“Removing Filipino as a subject in the new GEC is not just a local issue; it is a moral issue that goes against the integrity of our race.” – Prof. Patrocinio Villafuerte
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
“It made me realize that your mother tongue comes to you without any effort on your part. It is a dowry that comes into your possession without you noticing. It is then judged by another language that has been added later and that comes from somewhere else. Your mother tongue feels as direct and unconditional as your own skin, and it is just as vulnerable if held in low esteem, treated with contempt, or even banned by others.” -Herta Müller
College and university professors in Filipino are up in arms against the memorandum of the Commission on Higher Education/CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 20, Series of 2013. The said memorandum aims to remove Filipino as a subject to be taught in college by 2016 as part of the new General Education Curriculum (GEC).
De la Salle professor in Filipino David Michael San Juan said that while the memorandum advocates the teaching of subjects in the Filipino language, the Ched memorandum ensures that the study of Filipino as a language by itself will cease.
“From the onset, this is a most unpatriotic action. The very idea of removing Filipino as a subject in the higher levels of academic learning is unconscionable,” he said.
San Juan explained that the memorandum goes against the Article XIV Sections 6 and 7 of the 1987 Constitution which state that “the national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. 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 (Section 6). Section 7, on the other hand, states that for purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.
Teaching Filipino in college is part of the implementation of Resolution No. 298-2011 of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) regarding the College Readiness Standards of the Philippines. Covered by the same resolution are the minimum skills that students need to learn or master so that they could be prepared for college. The CHED has named 16 skills in Filipino. These will all be rendered useless if Filipino as a subject is no longer sustained and expanded.
“In many European countries, the United States and countries in Southeast Asia, subjects that focus on the study of the national language are part of the General Education Curriculum (GEC) or its equivalent. At the time when the so-called ASEAN Integration is taking place, Filipinos should be strengthening their own language, culture and identity so they could contribute to the project of regional socio-cultural integration. Strengthening the Filipino language in all levels of education is also part of preparations for ASEAN integration, “San Juan argued.
The Filipino language professor explained that the national language is still quite young and it has yet to be completely intellectualized or used in different fields.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ National Committee on Language and Translation (NCCA-NCLT) has also spoken up on the issue. Earlier in May, the institution’s members unanimously signed a resolution asking the GEC be revised again, but this time to include nine mandatory units of Filipino for all courses at the tertiary level.
Another organization that promotes the use of Filipino, the Pambansang Samahan sa Linggwistika at Literaturang Filipino, Ink. (PSLLF) also supports the NCCA-NCLT resolution by launching a change.org petition, which asks the CHED and Congress to include the nine Filipino units in the GEC. The petition was initiated by San Juan. One of the signatories of the petition, a Julie Hementera from Quezon City posted this comment (translated) last June 15.
“The Ched’s reasoning that Filipino is already part of the curriculum in elementary and high school is not enough. Why don’t they apply this reasoning to English? To extend the argument, students also learn math and science in these levels, so should these subjects be removed as well? Second, this is clearly an attempt on the part of our government to divide society and again remove the one language that can help unite the people.”
“Ano ang gusto nilang wikang magbubuklod sa atin? Ingles? Chinese? Nihonggo? Sa palagay ko, Ingles ang nais nila dahil sa ang mga nakaupo sa mga puwesto ngayon ay mga burgis. Inaakala nilang lahat ay matututo ng wikang banyaga. Paano na ang mga matatandang henerasyon at ang bagong henerasyon na hindi na ito ang kanilang intelligence? Hindi bihasa sa pag-aaral ng mga wikang banyaga. Hindi pa ba naririnig ng mga namumuno sa edukasyon ang Multiple Intelligence? Ito ang hatid ng napakatalinong desisyon ng gobyerno, ang pagwasak sa lipunang Pilipino. Palagay ko pansariling interes ang nangibabaw sa desisyon na ito dahil burgis ang nakaupo. Hindi kayang gumawa at magsalita ng speech sa wikang Filipino kaya mabilisang desisyon, tanggalin ang wikang Filipino.”
