The Komisyon sa Wikang Pilipino (Commission on Filipino Language) on Friday issued a statement opposing the passage of a proposed bill in the House of Representatives mandating English as the medium of instruction in schools, saying it is not only against the Constitution and but also anti-poor.
Commissioner Purificacion de Lima, representing Ilocanos, said the commission is opposing, just like in previous attempts, House Bill (HB) 5091 or “An Act to Enhance the Use of English as the Medium of Instruction in the Educational System” introduced by Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga province.
“Our firm objections to HB 5091 are based on the obvious defects of the bill, which are that ab initio unconstitutional, founded on apparently misinformed assumptions on language and education, and it is superfluous and unnecessary under the prevailing laws and national policy on language and the medium of instruction under the national educational system,” the statement said.
The commission is headed by well-known writer Virgilio Almario as chairman and assisted by 10 commissioners, including de Lima.
The commissioners believed that the Arroyo bill is also anti-Filipino and against the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) study that the mother tongue is indispensable.
Unesco researched showed that children, especially those in the lower grades, learn the most basic language skills better, among which are cognitive skills and idea-formation, in their mother tongue, not in a foreign language.
English is not the mother tongue but Filipino and indigenous languages.
Filipinos’ other dialects aside from Ilocano are Bicol, Kapampangan, Hiligaynon, Waray and Cebuano, among others.
HB 5091 is seeking to use English as a medium of instruction in 70 percent of school subjects and institutions, including vocational schools, limiting Filipino to 10 percent of standard tests, and focus on the evaluation of proficiency in the English language.
“By nature and purpose, HB 5091 is a direct assault to the indigenous Philippine languages as well as Filipino…. the lingua franca …. as unifying agent for the diverse regional cultures and languages,” the statement said.
The commission explained that English is a foreign language and young Filipinos learn two languages immediately, their native language and Filipino, which is only correct because being bilingual makes the learning of a third language easier.
The use of English in business and government has “excluded the masses who have difficulty learning English, a disenfranchisement of the poor Filipinos in the national development.”
HB 5091 says English proficiency is closely linked to quality education and global competitiveness.
“If that is so, then why did our Asian neighbors, such as China, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan, of course, economically and otherwise grown by leaps and bounds, while using their own native languages,” the commission said.
Proponents of HB 5091 say propagation of English will result in the burgeoning call center, business processing and back-office service industries.
JAIME R. PILAPIL