Ateneo, UP, La Salle: We Need More English

MANILA: Ed Quisumbing, Filipino, has been eating English for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the last few decades, working as a staff of the World Bank in the United States. He graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños when it was still the cow college, UP College of Agriculture. He is retired, as far as I know. And now he is busy on Facebook, among other preoccupations. He was eating vegetables the last time I saw him, about 40 years ago, when I edited something for him. Today, Sunday, 28 February 2016, I read his post midnight last night, saying, "Ateneo, UP, La Salle" and linking the reader to Inquirer.net on "3 PH universities among world's best English-teaching schools" by Tarra Quismundo (globalnation.inquirer.net). There, I learned that Ateneo ranked #24, UP #32, and La Salle #44. I told myself, "UP is 2nd, not bad." (Image from Learn English Forum, learn-english-forum.org).

Ed Q is a UP Los Baños alumnus, just as I am. Unlike me, an Ilocano, Ed Q is Tagalog with ancestral roots in Santa Cruz in Laguna, and this Ilocano knows that the Tagalogs are rabid Tagalistas, that is, they love the Tagalog language so much they institutionalized, by law through the persuasion and power of President Manuel Luis Quezon, a Spanish mestizo Tagalog from Baler, Tayabas (now Quezon), Tagalog as the basis for the national language of the Philippines. I love my own, of course. Of course, as an Ilocano, I love my own, but also I am rabidly English in language orientation, as the Ilocanos were the first among the Filipinos to embrace English as their second language, starting in World War II, if not with the first migrant Ilocano worker more than 100 years ago, adopting such words & idiom as hello, thank you, goodbye, welcome, Godspeed, entrance, exit, store, merchandising, for sale, nickel, touching, evacuate, Victory Joe, subpoena, and affidavit – the sound, if not the spelling.

So I was surprised, and pleased, that Ed Q suddenly did that Facebook post on how top Philippine universities were performing in the matter of teaching English. English just happens to be one of my personal advocacies. My cup of tea. My only reservation is that the message is 4 years late! It's dated 2012.

Anyway, reading Ed Q's post, and knowing I would write about it, I googled for

philippines "teaching english" universities rank "Quacquarelli Symonds"

exactly as you see the entries, and I got 25,000 results. The problem was Google showing me only the data as late as 2012, none of 2013, 2014, or 2015. Which means either Google is 4 years late, or the Philippine universities did not rank in the last 4 years.

At any rate, how can our universities rank in the Top 10 in the world teaching English when they teach in mixed language, teaching in Taglish, which is more Tagalog than English? And the UP teachers do it even in English Literature! When will they ever learn?

Now, to begin from the beginning: "Why study English?" is the question for universities abroad enticing students to enroll in their courses. I rather think "Why study more English?" is the appropriate question for Philippine universities, because they are all hardheaded when it comes to teaching (in) this foreign language. I'm interested in teaching English even now that I'm 76, for 3 reasons:

One, I am a teacher; I studied to be a teacher at UP Los Baños; I passed the very first Teachers Exam in 1967 with a grade of 80.6% (scale: High Average is 77-79%, Good 80-86%, Very Good 87-89%). The exam was all in English of course. On my own, I have been studying how to teach better.

Two, I am a writer in English. I'm a wide reader. And I have found a natural ease in learning more of the language because of the profound American influence in my country's intellectual life, among other influences. And because I want to learn.

Three, I am an advocate of creative thinking. I like the way the University of Towson in Maryland, USA puts it in answer to its own question, "Why Study English?" (towson.edu):

·        Discover how to think creatively, solve problems, ask the right questions and make inferences the typical reader may overlook.

·        Learn to consider a variety of conflicting arguments as you study poems, plays, articles and novels. The study of literature helps you develop sharp and fair judgments.

The first in Towson's list refers to creative thinking, the second to critical thinking. These 2 are the faces of the same coin, I say. This is how to teach English properly and productively, teaching both sides of thinking: logical (critical) and non-logical (creative). A good lawyer is more critical; a good writer is more creative.

Still, that Tarra Quismundo's report of 2012 said something else that goes into being a top University teaching English, and I know Philippine universities are all guilty of neglecting it, which is directly related to the scientists' actual use of English: "citations per paper." That refers to referrals by other authors to technical papers published in reputable, world-class journals (in the ISI list). How can our universities get high marks in citations when our scientists seldom publish technical papers in the first place!? Of this dilemma of my alma mater UP, I have already written about; see my "The Gordian Knot of UP. Applying high tech to technical journals" (04 April 2014, A Magazine Called Love, blogspot.com).

As I put it there, the problem of getting higher up the ladder of Top Universities in the World when it comes to publications (citations) is not funding but finding. The Philippines is not poor, as cases and charges of corruption indicate. But UP and other universities have to find good editors who will discover good authors and teach them to be better, who will search for good ways to edit, who will look for good reviewers, who will find ways to improve publishing, and who will explore ways to manage the publication intelligently.

I'm speaking as an Editor in Chief of a technical publication with an enviable record: I was the one who made the Philippine Journal of Crop Science world-class or ISI within 3 years, after it had failed to achieve ISI status in the last 24 years of its life. I took over the PJCS, which is based at UP Los Baños, at a time when it was 3 years late in coming out with its issues, and I made it up to date in 3 years – which means I worked double-time, as editor and layout artist all at the same time, no extra required. Age didn't matter; I was already 67 at that time, 2007, but I had mastered the desktop publishing system and I worked very fast – I still do.

I posted that Gordian Knot essay 2 years ago. In it I said:

Today, I'm offering my advice free to UP; you can consult me anytime offline or online: email frankahilario@gmail.com, or continue reading my continuing series of essays in this blog. I don't know if you will listen, but I know that you will hear from me again and again.

My alma mater UP has not been listening, or which is the same thing, not been reading. UP is energetic when it comes to being anti; UP is lethargic when it comes to climate change in its operations, including involving knowledge. UP will never be in the Top 10 of the world's universities when it comes to teaching English if it does not improve its publication output, technical papers for science. There is no reason for poor performance in this area because the writing is critical, so much easier than creative. When will UP ever learn?



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