The Linguist

PH Supreme Court blocks memo against tertiary Filipino language education

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 20, Series of 2013¬†– or more specifically, a part thereof, which would abolish currently-mandatory subjects in college.

The Filipino language is one of those. As is Filipino literature.

Text from the Magandang Balita Biblia 2005 (MBB05). Image by Allister Roy S. Chua (2015)

Text from the Magandang Balita Biblia 2005 (MBB05). Image by Allister Roy S. Chua (2015)

The TRO was the result of a petition filed by university professors who believed that CMO 20-2013 is anti-Filipino, would cause a massive employment loss, and violates 5 constitutional provisions (including those pertaining to the national language and culture, nationalist education, and labor policy – government and constitutional studies are also among the subjects that would have been abolished).

Supposedly, what Filipino linguistic and literary education taught in preparatory school – now extended due to the K-12 program – suffices, thereby opening opportunities for other subjects to be taught in college without compromising a student’s time.

On paper, it sounds like a reasonable idea – students would thus be enabled to learn more hitherto-untaught subjects that could become mandatory. Unfortunately, in practice, it goes against principles of good citizenship and to an extent social responsibility.

The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English.¬†The Philippines is also the only country where Filipino is an official language – the same way that Japanese is a national language only in Japan (although it is not an¬†official language, which Japan does not have). But since the Philippines has no “national language” either, it would be reasonable for practical reasons to say that they are to be treated the same way.

Removing Filipino from the tertiary curriculum, therefore, would deal a blow to the prestige granted upon the said language. That Filipino Рboth language and literature Рwould cease to be mandatory in college means that the Philippine educational system itself may not put as much priority on Filipino study as it should Рwhich does go against constitutional spirit relating to national language and culture. Language and culture are both very important parts of national heritage, and to restrict compulsory study of such to preparatory school levels would mean that come college time, Filipino students Рand even the thousands of foreigners who come here for college Рwould lose their grasp on what it means to truly speak Filipino.

Ivory towers though they might be at times, the academe is a very important point for furthering interest in national language and culture. Some even choose to make a career out of it. The tertiary educational community, so intertwined with the academe, has quite a different approach to things unlike preparatory school, and so this should be taken as an opportunity to grow Filipino learning. The University of the Philippines, for example, is responsible for what is regarded to be the definitive Filipino dictionary. Without compelling college students to study Filipino, the academic sphere might lose its chance to attract people to a career that is prestigious, rich, and patriotic.

So, I am glad the Supreme Court issued this TRO. Especially in this point in time where globalization has made the world smaller and smaller, less-widely practiced cultures run the risk of being lost forever. I certainly hope the Filipino culture and language, with its very rich and diverse history, and its innate beauty, never comes to that point.

That said, I should rewrite this post in Filipino…

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