexibility and resistance to uniformity that Filipino teachers reject
the language purity imposition of the BEP and try to promote code-switching in the
classrooms. Code-switching, despite the policy of English-only in Maths and Science,
may be a form of resistance to prevailing illusions about languages in the Philippines.
Studies on code-switching in the Philippines reveal that it is practiced in various
domains, by diferent groups, for diferent reasons (Martin 2006). Still, that code-
switching is natural, inevitable, and perhaps necessary in Philippine education remains
a touchy issue, especially where content learning is concerned. Two research studies
that support resistance to English-only in education are Allan Bernardos cognitive
science experiments about the efects of language on mathematical learning and per-
formance and Isabel Pefanco Martins study of code-switching among teachers and
students in Science courses.
Bernardo (2000) investigated the efect of using the Filipino students frst or sec-
ond language on their mathematical problem solving ability. He concludes that there
is no single efect of language on mathematical ability. Instead, the language efects are
multifarious and specifc to the diferent components of mathematic problem solv-
ing (Bernardo 2000: 310). Bernardo notes that those who insist that Maths be taught
in English assume some kind of structural-ft efect between English and mathematics
learning and performance (2000: 311) which doesnt exist.
Martins study of code-switching in college Science analyzed two cases which found
that the practice does in fact support the goals of delivering content knowledge. Code-
switching was used by Science teachers as a pedagogical tool for motivating student
response and action, ensuring rapport and solidarity, promoting shared meaning, check-
ing student understanding, and maintaining the teaching narrative (Martin 2006).
English teachers in the public schools also report that they code-switch when they
teach. Dionisia B. Fernandez writes about how the English-only policy did not work in
her school:
One rule I have in my classroom is fairly simple: Speak only English! It was agreed
that whoever broke this rule would pay a fne of one peso for each non-English
word. For two days my students tried very hard to speak English only...
A week afer imposing the Speak English Only campaign, I felt frustrated not
because the students carabao English worsened, or that the class treasurer did not
collect a single peso, but because most of my pupils chose to keep their mouths
shut. Te campaign was a failure! (Fernandez 2009)
What this teacher learned from her experience of the English Only campaign is the
need for some form of resistance to the impositions of language planning and policy in
the Philippines. Te difusions in the language policy situation, from the American
colonial period to contemporary times, only contribute to the promotion of the fol-
lowing myths about English in the Philippines: (1) English and Filipino are languages
in opposition; (2) English is the only cure to all economic ailments; and (3) English is
ioo Isabel Pefanco Martin
the only access to knowledge. If these myths persist, basic education in the Philippines
will be pushed farther to the periphery.
4. Directions for language planning and policy formulation
In his analysis of the Philippine language situation, Schneider observes that the
Philippines could be an example of a country where the predictive implications of the
dynamic model (of new Englishes) may fail (Schneider 2003: 17). Te Philippines
does not seem to be moving into what Schneider identifes as the stage of endonorma-
tive stabilization that stage in which the ...psychological independence and the
acceptance of a new, indigenous identity, result in the acceptance of local forms of
English as a means of expression of that new identity (Schneider 2003: 11).
What Schneider refers to as a local form of English is a variety now known as
Philippine English or PhilE.
However, the existence of a Philippine variety of English
does not necessarily translate into acceptance of that variety. When asked why they
identifed American English as their target model for English Language Teaching or
ELT, Filipino teachers gave the following reasons (Martin 2010: 253):
1. It is a global language.
2. American English is the universal language.
3. American English is the standard international language.
4. Tey [Filipino students] have to frst learn the basics.
5. American English is universally accepted.
6. Knowing American English can avoid arguments and debates about the correct
spelling and pronunciation.
7. Te pronunciation of some words is conventional.
8. An approximately correct English understandable and acceptable internationally
9. It is the most accepted English.
10. Its the ideal, the standard in terms of language usage.
11. American English is applicable nationwide.
12. Because the expressions used are familiar to us having being under the American
regime/way of education.
13. Because the Americans were the frst to teach English to the Filipinos.
14. So that pupils will become more eloquent, smart in talking, and be able to com-
municate in the language not only in speaking but in writing as well.
15. You could use American movies as patterns for [teaching] speaking skills.
16. Its widely used in communicative learning.
3. Bautista (2000) presents a comprehensive discussion of the grammatical features of Philip-
pine English.
Chapter 11. Difusion and directions io:
Te list above betrays what Kachru (1995) refers to as the Model Dependency Myth,
which hinges on the belief that the exocentric models of American and British English
are standard and must therefore be taught. Such dependence on the American model
is further reinforced by the fact that the language was brought to the Philippines as a
colonial tool (evident in reasons 12 and 13 above). Te albatross of mythology, as
Kachru (2005: 16) puts it, weighs heavy around the necks of Filipino teachers of Eng-
lish so much so that even the strategies for teaching the language have become depen-
dent on American texts (reason 15 above).
