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Pulling at the roots

When the Spanish went searching for the island of Moluccas in the early 16th century, their journey led them to stumble upon a group of islands in Homonhon. The natives of these islands which would soon become the Philippines mainly spoke four dialects such as the Visayan, Kapampangan, Ilocano and Pangasinense languages. The languages enumerated above were used by these natives when Chinese traders came with their silk cloths, porcelains and iron to barter for our ancestors’ pearls, hemp cloth, and spices.

Now, our goods take the form of human workforce which we label as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). According to the 2013 data from the Commission of Filipino Overseas (CFO), there has been approximately 10.2 million Filipinos or of Filipino descent who has experienced living and working abroad. This increasing number speak volumes to the glaring lack of quality jobs in the Philippines and is compounded by the continuing globalization that is making it easy for job agencies to gather unemployed Filipino workers to toil in foreign soil.

The government seems to be riding this trend, creating the Special Program in Foreign Language (SPFL) under the K-12 program. This elective course aims to bolster the younger generation’s communicative competency should they venture out to greener pastures later in life. The SPFL program offers languages such as the Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Japanese (Nihongo), Korean and Spanish. They are reported to have enrolled around 10,500 students nationwide. The Department of Education (DepEd) has defended this development by citing reasons such as that the SPFL aims to prepare the graduates in a linguistically and culturally diverse global workplace.

Davao itself has been home to this program as early as the school year 2009-2010 when it was piloted in Davao City Special School (DCSS) followed by Davao City National High School (DCNHS), Tagum City National High School (TCNHS) and Digos City National High School in 2010-2011. SPFL replaces the Career Pathways Technology Livelihood (CPTLE) program if the student chooses the former over the latter. CPTLE provides two curriculums. First is the Technical-Vocational Education based TLE which aims to train the students in the use of tools and equipment. The Entrepreneurship Education-based TLE however, focuses on the livelihood skills and teaching the students in starting a small household enterprise.

The idea of educating our children with the multiple foreign languages is exciting if only and only if our educational system is as ideal as we would like it to be. There is no doubt that private schools will be able implement this additional change to the K-12 scheme, but how about public schools all over the Philippines? Are we confident that the government can make this opportunity to learn available to everybody and not just in central areas? Can the teachers effectively teach students the Filipino, English and foreign languages at the same time without compromising the quality of learning of any of the three? Is it still worth it to learn the Filipino language?

Additionally, inculcating these foreign languages in the curriculum sends the wrong message to our youth. It is as if we’re saying that it is better to master a foreign language than to love our own words because you will not be working in the Philippines anyway. This is saddening because we spend so much for our students only to watch them take their talents to another country with a bigger pay.

Such a development would be welcome in the future. A time where our economy allows our workers to stay closer to home. A time where our government develops it’s citizens to keep them rather than export them to foreign countries. A time when quality education is a standard, and not a luxury. Until then, the introduction of these foreign languages to our curriculum would  feel like an unnecessary luxury which will further uproot the fading Filipino nationalism of the next generation as the language of the Pinoys would again be put into the sidelines.

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