Tell it to SunStar: Schools, politicians

I CANNOT, for the life of me, imagine how a Provincial Governor can order public elementary and high schools to teach only in English. The last time I read the administrative Code of 1987 is that the promotion of quality education and the promulgation of the rules and regulations are left to the Department of Education, and not to provincial governors.

Republic Act 5447, enacted in 1968 creating the school boards, gives the latter the right to make recommendations on matters affecting the students. But the law does not give the provincial school boards (PSB) much less the provincial governor, the right or authority to tamper with the curriculum.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia who sits as co-chair of the PSB, said the moves are offshoots of the Philippines’ “dismal and embarrassing” rating in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), a worldwide study intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance in mathematics, science and reading.

The Philippines scored the lowest in reading comprehension, out of 79 participating countries. It also placed second lowest in mathematics and science.

The governor said: “Its obvious that we have a very confused studentry who are not learning anything. Why did we reinvent the wheel? There was nothing wrong with it. We were able to produce brilliant graduates when the medium of instruction was English. It did not make us less Filipinos. It did not make us less nationalistic.”

Advocating English as the medium of instruction to the exclusion of Filipino will of course not make us less Filipino. But to do so is to trump Article XIV, Section 7 of the Constitution, which states: “For purposes of communication and instruction, the official language of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.”

Our fixation with the English language without developing our own native tongue gives us the illusion to equate our knowledge of English with national progress. But look at China, Japan, and Thailand. They are not proficient in English but no one can question the reality of their economic and cultural development. Our dismal performance in the 2018 Pisa should not deserve the knee-jerk reactions of our public officials. Salustiano Jimenez, DepEd 7 officer-in-charge, urged the public (and this includes the public officials) not to worry too much about the PISA result.

Jimenez said the country’s Pisa ranking, particularly on the reading comprehension, ”had many underlying factors, including the way the test was administered, claiming that our children are not used to the kind of examination that is computer aided.”

It is, therefore, unfair for politicians to blame the Mother Tongue Based Multi Lingual Education (MTBMLE) for our debacle on our rating on the 2018 Pisa without any scientific study and analysis that language is the problem.

Education is too important a matter that it should be left to educators, not to the politicians. (Democrito C. Barcenas)