In a different online fora, members of the academe explained that the Filipino language is the key to national unity and fostering understanding between all citizens in the Philippines. This, they argue, is why it should continue to be taught. Research into the Filipino language, they demand, should also be strengthened, and teachers in the tertiary level who teach the language should be supported with resources and opportunities to do research on the language.
“The CHed should make Filipino as subject mandatory in the tertiary level because if the issue if left to the whim of universities, they will either make it optional or not include it at all in the curriculum,” PSLLF president Aurora Batnag pointed out. “It is in the higher levels of education that the intellectualization of language takes place, this is needed to ensure that the language is used in all levels and disciplines,” she said.
Batnag also said that the Ched memorandum and the K-12 program also serves to negate the struggle of patriotic academics in the 1970s to ensure that six to nine units of Filipino be taught in college.
Based on the results of the June 12 dialogue, the teachers will again write to the CHed and call that it formally convene a Technical Panel/Technical Working Group on Filipino and the General Education Committee. The dialogue, they said, should include representatives of universities who assert the necessity of having Filipino taught as a subject in the tertiary level.
On June 12, the Departamento ng Filipino of DLSU will hold a consultative forum-assembly of all Filipino departments to prepare for the expected meeting with the CHED. Teachers from the University of Sto. Tomas, Ateneo de Manila and the University of the Philippines have already pledged their support to the activity. The main aim of the upcoming activity, San Juan explained, was to form a concensus among teachers regarding the design of Filipino subjects in college as will be proposed to the CHed.
In a March 30 letter to the Ched, some 300 teachers from various universities signed in protest against the removal of Filipino from the new curriculum. These included teachers from DLSU-Manila, Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas (UST), Philippine Normal University (PNU), DLSU-Dasmariñas, Manila Tytana Colleges, UP Diliman, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig, Malayan Colleges Laguna, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB), University of the East (UE), Colegio de San Juan de Letran, St. Mary’s Academy of Caloocan City, Bagumbayan National High School, Signal Village National High School, Iloilo State College of Fisheries, University of San Jose-Recoletos, University of Perpetual Help-System, Bagong Silangan High School, Saint Joseph College-Maasin City, Palawan State University, Elite International School-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, De La Salle Araneta University, Pasig Catholic College, City of Bogo Science and Arts Academy, Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School, F. Benitez Elementary School, R. Palma Elementary School, A. Regidor Elementary School, Mambajog Elementary School, Bon-ot Big Elementary School, St. Paul College-Pasig, Justice Emilio Angeles Gancangco Memorial High School, Bataan Peninsula State University, Mapua Institute of Technology, Assumption-Antipolo, St. Scholastica���s Academy-Marikina, Taguig City University, Colegio San Agustin-Makati, Marinduque State College, Pamantasan ng Cabuyao-Laguna, Miriam College, St. Paul College of Parañaque, Misamis University, Anawahay National High School, Rizal Technological University, Southern Christian College, Mater Dei Academy, Central Mindanao University, and the Alpha Angelicum Academy.
National Artist for Literature and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chairman Virgilio Almario said during a radio interview that the issue may reach the Supreme Court. He said that they were awaiting replies from the CHED and the House of Representatives regarding KWF suggestions that other college subjects be taught in Filipino. He explained that the KWF has already put together four Filipino syllabi out of the eight subjects that will be taught in the new GE curriculum.
BPOs investing in Philippine education
In the meantime, could the move to remove the teaching of Filipino as a language be connected to the government’s economic and business goals? De las Salle’s San Juan agrees, especially given recent coordinative actions between the country’s education agencies and the private sector.
