English as Medium of Instruction
an argumentative essay
by Clyde Marc L. Garcia
Native language is a key for achieving aspirations. Language is very important for human development and makes us distinctive from the rest of animals. It shapes the way we think, our emotions, and interaction among other individuals. According to John Stuart Mill, “Language is the light of the mind”. Indeed, if one doesn’t value his language he might be at risk of having difficulties in understanding. In the Philippine setting, Filipino is their native language but almost all academic subjects are being taught in English. This might be the reason why the quality of education in this country is low and after all the government still want to enhance the proficiency of English. Enhancing English as medium of instruction is not a solution for improving the quality of education in the Philippines.
Knowledge of each individual lies in his own language. In the Philippines, academic subjects are taught in English except for Filipino subject. Certainly, Filipino is the native language of Filipinos and not English. English is a foreign language but President Arroyo have already signed an Executive Order (EO) which aimed to strengthen the use of English as medium of instruction at all levels of the education system (Executive Order 210, 1987 Constitution). This means that whether the subject is Mathematical or Sciences teachers are obliged to teach these subject areas in English and students also will communicate using English. According to retired justice Isagani Cruz, the EO 210 is anti-poor and alienates Filipino school children from their Filipino heritage and would make them functional illiterates (Tetch Torres, 2007). Using foreign language can be a great hindrance for both teachers and students in the learning process. As a solution, students should feel free to ask elaborations regarding the course in their most expressive language since interaction between teachers and students is crucial than the amount of materials covered in a course. Those lessons that were covered in the course are basically nothing if the clarity of the concepts are not well explained (David, 2005).
Non-English speaking countries got higher positions among the seventy one countries who participated in an international high school test for Mathematics and Science (National Center for Education Statistics) sponsored by Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS). The hidden explanation behind this event is that these non-English speaking countries are using their own native language in their entire academic subjects whether the subject is Mathematics or Sciences. Although they are using international books, sometimes American author, they are translating the whole content of the book to the language meaningful to them. Here, they find the concepts more understandable and easy to digest. Moreover, teachers of these non-English speaking countries are not encouraging their students to learn language aside from their own. Altogether, valuing one’s own language is a vital factor for competitiveness.
Countries like Thailand, China, Singapore and Malaysia are some examples of non-English speaking countries that have a kind of economy much greater than what Philippines have. In fact, Filipinos are much better in speaking English than these countries but it is sad to realize that they are more prosperous than us. Filipinos always have the notion that if you are good in speaking English, then you are smart and brilliant. But Filipinos claiming that they are proficient in English actually think in Filipino; they are just translating the thoughts to English (Esposo, 2006). Proficiency in English is not a measure of having high intellectual capacity. It is the knowledge that counts. Even a certain Filipino is very proficient in English but lack the knowledge of accomplishing a task for he cannot understand the concepts used to unlock the problem, and then his proficiency in English is ineffective and void. This merely shows poor understanding but high proficiency in English. But to a person with a concrete knowledge introduced to him through the language most meaningful to him, surely he will be successful in spite of obstacles.
As has been said, more Filipinos can achieve excellence in academics and in real life situation when taught in the language they are most familiar with. Today, knowledge is a very important factor for competitiveness. The higher knowledge is the bigger the opportunity of being competitive even globally. English as medium of instruction will only contribute to another problem in education instead of progress. There is no shortcut for immediate improvement; it must come from a step by step preparation. In order for the quality of education in the Philippines to get high, government must first consider the native language as the primary medium of instruction. Concepts must be explained in the most meaningful language of the students for them to easily make deeper understanding and analysis of the concepts instead of memorizing all the information that may eventually fly away from the mind after several days. Like all other no-English speaking countries, switching to the native language instead of English is the best way to improve the quality of education in the Philippines.