Te First Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey reported a slight improvement in
the Filipinos self-assessment of English profciency from the previous 2006 survey.
Te number of Filipinos who believe that they were not competent in English has de-
creased (Social Weather Stations 2008). One wonders if this is an indication of a grow-
ing acceptance of or confdence in the language. Whatever the case may be, difusions
in Philippine language planning and policy formulation persist and do not contribute
to upgrading basic education in the country.
In July 2009, the DepEd issued Order No. 74 which calls for the institutionalizing
of mother-tongue based multilingual education (henceforth MTB MLE) in the whole
stretch of formal education including pre-school and in the Alternative Learning Sys-
tem (ALS) (Department of Education 2009). Tis order was intended to be an exten-
sion of the Lingua Franca Education Project which the DepEd launched in 1999 in an
earlier attempt to address the perceived weaknesses of using only English and Filipino
in basic education. It was reported that more than a hundred schools throughout the
nation will begin implementing MTB MLE in the sixty DepEd divisions of the coun-
trys sixteen regions (Talete 2010).
DepEd Order No. 74 was welcomed by language stakeholders as a positive contri-
bution to the promotion of the mother tongue in basic education, as well as the upgrad-
ing of teaching and learning in the public schools. However, the full implementation of
the MTB MLE Order will take some time to achieve since the order sets ten fundamen-
tal requirements for implementation, among them, the development of a working or-
thography for the local languages and the intellectualization of these languages
(Department of Education 2009). It is also unfortunate that the order comes at a time of
crucial leadership changes in the education department. A few months afer the order
was released, a new education secretary was appointed. Tis new secretary is expected
to be replaced again soon afer the May 2010 national elections. Such a situation, the
rapid turnover of leadership in the education department, was identifed as one obstacle
to genuine educational reforms. Bautista, Bernardo and Ocampo (2008/2009: 30) ob-
serve that the rapid succession of DepEds top leaders six secretaries in eight years
since 2000! has lef very little time for the theoretical and empirical arguments
surrounding the language issue to sink in. In addition, the fast-paced turnover of lead-
ership in the education department creates an atmosphere that tends to tilt the perspec-
tive towards the half-empty outlook (Bautista et al. 2008/2009: 37). One wonders what
the future will be for mother-tongue based multilingual education in the Philippines.
ioi Isabel Pefanco Martin
In language planning, it is important to be mindful of the reality that language is
not a fxed code. In fact, the term language planning is in itself already problematic.
Can language be planned? Gonzales (2003: 1) asks the same question which is also the
title of a 1971 book by Rubin and Jernudd. Gonzales notes that afer more than three
decades of his involvement in language planning and policy formulation, he too has
been asking the same question. He writes:
... language planning presumes rationality on the part of the language planners
in drafing action plans, but these action plans likewise presume rationality on
the part of the political decision-makers and would-be benefciaries (parents and
their children) of these rational policies. Unfortunately, in a world not quite fully
rational, rational means to realize plans do not always obtain and results are ofen
mixed, which they are in the Philippines! (Gonzales 2003: 5)
Te language policy situation in the Philippines may persist in its irrelevance if deci-
sions continue to be made in conficting and contradictory terms. However, in ad-
dressing the negative impact of difusions in language planning, the answer does not
lie in doing the opposite in centralizing decision-making. On the contrary, any at-
tempt at homogenizing the implementation of language policies may be doomed to
fail, especially when the implementation does not address deeper social issues besieg-
ing the country, among them, the continued deterioration of basic education, which
results from and contributes to poverty among Filipinos. Tupas (2009: 3) strongly ar-
gues for a language policy that is generated from the ground. He writes:
... the problem of language is ultimately a problem of development. Language
policy becomes more useful and fair if it re-views languages in education from
the point of view of the schools of the people. Tese schools have disengaged from
language policy in order to transform education on the ground. (Tupas 2009: 3)
To be sure, language is not the only force impacting the present education crisis in the
Philippines. Tere are many other forces to contend with. However, the absence of a
genuine commitment to mother-tongue literacy may only hasten the deterioration of
education and push Filipino schoolchildren deeper into the poverty pit. In the end, the
question that needs to be asked is not whether the Philippine government should pro-
mote one or two or three languages. Te question is not whether language policy
should favour English or Filipino or both or neither. Te questions that must be asked
are What must language policy be truly concerned about? What is language policy
ultimately for? Tese are questions that have yet to be asked, let alone answered.
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