What should be the language of instruction in school English or Pilipino?

Congress, which is mandated by the Constitution to decide the issue, remains silent about this.

The Philippine Constitution provides that, Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.

Since 1988, when Congress was restored, no enabling law has been enacted.Until Congress speaks, one can only guess if it is English or the national language for schools and official communication.

Meanwhile, Pilipino became the medium of instruction in schools in all levels without efforts to truly develop Pilipino as an efficient medium of instruction.Thus, the off-and-on debate whether it is English or Pilipino goes on.

In the last three decades or so, English proficiency in the Philippines declined. Inaction in Congress has partly been blamed.

Shortly after her election, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared her new language policy hoping to reverse the decline of English proficiency among Filipino graduates.

“Until Congress enacts a law mandating Filipino as the language of instruction, I am directing the Department of Education to return English as the primary medium of instruction, provided some subjects will still be taught in Filipino, she had declared during a keynote address at the Far Eastern University’s anniversary rites.

The President’s initiative was well-received by Filipinos. English, which was first taught more than a hundred years ago in the country, has given Flipinos a decided advantage over other non-English speaking peoples in commerce, business, overseas job opportunities, and other activities.

But President Arroyo’s directive to the education department was only a temporary answer. Debates will continue until Congress gives its decision to fashion out a long-term language policy.

Meanwhile, the reasons to put back English in its prominent place in the educational system continue to grow. Consider these:

A Filipino cannot be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, an agriculturist, diplomat or even a teacher without learning English or using it in school because English is the main language of textbooks, science and technology used in Philippine schools and universities.

For the Filipinos, English means money. For example, the growing number of call center jobs proves this.

Conversely, Filipinos are losing out in overseas maritime jobs because former non-English speaking foreigners (Taiwanese, Koreans, etc) have learned English to qualify as seamen.

There are now more than 12,000 South Koreans who come to the Philippines to learn English since it’s cheaper here than in, for example, the United Kingdom, where around 700,000 people go to learn English, spending as much as one billion British pound.

English enjoys official or special status in at least 75 countries with a total population of over two billion.

About 80 percent of the world’s electronically stored information is in English.