Updated Position Statement: Languages in the General Education Curriculum (GEC)

We are in favor of a language policy that:
I. is inclusive and non-prescriptive;
II. gives HEIs the freedom to select the language or languages of instruction to be used in the GEC, as appropriate to the specific context.
We do not support a language policy that:
I. limits the teaching of GEC subjects to just English and Filipino;
II. stipulates any minimum number of subjects that must be taught in a particular language.

The above position is founded on, but not limited to, the following reasons:

a. Medium of instruction should be a contextualized choice depending on the needs and interests of a particular learning community.
b. Numerous factors should be considered in selecting an appropriate medium of instruction for an HEI, department, or even a particular subject, such as research thrusts, economic forces, the competencies of the instructor(s) and students, learning materials, and public approval.
c. In addition to English and Filipino, several Philippine languages have been effectively used as mediums of instruction by HEIs, such as Negros Oriental State University (Journalism), University of Northern Philippines (Communication), Ateneo de Naga (Philosophy), Catanduanes State University (Engineering), Bohol University (Engineering), UP Tacloban (Literature), and more. Being institutions of higher learning where the operative mode is exploration and discovery, they should not be restricted to just teaching in Filipino and English but instead be given the freedom to innovate in teaching in other languages and contribute in the intellectualization of languages in their region.
d. General Education is supposed to be general. Requiring subjects of only one particular language or the use of one particular language in a number of subjects does not qualify as general education. If the GEC is to have a language requirement, it should be a flexible one whereby the student has a choice as to what language he/she would like to take to fulfil the language requirement.

a. The Philippines is a multilingual country. Privileging English and the national language in the 20th century has  i) reinforced  class divisions based on language, whereby fluent speakers of these languages enjoy advantages, privileges, and prestige not afforded to other Filipinos; ii) undermined access and innovation; iii) hampered awareness, tolerance, sensitivity, and appreciation of the true diversity of the country; iv) threatened the vitality and existence of dozens of Philippine languages and associated cultures; Schools should not reproduce such inequitable conditions in our society but instead become an agent for social change. Moreover, any language to be taught or used should be presented in the context of a multilingual society.
b. Diversity is not a threat to national unity. It is the disrespect and ignorance of diversity—manifested in exclusionary policies and attitudes—that is far more dangerous. The Philippines has been identified among the countries with the highest risk of educational, economic, and social problems due to its restrictive language-in-education policies.

a. Efforts have been made to intellectualize various Philippine languages by groups like Akademiyang Binisaya, NAKEM, GUMIL, Sumakwelan Writers’ Association, Katig Waray Writers, and Ulupan na Pansiansay Salitan Pangasinan, and many more. We have also existing university-based research hubs like the Center for Capampangan Studies (Holy Angel University), University Center of Bicol Studies (Ateneo de Naga University), the Ilokano Language and Literature program of the University of Hawaii. Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education teachers have started teaching and thus intellectualizing the mother tongues of their pupils. The potential of Philippine languages to facilitate intellectual discourse should not be dismissed. Regional and local languages may be particularly suitable for GEC core subjects like Understanding the Self, Readings in Philippine History, Purposive Communication, and various General Education Electives.
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution declares that Filipino shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. In the more than 20 years since, very few features from other Philippine languages other than Tagalog have been incorporated into the Filipino used in school and media.  Excluding native Philippine languages (besides Tagalog in the form of Filipino) from various domains, particular higher education, will continue to hamper the enrichment of Filipino. Pushing the national language without any practical mechanisms to make it more representative, will likewise undermine its public acceptance.  

a. The right to learn and use one’s mother tongue, and the right to a pluralistic, equitable education system are promoted in international legal instruments such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and
Linguistic Minorities, and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. These rights are not limited to basic education.
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution recognizes Filipino as the national language.  The Constitution, however, does not declare it as the sole medium of official communication and instruction—English is an official language and the regional languages are recognized as auxiliary official languages and media of instruction. Any policy therefore on language use should always reflect such combination – Filipino, English and regional languages.
c. The Constitution espouses “unity in diversity”, freedom of speech and expression, and academic freedom for all institutions of higher learning. The Philippines is a democratic country and freedom of speech and expression should include what language a person or persons would like to use, while academic freedom should include what languages a teacher would like to use and teach.
d. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371) recognizes the rights of indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples to determine their education systems by providing education in their own language and in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

In light of the above, we earnestly request that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) uphold the existing Commission Memorandum Order 20 s. 2013 regarding the new General Education Curriculum, with only a minor revision necessary: to allow the use of other Philippine languages besides English and Filipino as mediums of instruction.

CHED and other concerned government agencies are also requested to announce concrete plans on the retooling and deployment of affected GE instructors (not just Filipino but also Math, Humanities, English and PE) when CMO 20 2013 comes into effect.

