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English-only bill faces tough fight

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:02:00 12/23/2008

Filed Under: Language, Legislation, Education

MANILA, Philippines?True to his name that translates into ?defender,? Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo promises to fight tooth and nail to stop a bill seeking the use of English as the medium of instruction in elementary schools.

The Valenzuela congressman Monday vowed to block the bill in the House of Representatives, which he said might help students land jobs in call centers but further erode basic education in the country.

Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas has said that the passage of his English bill is virtually assured once the House resumes its session in mid-January with more than 200 lawmakers backing the proposed measure.

Rising unemployment rates underscore the need for Filipino workers to be proficient in English so that they can stay competitive in job markets here and abroad, Gullas said.

But Gunigundo, who has authored a bill mandating a multilingual approach to basic education, said he would interpellate the bill?s supporters and present numerous studies showing that children learn better if taught in their native language.

?Let them show the data backing up their stand,? Gunigundo said.

He also said Filipino students should first learn the basics well and this would only happen if they are taught in their native tongue, whichever of the 171 Filipino languages it is.

With a strong education foundation, they would be better equipped to learn more skills and languages, the Valenzuela congressman said.

Short-sighted vision

?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,? Gunigundo said in a phone interview.

He said the English bill was anti-education and anti-poor because the children of indigents, farmers, fisherfolk and the like would have a hard time learning the fundamentals through a language foreign to them.

Children better understand things if these are explained using language already familiar to them, he stressed.

Gunigundo said that under his bill, Filipino and English would be taught as separate subjects, making students proficient in both languages.

Kids tend to parrot

Gunigundo also said that children taught in English would just tend to parrot what the teachers would tell them without grasping the concepts and ideas they were being taught.

This also contributes to children losing interest in school and increasing the drop-out rate, he said.

Earlier, the Valenzuela representative also explained that implementing a mother tongue-based multilingual education would require the government to revamp the school curriculums.

These should thus include local content such as local grammar and literature, indigenous knowledge systems and folklore, he said.



Copyright 2014 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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