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Pia Cayetano to TV stations: Show cartoons in original English

Senator Pia Cayetano on Monday said the government broadcast stations should consider airing children's programs in English to help them develop proficiency in the language at their young age, saying that the new normal due to COVID-19 will demand this skill from many Filipinos.

"Can we start showing a lot of cartoons and family-friendly materials on our government stations. Bakit ba kailangan i-dub? A language is learned earliest at their youngest. The earlier you are exposed to a language, the earlier you can pick it up," Cayetano said during a Senate hearing focused on futures thinking.

"Bakit ba kailangan ipilit i-dub 'yan? Just play it in English. It's cartoons, it's just meant for them to hear it... Pipilitin niyo pang i-dub 'yan, that will take more time, that will take more resources, will cost us and yet you can just be playing the thousands and millions of materials available online," she added.

The senator made the suggestion after Rex Wallen Tan, director of Government-Academe-Industry Network, Inc., cited a 2019 study which showed that 54% of websites globally are using the English language.

The resource person pointed out that while many educational materials are freely accessible online, these will likely be incomprehensible for some Filipino students.

"The internet drives much of today's business of learning and also of e-commerce.The best institutions in the world are providing their learning content for free—Harvard, Princeton, Coursera, edX, and the millions of Youtube teachers are free. Most of these free high-quality learnings are in English," Tan said.

"The world's content for free learning, largely, the best learning, advanced learning is in English... If kids don't understand English, they're locked out of kind of how to learn and also how to participate in the global economy," he added.

'Nakakahiya, nakakaawa'

Cayetano asked the representatives of the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) if they are cognizant of the reality that a lot of the "jobs of the future which involve technologies are in English."

"I have nothing against the mother tongue. I'm just saying that I've seen a shift between the English proficiencies of the generation of my parents, to my generation, to the younger generation and that was simply because there were political positions made and the shift happened and I'm not happy about it," she said.

"Just by looking at the data, the English proficiency of our college students are the same as Malaysian Grade 6 students and Japan taxi drivers. Nakakahiya, nakakaawa tayo," she added.

CHED Commissioner Aldrin Darilag agreed that not all tertiary education students are "proficient enough" to utilize the existing online and offline materials for learning which are in the English language and that further capacitating is needed.

"This is the main reason why we excluded Filipino subjects because we want to train our students in view of internationalization requirements. The modification in the general education curriculum is actually a good initiative of CHED," he added.

DepEd futures unit consultant Karen Monterola also cited results of the  2019 basic education exit assessment among senior high school students in the country.

"That exit assessment is actually taken by all exiting senior high school students, and the mean percentage score in the English component of the test was just 41%," Monterola said.

"If we refer to the grading system of the Department of Education, they're just aiming for 75% to say that it's satisfactory but of course we want it to be higher," she added.

Embracing the mother tongue

While acknowledging that learning English through TV programs would be effective, Dr. Jennie Jocson stressed the importance of mastering the mother tongue first.

"That is only true if there's a big, complete understanding of the mother tongue—if we're able to ensure that our young people learn the mother tongue appropriately from house to the schools so that they can use it as the language of their lives," Jocson said.

"Unfortunately, the mother tongue law is not used appropriately in the basic education. It's not taught according to the expectation of the law. It's not taught according to how it should be taught," she added.

"The reason why English is not learned well in the Philippines is because our curriculum is focused on the use of language which is not practical, which is not regular, which is at some point not usual," she further said. —LDF, GMA News