What’s wrong with our educational system?

By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star)

I got a lot of letters on the article we wrote last January 7. This one from Richard Gunnar Juve was quite lengthy, but I will reprint most of it as this man expresses best most of my sentiments and rams home my message.

“Dear Mr. Avila… I never let a day go by without reading your interesting columns in the Philippine STAR. I am an American senior citizen trying to live in San Juan, Metro Manila. Your article on Jan.7, 2014 entitled “Phl Huge Population Boon or Bane?” was of particular interest. Several days earlier I had told my Filipino buddy that I read that the population of the Philippines was 105 million, (CIA World Fact Book for 2012) and he said, “Why hasn’t the government mentioned this large increase? Next day your article appears corroborating my statement.

For years I have noted that the level of English spoken by young people has decreased. This was a casual empirical observation without a review of any test data. However, our helper at our residence in San Juan has two children ages 20 and 15. a boy and girl respectively who cannot put an English sentence together. I pulled the boy out of the poor instruction he was receiving in the high school and placed him in a local private school.

Last night I asked the young girl for her homework. I wanted to review her homework since she never is studying….She is expected to graduate at age 15 in March. She is totally incapable of entering the job market. I attended the San Juan High school last year for three consecutive days. The Principal was not in the building in those three days. The filthy, inadequately lighted English class was poorly attended. There were no text books and the teacher taught in mixture of Tagalog and English and was repeatedly late and never prepared for class. Most of the rest of the world, teaches English as the second language.

The mainland Chinese have gone on a crash emphasis to teach all their students English. My personal experiences in China leads me to say that they have been substantially successful in teaching all young people to speak oral English. They plan to export nurses for example which will compete with the Philippine export market of nurses abroad.

Your last paragraph in your article, which discusses Tagalog Nationalism, was noted. I recall some years ago reading that the University of the Philippines was hoping to teach all their classes in Tagalog. I discussed this with my wife who is a graduate of UP. When you wrote, “Learning the Tagalog language has no clear advantage for the Filipino when he is looking for a job here or abroad” I felt that I was not alone in my feelings. I said to myself, “Finally there is a Filipino that recognizes the danger of a single national language.”

The 20-year old young man whom I have placed in a private school expects to find employment by his uncle who works on a ship. Several days ago, the driver of a friend of mine told me he worked on ships and sailed to the USA and South America on chemical freighters and that there was no employment opportunities unless the applicant for a job had a command of oral English.

The San Juan taxi drivers all speak better English than these two children whom I am so concerned for and in my mind represent a microcosm of the population at large.” Unfortunately this letter is quite long so I had to cut it in the middle so I could fit it in this column. So let me continue with this letter.

The job of education is just not getting done. The government is robbing these kids of any chance for self-improvement or a better life that what their parents have. They are programmed for failure. The government and Education Department are punishing the poor through a deteriorating school system. They don’t realize that investment in education have strong economic rewards. Your articles usually deal with the corruption, plundering of the national treasury, the need for justice and public security, reform of transportation, master planning, economic and health improvements. Something is desperately and horribly wrong with educational priorities.

I commend you for your dedication and determination to wake the population up and to defend the poor and helpless. Your excellent journalism does not go unnoticed. Ignorance and illiteracy seem to be acceptable to the government. I love this country and this issue among others saddens me. Richard Gunnar Juve 143 Lourdes Drive, San Juan City.” Thank you Richard, you literally took the words off my mouth. But we are not alone in this! Millions of Cebuano, Chavacano, Ilocano, etc speakers also feel the same way we do."

This article was first published over at the PhilStar website. It is reproduced with permission.