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Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Deteriorating Generation

A month has passed since I began teaching in the elementary level. I have mentioned before that I was really bummed by the administration's decision to transfer me but somehow in the last 15 days, I have seen the positive side of this move. I am beginning to love teaching children in the elementary level.

But academically-speaking, as I have began loving the elementary level, I also began seeing a looming problem. For most teachers, these problem has been a long-standing one. But for ordinary people, this problem would seem non-existent. Or if it did, it would have to be blamed on us, teachers.

I had my first quiz on the Grade 5 on the 2nd week of June and my first quiz on the Grade 6 on the last week of June. Among the type of tests include in the quiz is an essay type of test, which required them to write at least 3 to 4 paragraphs in Filipino. I am rattled but unsurprised by the results.

Majority of the Grade 5 and 6 students do not know how to express themselves in Filipino, let alone spell Filipino words correctly. Upon checking their essays, I noticed that the Grade 5 and 6 do not know what a talata or paragraph is. Instead of 3 to 4 paragraphs, what I got was a meager 3 to 4 sentences, with some giving just one. I also saw a lot of spelling mistakes such as mga becoming manga, kanina becoming kaganina, mamamayan becoming mamayan, diringgin becoming diniggin -- I do not want to mention more as it would create a long list of errors. Some even resorted to text lingo.

There was also difficulty in expressing the correct words to explain their thoughts. Some Filipino words were replaced by English lines. An example I found is this: Mahalaga ang lockasyon ng pilipinas dahil dito naglalanding ang manga jets ng ibang bansa. This sentence could have been explained in a simple: Mahalaga ang lokasyon ng Pilipinas dahil dito lumalapag ang mga eroplano mula sa ibang bansa. Notice the spelling of lokasyon and pilipinas. Somehow, they have no notion what proper nouns and common nouns are. Notice also the use of naglalanding instead of lumalapag. It clearly shows the these children's vocabulary in Filipino has failed to enrich in recent years.

During the test I got a lot of questions that required translation of certain words. Apparently, the children do not know the meaning of the words bahagya (slightly), antas (level), talata (paragraph), pangungusap (sentence) and many more. Even in my classroom discussion, I had to translate most of my terms in one class since I have a student who doesn't understand a word in Filipino. While his parents are both Filipino, the lingua franca they use at home is English. This resulted in the student's difficulty in Filipino and HEKASI subjects. I asked some teachers if the student cannot really understand a word in Filipino. They explained that he can understand, and that there is no need to explain. It is the child himself who is making things difficult for himself by preffering to speak in English, they said. They cited proof by asking some of his classmates.

Another situation one of the Grade 5 classes involves a boy and his love for the United States. He would frequently comment in class that English is better than Filipino, and that we should been colonized even longer by Uncle Sam. In my discussion of ancient Filipino farming, I asked him to give examples of grains (binhi) that can be cultivated. He answered: apples. This clearly shows that most of our Grade 5 and 6 in private schools tend to lean toward Western and Popular Culture, thereby losing their Filipino identity and vocabulary in the process.

We have a deteriorating generation as presented above. I do not know who's to blame for this rise in illiteracy and ignorance about our culture --- it could be the use of English as a medium of instruction, or the school policy of using English as a language in schools; it could be the reinforcement of English at home as the basic lingua franca; it could be popularity of Western and Popular culture in our media --- the list goes on. But as a teacher, I cannot accept this reality as an inevitable destiny of our young generation. I do believe that I was put in this position to change their consciousness, their awareness, their values and bring them back to the fold of Filipino culture. I do not care if somehow, my HEKASI class ends up being a Filipino or Spelling or English class in the process, but I am willing to take on the challenge.

One of the trademarks of a great civilization is the eloquent command of the local language and system of writing. As a Filipino, we all have a task to main that facet of our civilization. I will do my part. I hope you do yours as well. I hope this message can move you from where you are right now.

Once again, another day in the secret life of a teacher.

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