DepEd’s Special Foreign Language Program (SFLP): In Japanese

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THE JAPANESE language is one among the first three languages of DepEd’s Special Program for Foreign Language (SPFL) initiated in SY 2009-2010 and implemented in selected public secondary schools. The two other foreign languages are Spanish and French. German, added in 2011, was followed by Chinese in 2012. DepEd collaborates with the respective cultural institutes such as the Instituto Cervantes, Alliance Francais Manila and Cebu, Japan Foundation, Goethe Institut and Angeles University Foundation’s Confucius Institute, respectively, for the summer language training of select public secondary school teachers to teach these languages. The languages in the SFLP are offered beginning in junior and continued to senior year secondary level and are for students who have demonstrated competence in English and capable of learning other foreign languages.

Like Spanish, Japanese language in the Philippine educational system is not a new phenomenon. During the two years of Japanese occupation (1942-44 – WWII), Japanese was taught in Philippine schools. I learned Japanese together with hiragana and katakana at the Holy Spirit during those years. The first Filipino President of the University of San Carlos in Cebu who was my batch mate at the Holy Spirit excelled in our Nihongo class and in inter school competitions. A quarter of a century later, my earlier years of learning Japanese influenced me to take up summer studies in Japanese literature and classical theatre at Sophia University (Jochi Daigaku) – a Jesuit university and considered “one of Japan’s top private universities.” (http://www.sophia.ac.jp/eng/e_top/global.) It was a very pleasant summer experience what with reading the haikai we wrote while on a picnic — made more memorable with cherry blossoms all around in myriad shades of pink; the weekend nights at the Ginza for the kabuki performance as subject for our reflection papers, or the noh and kyogen staged at some temple shrine and the bunraku (puppet show) at other sites

Besides the Nihon Foundation at Makati, there are education entities in the Philippines that have formalized the teaching of Nihongo for the general public and not necessarily only for Japanese communities living in our country. Biggest among these is Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku (MKD), a private HEI in Davao City opened in 2002, recognized by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), owned and managed by an association of Japanese descendants and supported by Japanese benefactors. These were descendants of “Japanese laborers who came in large numbers in the first decades of the 20th century to work in abaca plantations in Davao,” . . . “hired by American companies like the National Fiber Company (NAFCO).” What distinguishes MKD from schools operating within the Philippine higher education system, is its “remarkable role” in promoting successfully Japanese Language education in the Philippines as a major subject required for graduation in any MKD degree. “It has succeeded in establishing a strong and dynamic relationship with Japan, its people, language, customs and culture. (http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_ of the Philippines#Japanese)

Given the fertile ground for rooting deeper the Japanese language through these various entities, the Japan Foundation has assumed major assistance to the SFLP–Japanese by conducting teacher-training, developing instructional materials, providing an immersion program in Japan and dispatching Japanese language teachers and advisors, etc. The Foundation, according to the information it sent me, has also developed a two-year Japanese language and culture curriculum known as “enTree – Halina! Be a Nihongojin!” especially developed for the almost 3,000 Japanese language students in 25 secondary schools under the SFLP. As reported, SELP – Japanese started with 11 pilot schools in the NCR region with 3 more schools the next school year. Hence, in SY 2011-12, there were a total of 17 pilot schools spread to regions 1 and 7 with one more school added the next SY. By SY 2013-14, there were a total of 20 pilot schools representing the NCR, regions 1, 7 and 11 with about 3,000 students in both the first and second year of the 2-year curriculum. Thus SFLP- Nihongo has covered more miles than hoped for.


The objective of SFLP is to prepare students for higher education and employment with competence in a second foreign language who can engage in a meaningful interaction in a linguistically and culturally diverse global workplace. The move to further increase the Region’s ownership of SFLP by taking part of the cost-sharing scheme and intensifying support for teachers’ professional foreign language development is expressed by DepEd Order No. 5 issued March 19, 2015. This order instructs DepEd directors, and public secondary school heads to integrate expenses for local training for SFLP into the Region, School Division INSET funds, and School Budget, MOOE of local funds, the Special Education Fund (SEF) and the Regional Human Resources and Training Development (HRTD) Funds for 2015. Activities covered are short or long term local professional development courses and language proficiency tests including diploma of Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). This sharing of expenses among the different tiers of DepEd infuses ownership of SELP especially at the region and division level.

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is at present the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education.

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