Finally, as advocacy group for MTBMLE, we ask CHED to expedite the revision of Teacher Education Curriculum so that it will respond to the language and pedagogical requirements of MTBMLE.

170+ Talaytayan MLE and other concerned Filipinos
Sign our online petition: http://bit.ly/no-interference-HEI

Download the PDF version



(Click this link to sign the petition)

Several related groups have been pressuring the Commission on Higher Education to amend the newly crafted CMO 20 series 2013 and make Filipino a requirement in higher education. And to think that some members of the said groups were privileged to participate in the series of consultations and crafting of the said policy, which they now oppose. In May 2014, the Committee on Language and Translation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) issued a resolution demanding that 9 units of Filipino language be a mandatory part of the General Education Curriculum in colleges and universities. Does anyone else find it ironic that the government body entrusted to preserve cultural diversity, which includes linguistic diversity, sponsored a resolution that seeks the blanket inclusion of 9 mandatory units of only Filipino and makes no mention of any other language?

Unfortunately, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) seems to be bowing to the pressure of these one-sided groups, which are composed mostly of national language writers and instructors. The chair of CHED, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, issued a press statement on June 23, 2014, saying that they are considering (maybe as a concession) making it mandatory that three of the General Education subjects be taught using Filipino. They say, yes there is academic freedom but only as far as deciding which 3 GE subjects are to be taught in Filipino. The reservation of a certain number of national language slots in the GEC without extending the same kind of privilege to other languages—Philippine or otherwise—is a highly problematic move. CHED would essentially be forcing colleges and universities—which should be bastions of free thinking, plurality, and equality to subscribe to a hegemonic one-nation-one language ideology. Any language policy should reflect the multilingual context of our learners. Furthermore, since languages mediate learning, the choice of language to be used in a particular area of study should be based on the objective to improve learning outcomes and to equip the students to the world of work and service in their own community and beyond.

Pro-national language adherents may invoke the Constitution to support its demand. Yes, the Constitution states that “the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.” Regardless of the questionable wisdom of having a constitutional provision that—a) reads like an implementing rule, forever committing the government to promote something without recourse; and b) pushes a concept of national homogeneity so at odds with our multicultural/multilingual nature—the Constitution is nevertheless not an unequivocal legal basis for the mandatory use of Filipino in higher education. Why? “Taking steps to initiate and sustain” is not the same as “mandating” and it should be viewed in the context of linguistic democracy and academic freedom.

Furthermore, there is a critical difference between the indefinite article “a” and the definite article “the.” The wording of the Constitution—“a medium of official communication” and the absence of an article altogether in reference to language of instruction—means (mercifully) that the promotion of the Filipino national language is inclusive. Using Filipino at the exclusion of English, other Philippine languages, or even other foreign languages is not actually demanded by the Constitution, and any dictat to that effect is unduly restrictive.

Aside from the language provisions, the Constitution also protects several other fundamental principles:

Section 4, Article III (the Bill of Rights) states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press…” As an instrument of speech and expression, language is protected under this clause. People, and by extension their institutions, should have the freedom to choose what languages they wish to learn and use. Jose Rizal himself deftly wielded Spanish to rouse patriotic spirit and indeed learned more than 10 other languages throughout his life—a potent refutation of the trope that patriotism is to speak or favour only one language. Patriotism pre-existed the national language.

For decades, we have allowed our language of learning policies to misrepresent the multicultural/multilingual nature of the Philippines. We celebrate the fact that finally in 2012, we passed a law (RA 10533) that recognizes the diversity of our languages as a great resource to improve learning. Now for the first time, any young pupil who speaks mostly Tausug or Waray or any of the local languages will find the school a friendly place for learning. Grade school teachers are discovering how to explain academic concepts using the pupil’s mother tongue and local culture. This commendable initiative to explore the resources offered by our multicultural and multilingual contexts must be a fundamental component of our educational system.

In a Philippine Star column last November 28, 2013, Former DepEd Undersecretary Isagani Cruz made reference to another key Constitutional provision. Section 5 of Article XIV states:

1. the State shall take into account regional and sectoral needs and conditions and shall encourage local planning in the development of educational policies and programs.
2. Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning.

We are openly declaring that we are promoting the equitable treatment of all our languages, especially in promoting learning and respecting ethnic identities. However we find it immoral that we impose such bias on our higher institutions of learning.

CHED should be reminded that RA 7722 (Higher Education Act of 1994) Section 13 stipulates that it is to “guarantee” academic freedom of universities and colleges and its power is clearly limited only in setting the following: (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.

The imposition of language of instruction is not part of CHED’s power. We ask that the technical panel for General Education and the CHED commissioners to continue upholding academic freedom and not enter into any concession with any interest group. Moreover, we would be greatly relieved if CHED issued a formal statement endorsing the use of any local or international language in higher education.