Must Filipino be taken out of tertiary curriculum?
One of the first concerns of President Manuel L. Quezon upon assuming the Commonwealth presidency was how to foster national unity and fast-track development.
Given a country of 7,100 islands whose inhabitants spoke more than 70 languages, he knew that moving toward political independence and economic decolonization would be difficult without a common language.
In accordance with Article II of the Constitution then, he asked the National Assembly to craft a law creating an institute to study the adoption of a common language out of the various spoken dialects. The assembly responded with Commonwealth Act No. 184 establishing the Institute of National Language. Working with representatives of the major native languages, the institute recommended Tagalog as the national language, (Teodoro Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People, 1990 edition).
Not everyone though was happy with Tagalog. Over the years, regional parochialism and demand for jobs would lead to playing around with educational policies. Tertiary education was assigned to the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority was upgraded to the Cabinet level. Then came a new tack: pitting English against Filipino. Aggravated by the overseas Filipino workers’ program, English has taken centerstage because it connects us with the world of investors. But why edge out Filipino from tertiary education? There is now K-12 which is due for implementation.
Some people bewail the fact that actors, radio and TV personalities leap from the screen to high government positions. Can you blame them? Their audience rapport is electric because they speak in Filipino, besides playing heroic roles in concise, understandable terms.
In contrast, many public officials insist on speaking English and inflict great injustice on language. In congressional debates, subjects and predicates collide, and genders dance the rigodon (changing partners).
What if all key government officials were to communicate their plans and programs in Filipino. Would this not raise the level of national discourse to more intelligible and intelligent dimensions?
Whatever was envisioned in the plan to remove Filipino from the tertiary curriculum, it should not lead to the diminution of the core values and national sentiments embodied in its original objectives.
The Institute of National Language must double its efforts to keep Filipino in step with world trends. It should find simple equivalents to the growing lexicon in science, mathematics and new technologies.
BF Homes, Quezon City
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