Poll: Pinoy proficiency in English declining
() - April 19, 2006 - 12:00am
Filipinos’ self-assessed proficiency in the English language has declined over the past 12 years, pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported yesterday with the release of its March 2006 survey.

Survey results showed there was a decline in all aspects of English proficiency, most notably in the ability to speak English, as compared to results of similar surveys conducted in December 1993 and September 2000.

The latest survey showed that only 65 percent of Filipino adults said they understand spoken English as compared to 74 percent in December 1993 and 77 percent in September 2000.

The percentage of those who read English are also down to 65 percent from 73 percent in 1993 and 76 percent in 2000. Meanwhile, only 48 percent now say they write in English as compared to the 59 percent who said they wrote in English in 1993 and 61 percent in 2000.

But perhaps the greatest decline is in the ability to speak English. Only 32 percent of respondents in the March 2006 survey said they could speak in English compared to 56 percent in 1993 and 54 percent in 2000.

Those who said they are not competent in any way in the use of the English language also rose to 14 percent from only seven percent in 1993 and 2000.

Personal usage of the English language is greater in Metro Manila and in the Visayas and in other urban areas, especially among the upper classes, the young and the educated.

In the latest survey, the SWS said a majority agreed that developing good English communication skills opens door to better job opportunities. Net agreement was higher in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

The March 2006 was conducted from March 8 to 14 and used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults, divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It has sampling error margins of plus or minus 3 percent for national percentages and plus or minus 6 percent for area percentages.

The survey results were presented by Gerry Sandoval, SWS deputy manager for projects and training, during the launching of the English proficiency campaign dubbed "English Is Cool."

The campaign is being spearheaded by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) and EON The Stakeholder Relations Firm and is supported by the Department of Education (DepEd) and other government and non-government agencies nationwide.

English proficiency is perceived as one of the Philippines’ key competitive advantages in the global market. The organizers believe that there is an urgent need to convince the youth to be proud of being bilingual.

"In a globalized economy, English is a ‘ticket’ to the future. Loving, learning and enjoying the language will open doors to improving their chances in life," the report said.

The advocacy campaign’s mission is to reverse the decline in national English proficiency by re-popularizing the English language, primarily among the youth.

The DepEd pointed to the use of "Taglish," or the mixture of Tagalog and English, in schools, particularly during class hours as having contributed to the decline in English proficiency among Filipinos.

DepEd officer-in-charge Undersecretary Fe Hidalgo said during the launch of the "English is Cool" campaign that even teachers have been monitored using Taglish during class sessions.

Dr. Lydia Balatbat-Echauz, president of the Far Eastern University (FEU), likewise cited Taglish as one of the causes of declining English proficiency.

Hidalgo, however, clarified that the DepEd is not trying to make Filipino a second-class language.

"If I speak English it does not mean that I love my country less. But it’s a language of need. We all realize that when we look at information communication technology, it’s all in English. We need it as a global language now. But our own language is also very important," Hidalgo said.

Earlier, the DepEd was given P581 million to train teachers in English proficiency. But Hidalgo said that there are half a million teachers requiring training.

"We have reported that we can only reach 37,000 teachers across the country. We cannot do it alone. Our teacher training institutions are not enough for our half a million teachers... (The budget) is never enough. The ideal thing is to have trainers for the 186 school divisions that we have so we can be assured of a network of trainers," she said.

The "English is Cool" campaign is also co-sponsored by members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce, namely, AmCham, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, ECCP, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies and Regional Headquarters Inc.

The quarterly SWS Surveys are supported by subscribers, who have no proprietary rights over the data. — Sandy Araneta, Michael Punongbayan

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