Poor language performance

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

The Philippines is an Asian country that is among the few where the English language is spoken and understood by almost everybody. However, that our students would land at the tail end of the rest of the world in an English examination is not surprising.

The decline I believe began when the government under Corazon Aquino imposed the Tagalog language to the detriment of the international language. The shallow nationalism that pervaded when she allowed the leftists to bulldoze her government can be faulted for this retrograde.

Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones reportedly will look at the effects of the choice of language on test performance as she acknowledged the need to strengthen the teaching and learning of English.

She asked, “Does the choice of language affect test performance?” Of course. How can one answer correctly if one did not understand the question?

She admitted that “reading in English is clearly a weakness of our learners, and this may also affect the performance of our learners in Science and Math, as the language of instruction and testing in later grades is English,” Briones said at the launch of “SulongEdukalidad” in Quezon City, last week.

Examine the title of that program she is launching. “Edukalidad” is neither English nor Spanish but a mutant supposedly to make students learn English. Linguistic dualism and provincialism plus populism just to go down to the level of the masses have their negative side.

The Philippines, the report said, got a poor ranking in the Program for International Student Assessment 2018, ranking the lowest among 79 countries that participated in the assessment. How could this happen when English is our medium of instruction? The English that many DepEd teachers used is what we called in our earlier days as “English nga kinimatis”. This is worse than pidgin English. Many teachers are not fluent in the language.

Look at the latest craze – texting. The texters use shortcuts or mere letters or try to use English that cannot be understood or even make sense.  Worse, teachers accept answers in examinations using this moronic blabber.

The report also said that the “assessment results showed that the Philippines scored 353 in mathematics, 357 in science, and 340 in reading, all below the average of participating Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. The DepEd joined in this form of evaluation in 2018 for the first time as part of its reform plans on quality basic education.

The good thing in this result is that the Philippine educational system exposed its weakness through a non-partisan body. It prompted Briones to say that her department “is reviewing the basic education curriculum to address the gaps.”

Among these, she said, is “curriculum review that aims to study the emphasis of the education system on foundational competencies, such as reading and mathematics, especially in the early grades.”

She directed the Curriculum and Instruction strand, specifically the Bureau of Curriculum Development, and Bureau of Education Assessment to study and strengthen the teaching and learning in English “if we are to continue with English as our language of instruction and testing. I direct that we make sure that through the curriculum review, these competencies are clearly articulated, and are not sacrificed by congestion of ancillary competencies.” Curricular congestion is one culprit.

Briones said quality education would be difficult and long-drawn. She called for the support of all stakeholders. But to be efficient, we must address “one limiting variable for our efforts and interventions: How will this translate in the concrete at the school and classroom level? It is at the level of the school and the classroom that quality will ultimately depend.”

One problem that has almost a unanimous assent of parents is the number of subjects that overload the students. In private schools, kids need an assistant to carry their books.

The result is half-baked graduates. As the ancient proverbs said, “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” But even a play is a learning process that classrooms cannot teach effectively.

In our days, we had few books and subjects but got drilled on language and the humanities and the rest of the learning process followed with ease and competence.

Secretary Briones should reexamine the pedagogical philosophy and psychology that influence our school systems. We can’t have them all in one basket.