EDITORIAL – Carabao English
() - May 25, 2006 - 12:00am
Despite hard times, the Philippines graduates at least 400,000 students from college every year. That is the good news. The bad news is that many of these nearly half-a-million young people entering the labor force each year will end up unemployed for lack of jobs.

Worse is that their prospects for employment are greatly diminished not just by their overwhelming number but also because of their questionable skills. A report by the European Chamber of Commerce says 75 percent of these graduates have substandard English skills.

That means 300,000 of these graduates speak carabao English, the language popularized by former president Joseph Estrada. In a new P30 million presidential museum he has built, there is a lifesize statue of the animal, in honor of the creature that taught him communication skills.

So, of what significance is it for the Philippines to have three out of four of its fresh college graduates start mooing at the job recruiter on being interviewed for a job? It means that these applicants will not land those jobs.

Of course, those others who are better equipped with the right English skills will land those jobs. So no problem? No problem, if we consider only those who land the jobs. But they are only one out of four, remember? The other three will remain jobless. That is the problem.

The trend may be to seek employment overseas. Well, for a long while, that may have seemed quite a passable proposition. After all, foreign employers are attracted to hard-working, honest and English-speaking workers willing to settle for lower wages than home-bred hands.

But in this communication-driven world where information technology dictates almost every aspect of life, more than just an average grasp of English is increasingly needed to land those jobs. Yet the Philippines is abandoning English in favor of Tagalog.

Even our Asian neighbors, who used to be so nationalistic the use of English was almost anathema to daily transactions, have now realized that one has to learn English to get on in the world. And that is why young Asians are scrambling to learn the language.

The Philippines used to enjoy the distinction of being the third largest English-speaking country in the world. But that was in the 1960s and 70s. Those responsible for that distinction are either gone or are about to go. What is left are the carabao English speakers.

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