Impose “Filipino” in CHED’s General Education Curriculum? 

Should Filipino be required in the delivery of the General Education Curriculum of Higher Education?

Article XIV, Sec. 6 of the 1986 Constitution says that the national language of the Philippines is Filipino. In the same article it also states: “…for purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino, and until otherwise provided by law, English.” Regional languages are recognized as auxiliary official languages and media of instruction in the region.

Meanwhile, both local languages of Filipino cultural groups, large and small, and foreign languages must be attended to, the former because of the invaluable natural heritage we possess in the languages of cultural sub-populations and the latter because of our membership in an international multicultural human community. Among the latter, English, Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin may be of special importance for the Philippines for commercial, cultural or political reasons.

The national language of Filipino, which is conceived to be a unitary language for many Philippine languages combining essential elements from different languages of the Philippines, is still a work in progress.   Efforts to evolve a Filipino from the diversity of languages in the Philippines have yet to success. Today, “Filipino and Tagalog are essentially the same. ” One cannot “define Filipino as a novel language just because it uses a newer, larger alphabet than Tagalog, or that Filipino uses English loanwords extensively and Tagalog is somehow a purist standard.” [1]

Nevertheless, education in the competent use of Filipino, in its current state, and English are attended to primarily in Basic Education – even though Basic Education today laudably encourages the use and development of local languages in the Enhanced Basic Education Law (RA 10533).

The mandate to develop a true national language that can be used even for technical purposes is not served by imposing a language that is basically Tagalog on all the areas of the Philippines. This only reinforces the dominance of Tagalog with an appeal to the constitutionally-mandated Filipino. This is why the four alternatives to the approved General Education Curriculum (CMO 20, 2013) now being proposed in CHED consultations out of a concern for Filipino in higher education – (1) addition of nine units in Filipino, (2) teach four subjects of the new GEC using Filipino as a medium of instruction, (3) teach some subjects in the GEC using Filipino as a national language, (4) additional three units of the new GEC on language Culture and Filipino identity – are all unacceptable.

Tagalog as “Filipino” – if imposed on all the regions by law or CHED policy is culturally inappropriate, if not unjust, to all the other languages in the Philippines that are as Filipino as Tagalog is. Percentage of users of top ten major Philippine languages today are as follows: Tagalog, 35.1%; Cebuano, Binisaya, Boholano; 25.7; Ilokano 8.7; Hiligaynon/Ilonggo, 7.0; Bikol, 4.6; Waray, 2.7; Kapampangan, 1.6; Pangasinan/Panggalato, 1.3; Maguindanao, 1.1; Tausug, 1.0. In this group, the “Visayan” speakers (Cebuano, Ilonggo, Waray) already outnumber the Tagalog speakers with 35.4%; the non-Tagalog speakers outnumber the Tagalog speakers with: 53.7.[2]

Filipino, therefore, that is not just Tagalog, is definitely a work in progress.

In this context, the Kagawaran ng Wikang Pambansa has its work cut out for it, and nothing in this position should be construed as disrespect for its mandate. But its purposes may be better served not through another political imposition of Tagalog-as-Filipino on the non-Tagalog language users. It may be better served by developing a maturing interchange between itself and regional language centers or HEIs that are serious about developing the local as well as the national language. This however is a technical agenda, and will take time.

Meanwhile, for purposes of higher education policy and the use of Filipino in the delivery of the new General Education Curriculum, I propose that the SUCs, LCUs, and private HEIs all be allowed to determine the language it shall use in the delivery of General Education in any of the national, official or auxiliary official languages of the Philippines.

In the context of academic freedom for higher education, which CHED is bound to protect also as a Constitutional mandate, it is more appropriate for the State to determine the curriculum content-above-minimum of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) or Local Colleges and Universities (LCUs) rather than of private HEIs. In the current concern for Filipino in the General Education Curriculum, however, the discretion of the University should be respected. This is also because of the regional nature and mandates of the SUCs and LCUs. There is no reason why a Mindanao State University should be forced to teach subjects in Filipino-as-Tagalog where Binisaya or Maranao may be more appropriate. There is no reason why it should contribute to the development of National Language-as-Tagalog when it can more competently offer elements of Binisaya or Maranao for integration in a more multi-culturally-based Filipino. Private universities operating in different localities can do the same. [3]

Thus, rather than imposing more Tagalog-as-Filipino on all HEIs in the name of the mandate to develop a national language, the maturation, development and use of local languages in higher education may be more constructive, and in fact a prior step to the imposition of “Filipino” on all. In fact, as Filipino is still a work in progress, beyond basic education, contribution to its development should be a matter of academic freedom in higher education. Certainly, since private schools are primarily funded by tuition payers, it would not be just to impose on them the costs of this development. Here, incentives for contributions to the development of Filipino may be more fruitful than imposition.

Meanwhile, in the context of national development and the development of the talents of individual Filipinos in our global world today, HEIs should be free to use valuable instructor competence and academic hours for the teaching and development of local Philippine languages or urgently-needed foreign languages.

I think a shared Filipino language today is better advanced by people and institutions freely opting to use it rather than by imposition. President Nonoy Aquino has in this regard contributed much. So too, the major media. More imposition in college will not help.



[1] From a forum in Wikipedia Talk: “Filipino Language”., accessed July 4, 2014. Cf. also: Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Nov. 11, 2008.


[2] Albert, J.R.G. Many Voices, One Nation: the Philippine Languages and Dialects in Figures,,SS20130830_dialects.asp#sthash.4XKAaCUo.dpuf, accessed July 4, 2014

[3] See work of Miravite, Rommel M, Ulysses Cling N. Sanchez, Day S. Tando, John B. Villoria and David John de los Reyes, Chavacano Reader, Hyattsville, MD: Dunwoody Press, 2009.



About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Personal Views and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Impose “Filipino” in CHED’s General Education Curriculum? 

  1. Gabriel Jose T. Gonzalez, S.J. says:

    Thank you, Fr. Joel, for articulating this position. I subscribe most to the position of protecting academic freedom of institutions to discern what medium of instruction is most advantageous to their students and faculty. I would second the point that the goal of the intellectualization of Filipino must be put into balance with the goal to equip students with languages that will allow them to engage the rest of the world meaningfully. Looking at the small picture is crucial here. In the individual life of a Filipino student, a great majority of his or her day is spent in Filipino language transactions while the opportunity to use other languages is mostly limited to the classroom.

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