What young Filipinos stand to lose
Filipino teachers as well as advocates and lovers of the language have good reason to be incensed at the recent Supreme Court decision that affirmed the move by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to make Filipino and Panitikan (Filipino literature) optional and no longer core subjects for college students.
The Court did not, strictly speaking, rule on that change, but on the constitutionality of the K-to-12 program implemented by the Aquino administration in 2013.
It was that program that reduced the general education curriculum to 36 units and made Filipino subjects optional.
K-to-12 adds another two years to the basic education of young Filipinos; and yet, out of those many additional hours for new subjects and courses supposedly meant to prepare and strengthen the country’s graduates for a more globalized economy, critical subjects that help impart a sense of Filipino identity, purpose and character to young minds immersed in overwhelmingly English-language content online and off got the axe, or the optional treatment. Why these subjects, of all things?
The marked de-emphasis on Filipino adds fuel to the criticism that K-to-12 reduces the goal of students to simply graduate from high school with the barest understanding of their national language, culture and literature, and gain employment as cheap labor in the global marketplace.
The Supreme Court did say that universities may still offer these courses, and some universities already have current programs at work that would not be affected by the ruling right away.
But, contrary to what some are saying that Filipino already exists in the K-to-12 program, Education Secretary Leonor Briones has admitted it would be difficult to bolster Filipino under the current setup.
“Even as we continually monitor the sciences, mathematics and even robotics, we also have to monitor classes on the Filipino language,” she said. “This is a challenge for us to increase [these subjects] in our curriculum.”
The lack of emphasis is what rankles. When universities no longer have to require students to study Filipino and the national literature, it would be wishful thinking to assume that the mass of college students who have grown up on and assimilated themselves to a steady diet of Western popular culture would, by themselves, opt to take such subjects. Such studies may eventually die out. If K-to-12 must be upheld, must it also lead to grave injury against Filipino studies?
Organizations of teachers and educational workers had argued in court that the CHEd directive violated the Organic Act of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, the Education Act of 1982 and the Organic Act of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts—in vain.
In the wake of the Court’s ruling, schools and universities have signed letters of protest. De La Salle University’s David San Juan, a leader of the anti-K-to-12 group Tanggol Wika, warned that some 10,000 teachers would be affected by the ruling, either from reduced teaching loads or from being laid off entirely due to the lack of students in their classes.
What do young Filipinos stand to lose? Perhaps a much-diminished grasp of and appreciation of their roots and identity, which are deepened and strengthened by such subjects that explore what it means to be Filipino in word and in thought.
“In our classes, we do not only teach grammar, we [also] give students a sense of nationhood,” said Vladimeir Gonzales, University of the Philippines Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas chair. “… We teach values to our students. They learn about the Filipino identity through the use of the Filipino language. This is what we stand to lose.”
Lualhati Bautista, one of the country’s foremost contemporary writers in Filipino (“Dekada ’70,” “Desaparesidos,” “‘Gapô,” “Bata, Bata… Pa’no Ka Ginawa?”), framed the larger issue eloquently, devastatingly, in a Facebook post:
“Ang Filipino ay isang maganda at mayamang wika. Wala akong alam na eksaktong inggles ng salitang naiimbiyerna, tulad ng naiimbiyerna ako sa mga nagsasabing hindi naman ito mahalaga, na buwis-buhay kung ipagtanggol ang pag-aalis dito ng CHEd sa kolehiyo—ano nga sa inggles ang buwis-buhay? Hindi naman puwedeng tax-life, ’no? Anak kayo ng pating. Child of shark, you? Walang dating ’yan, hindi hagip ang magkahalong inis at patawa ng ‘anak ng pating.’ ’Yung tokhang, may inggles kayo?”
Imagine losing all that nuance, and richness, and more.
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