Why the 'English bill' is tantamount to national suicide
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-01-06

When will our Congressmen start doing something right? When will they do something that will convince us that they truly represent our best interests and not just their own?

Even when they appear to be legislating a serious attempt to lift our country from the black hole of stagnation that they helped create — they cannot even do things right. A good example is this “English as medium of instruction” bill that Cebu Representative Eduardo Gullas proudly pushes.

Gullas rationalizes the English bill by saying: “Mounting global unemployment due to the worsening economic slump has merely underscored the need for our human resources to be proficient in English — the world’s lingua franca — in order to stay highly competitive in the job markets here and abroad.”

Gullas and the other Representatives who are co-sponsoring this bill do not even realize that the country does not have the teachers who can implement this program towards their flawed vision of success. No less than former Department of Education Secretary Butch Abad revealed a year or two ago that easily 70 percent of public school teachers are incapable of communicating effectively in English.

Now if you start with that reality, just what are our chances of success of improving education and employment prospects? Is that not like aspiring to win the Monaco Grand Prix with four dead sparkplugs? Or attempting to copy China and India in going to outer space without a rocket ship?

With easily 70 percent of public school teachers incapable of communicating effectively in English — Gullas and his English bill co-sponsors will jeopardize the future of this country. They will ‘idiotize’ the nation.

It is the most basic principle of management that objective and strategy must equate with the reality of available means. It may be the dream of every Filipino to duplicate the Chinese hosting of the 2008 Olympics but do we really have the resources to do that? We may be outraged by the number of Filipino seamen who are being held for ransom by Somali pirates but do we have the navy, like China, to send there and rescue them?

Oh, but this seems to be a small matter of reality that does not faze Gullas and his ilk as they push madly for the English bill. Don’t they remind you of the Japanese folly during World War II of sending their pilots on suicide Kamikaze missions because they could not accept the reality that Japan has lost the war? Gullas and his ilk do not realize that this English bill is an act of national suicide.

And this is just based on the fact that easily 70 percent of public school teachers cannot effectively communicate in English. This does not factor other realities that should weigh more. Consider just these two realities.

English or Chinese

English as lingua franca is very much in question now in the light of the advent of the Chinese century. In a recent Australia Network program, a Cambodian girl admitted how she is trying to learn to speak and write Chinese because the economic opportunities teem in China. The Ateneo University has gone full steam ahead with a Chinese studies curriculum. Even the US National Intelligence Council admitted that the US is declining and that China is the emerging new world power.

In one of the few smart moves (perhaps the right moves for all the wrong reasons) that she has made — Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo built on the Marcos initiative to open relations with China. She has shifted from relying on the US to one of closer relations with China.

Our relations with China even expanded from mere trade and economic assistance to now include military training for anti-insurgency. This, of course, must make us wonder as our local Communist insurgency claims to be Maoist.

It does not make sense for the Chinese to train the Philippine military to eradicate Maoists. So, we must wonder if our Maoists are somebody else’s Maoists. Just why for instance is Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht and not Beijing which is nearer the CPP-NDF-NPA area of operations?

Language reality

Language studies prove that there is better comprehension when students are taught in the language they are most familiar with. On the other hand, Gullas and his ilk cannot produce a single reliable study to show how a country progressed because they adopted a foreign language as medium of instruction.

Rep. Gullas and his co-sponsors would have been on track if they merely reinforced English proficiency but not to impose English as a medium of instruction. Many Europeans are adept in at least two languages.

Gullas and company fail to appreciate that the Asian countries that have left us behind taught their people in their selected native language. These countries may be opting now to teach their students English but that is only to develop it as an added skill.

Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo who opposes the English bill is right when he was quoted as saying: “I don’t want the country to end up as a country of call center specialists. That is a short-sighted vision. I want a country of highly skilled workers who will market their services, not themselves.”

Rep. Gunigundo vowed to present language studies during the House deliberations to prove his point and challenge Rep. Gullas and company to produce any study that will support their proposed English bill.

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