The Philippine English Education System
For the neighboring Asian countries, Philippines is almost synonymous to an English-speaking country. It is true that the practical proficiency of the language is better. The percentage of Filipinos who are fluent is significantly high. Whether written or conversational, Filipinos have a good grasp, or majority of the population can at least understand common phrases and can answer basic questions albeit erroneous.
Probably the biggest influences is the Western culture and the colonization of the US. From then, Filipinos developed the so-called “colonial mentality”, or the perception that western things are better, so from the food we eat, the movies we watch, the language we speak, are mirrors of western culture, if not an imitation of it.
But what’s surprising is that even children who are still too young to be in school, can understand or converse in the language. It is not easy to introduce a foreign language especially when you have your mother tongue that is constantly used daily.
In the education system, the medium of instruction is English, which means, only Filipino language and literature are taught in the native tongue. From kindergarten to college and even and especially in post-graduate degrees, the subjects are taught in English. Kids learn the alphabet and numbers simultaneously in Filipino and English but in common conversations, they are spoken in the latter that’s why young learners remember them in English faster.
In schools, teachers or professors barely give the Filipino equivalents of terms and phrases unless absolutely necessary. Mathematical and Scientific terminologies are all in English and students rarely know the Tagalog translations because it is easier to remember due to common usage, although those Filipinos terms also exist.
Newspapers and other publications publish mostly in English. It’s almost impossible to see any magazine or printed materials that contain pure Filipino articles and contents unless they are related to Filipino language and Literature.
In addition to the formal education system, parents tend to train their children at home by using English in casual and family talks. It is further reinforced by the programs and materials they introduce to the young. Kiddie shows are that of a foreign channels or programs, books by English authors and the games? – of course they are in English, at least for a household who has someone who can speak the language.
But not all kids are interested in English. It is easier to let them acquire the language by teaching them at the very young age but once they grow up, most of them find it tiresome or oftentimes, difficult especially if their friends don’t use the language like they do. And also, the skills training is limited by the environment. Most people who can speak the language had someone train them and communicate with them for a long time or it is common in their surroundings. But in common homes where neither parents have the skills, the children only learn from schools but barely remember them in daily conversations.
However, there is one thing makes non-proficient English speakers abhor the fluent ones. In the Philippines, there is a common misconception. It has become a measure of intelligence.There is a perception that those who are adept to the language are more intellectual, although it is not always the case. The ability to speak the language has created a gap between those who can and can’t speak the language well.
So this line must be a cliche but English is supposed to be a tool for communication, not a measure of intelligence. Any language is used to share ideas and feelings across, not a manifestation of superiority or otherwise. We , after all, strive to understand and be understood, and that’s when language becomes truly useful.
Let’s discuss with aimtalk teachers:
- Aside from English and Japanese, can you speak any other languages? If you could learn a foreign language, what would it be? Why?
- How is English education in Japan? If you could change it, what changes will you make?
- Language is part of our identity. Can learning a foreign language make us lose our identity? Why or why not?
proficiency(n): a good standard of ability and skill
perception(n): the way you think about something and your idea of what it is like
simultaneously(adv): at the same time
equivalent(n): something that has the same value, purpose, job, etc as something else
tiresome(adj): making you feel annoyed or impatient.
abhor(v): hate a kind of behavior or way of thinking
manifestation(n): a very clear sign that a particular situation or feeling exists
strive(v):make a great effort to achieve something