The existence of language is essential to mankind for it serves as a medium of communication and, a source of survival for the majority. In the Philippines, both the Filipino and English language are used as media of instruction in public and private schools, government agencies and, local and national corporations, among others. The English language has played a substantial role in the lives of the Filipinos, but its partial abandonment would not cost us that much.
Our dependence to English proficiency might actually be the cause of our country’s underdevelopment- and that is more expensive than not being an expert in the English language. Majority of our countrymen advocates the use of English as an exclusive medium of instruction in our local schools, which serves as an advantage to schooled Filipinos. But let us take a closer look at our neighboring country, Thailand- whose people are not as adept as Filipinos in terms of speaking in English. They may seem uncompetitive in call-center English but Thailand had surpassed the Philippines in every area of development. The locals of Thailand are not known English speakers yet they are better at promoting their country’s tourism than us, Filipinos. Moreover, they don’t need to send tens of thousands of their countrymen in a foreign country to keep their economy stable.
Do you know why Philippines is still located at the bottom of the hierarchy? It’s because we don’t understand one another. Perhaps the 1987 Bilingual Policy in Education has its drawbacks. The said policy aims to improve the use of Filipino and English by teaching and using both languages in all levels as media of instruction. However, we neither cultivated nor promoted, to its maximum level, the use of both languages. In fact, the continuing pre dominance of English for teaching has produced a labor force that is barely literate in English or Filipino, and that this constitutes mediocrity in the workplace. It is not anymore a surprise that foreign investors set their production facilities in other countries that may have poorer English skills than we do but, by far, surpass us with technological developments and labor productivity. Furthermore, it confuses me how our Philippine presidents, and our government, expect to gather the entire nation to work towards unity when they are speaking in a foreign language that only an educated elite can fully decipher when majority of the Filipinos are not that familiar with the language. We cannot work towards unity when we don’t know what the other party is saying. I am not saying that the use and practice of the English language must be abolished because I, as a student, still acknowledge its importance. But what is more significant than the ability to speak the English language or communicate with foreigners is our capacity to innovate and grasp abstract ideas, and the ability to unite towards common goals. These qualities can be acquired more efficiently and effectively if it is taught in a language that everyone can naturally understand- like the language a person grew up with. As our former President Joseph Estrada, with his carabao English, once reminded us that the Japanese and many other developed nations have the difficulty in speaking the English language but that was never a hindrance to their development. The Japanese built their economies on the ability to make things that other nations want- to spark new ideas, invent products, and develop systems to manufacture them, rather than serving foreigners. The Philippines’ educational system need to teach the students more than a foreign language- they must teach them how to think critically.