Filipinos’ English skills on the decline

A widespread erosion in the Filipinos’ ability to speak, read and write English is jeopardizing the competitive advantage of the local work force over the work force of other countries, according to the American Chamber of Commerce.

John Forbes, chair of the chamber’s committee for community affairs, said English has become the world’s most widely used language for international business and communication.

“Surveys on international competitiveness have consistently cited the Philippines’ large English-speaking, well-educated and readily trainable work force as the country’s overriding competitive advantage. But not for long, it seems,” Forbes observed.

He said the increasing reports of the erosion of the quality of English in the Philippines are sufficient to create concern that the deterioration could be rapid and extensive, and that the country’s number-one competitive advantage is “seriously threatened.”

Because of this, many businesses choose to locate in countries like China, where low labor costs offset the savings gained from having a more skilled work force like the Philippines.

The chamber is the umbrella organization of US companies doing business in the Philippines.

Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus has acknowledged the decline in the quality of Philippine education in general and English proficiency in particular among Filipino workers, but said the government is exerting major efforts to deal with the problem.

De Jesus cited insufficient investment and poor management of the education system as the main reasons for the decline of education in the country.

He admitted that the decline in English proficiency among Filipinos is not merely a language problem but an education problem. Merely “throwing money to stop the problem” won’t do the education system any good.

To arrest the decline, de Jesus said the Education Department has embarked on a five-phase program under its National English Proficiency. The first program is the Self-Assessment Test administered to high-school teachers of English, science and math.

The second is the Mentor Training Program, which trains teachers to become trainers themselves. The third is the National Trainers Training program under which the outstanding teachers will be sent to England to teach.

The fourth is the Orientation of School Heads who drilled under the Mentor Training Program so they can support and carry it out in their schools. The fifth involves monitoring and evaluation.

De Jesus said that with the help of the multiphase program, teachers can learn English in a better way and in turn apply the lessons to their students.

He also encouraged private agencies and big businesses to provide financial assistance to the department to ensure the effectiveness of the program.

Although the Education Department gets the biggest allocation in the national budget, de Jesus said 90 percent of the funds go to the salaries of teachers and personnel.
--Benjie Varella, Correspondent

23/10/2003

Bron : The Manila Times

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