Business Beat; the Decline of English Proficiency

Manila Bulletin, May 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

Business Beat; the Decline of English Proficiency


Byline: MELITO SALAZAR JR.

AS the education system gears up for the opening of classes this June, the teachers, parents and students have begun to repair and beautify the school buildings, classrooms and grounds. Principals and teachers are preparing their lesson plans and other requirements for the students. Amidst these activities, I hope that our educators will plan to redouble their efforts to improve the teaching of English in order for the Filipino to keep abreast with the global competition.

While we have heard anecdotal stories -- call centers accepting a very small portion of those who apply; tourists remarking on the quaint English laced with Tagalog or the local dialect; and university professors lamenting the inability of students to speak or comprehend in English, surveys from the Social Weather Stations provide a stronger evidence of the sad state of English proficiency.

The March 2006 SWS survey on the Filipino's self-assessed proficiency in the English language showed a decline over the last twelve years if compared to earlier SWS surveys in December 1993 and September 2000. The decline is manifested in all aspects of English proficiency from ability to speak and write and to think in English.

Only two out of three Filipino adults (65%) say they understood spoken English and could read English in the March 2006 survey in contrast to threefourths (75%) in the September 2000 and the December 1993 surveys. About half (48%) could write English in the latest survey while it was 61% in the two earlier surveys. Only a third (32%) in March 2006 said they spoke English compared to more than half (54%) in the two other surveys. Fourteen percent admitted they were not competent in any way in English while it was only seven percent 12 years ago. In the March 2006 survey, 19% indicated almost no use for the English language in contrast to only 10% in both September and December surveys.

No wonder there is the continuing lament of not being able to land a job despite the thick pages of the Manila Bulletin's classified ads section. Looking through the listing one finds the following requirements for Junior Accountant -- "proficient in English language (oral and written);" for Field Service Engineer -- "with effective communication skills (oral and written English);" for Professional Medical Representatives -- "Above average communication skills (English)" and very few can qualify. …

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