According to a report by the ICEF Monitor, the private sector in conjunction with the government is in the process of implementing reforms in the education sector. Two of these reforms include the transformation of agricultural colleges into state universities to provide more opportunities to disadvantaged students.
In relation to this, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has launched a facilitation program called “My First Job” which aims to provide skills training to college and university students. The program’s fund of US $5.6 million comes from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). In supporting the program, both agencies said that they want to help “Filipino youth find jobs at much faster rate and encourage more foreign investors to put up business in the country.”
In July 2013, a higher education summit took place between business executives and university administrators. The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) led a gathering of top administrators of universities and colleges as well as business executives and industry leaders to discuss issues that affect the system of higher education. The summit aimed to link higher education with industry to solve the eternal problem of a mismatch between jobs in the market and the skills of graduates.
The summit immediately came out with recommendations for the HEI, including curriculum review and quality assurance.
Learning institutions vowed to identify competencies that are expected from graduates of higher education institutions in four courses: business management, information technology, electronics engineering, tourism, and hotel/restaurant management. The PBed and the CHed signed a memorandum of agreement regarding these courses which are said to be the main academic areas that produce the workforce for sunrise industries important to the economy’s continued growth.
Graduate employment is a concern at a time when unemployment rates are rising in the Philippines. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the “majority of the unemployed were high school graduates (31.7%), college graduates (21.3%) and college undergraduates (14.6%).” The issue of stimulating job creation is of key concern to the current government, and efforts are being made to address it within the P 2.268 trillion (nearly US $52 billion) 2014 spending plan.
In 2014, the government gave the education sector the lion’s share of the national budget. Allocations for education are pegged at P 336.9 billion (over US $7.7 billion) or nearly 15% of the total, which is 14% more than the amount allocated in 2013. Most of this new funding will work to stimulate and develop the K-12 sector.
Total enrollment for business courses growing
The PBeD said that the number of those who enroll in courses within the four disciplines form at least half of the total national enrollment in schools in recent years. It said that the improvements in the system of higher education will make institutions and their graduates more relevant to industry and make graduates more employable. This will then create a stronger workforce for industries.
The Ched itself has also embarked on efforts to establish partnerships between industry and the academe. Educational officials explained that all technical panels of the CHed have industry representatives. Colleges and universities are also being encouraged to become involved with industry by engaging in on-the-job training schemes, apprenticeship and faculty immersion.
Still, much can still be improved by way of helping graduates secure immediate employment. The CHed admitted that only 40 percent of the over 500,000 graduates every year become employed one year after finishing college, and 18 percent of all unemployed Filipinos are college graduates. On the other hand, the National Statistics Office (NSO) said that 21.3 percent of all unemployed Filipinos are new graduates.
The CheD reported that of all the graduates who responded to the want ads of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines, only 5 to 8 percent were hired because the rest did not possess the competencies required by the jobs offered. Given this, there is reason to believe that the newly-established academe-industry working relations can help bring desired result: that of producing the manpower demanded by many industry vacancies. Policies, standards and guidelines will be reviewed for the four aforementioned disciplines, and new requirements will be implemented to make sure that the PSGs meet the needs of industries.
A moral issue of integrity
The debate regarding the correctness of removing Filipino as a subject to be taught beyond the high school level continues to rage as of this writing. Various symposia and for a continue to be held in many universities across the country on the same.
A professor in Filipino in the National Teachers College and Palanca-award winning writer Prof. Patrocinio Villafuerte said succinctly (and in Filipino), “There have been countless times and ways when the educators of this country with colonial mentality have violated the essence of the national language. Instead of abiding by what is stated in the Constitution and work to ensure that the national language flourishes, these educators blatantly go out of their way to kill it.”
“Removing Filipino as a subject in the new GEC is not just a local issue; it is a moral issue that goes against the integrity of our race. It is not enough to teach children up to the 11th and 12th grade to say that they are already good at using the national language. Filipino should continue to be taught and used up to all levels of formal education,” he said.