Filipino Language Writing Essay

The first section presents the quantitative results gathered through surveys and linguistic tests. This is followed by the results on the qualitative data (Discourse Completion Task).

Research question 1

To answer the first question, “Is there any relationship between Filipino writing performance and their topic familiarity?” Pearson product moment correlation was performed. Cohen’s (1988) classification of correlation guided the interpretation of statistical results. The study considered r=.10 to .29 as having small correlation, r=.30 to .49 as having medium correlation, and r=.50 to 100 as strong correlation. The first statistical analysis yielded a strong positive relationship between essay performance and topic knowledge, r= .79, N=60, .p<.01, indicating that high levels of writing performance are associated with high scores in topic knowledge as shown in Table 1 below.
Table 1

Pearson product moment correlations between topic knowledge and essay score

Research question 2

As regards the second question, “Is there any relationship between Filipino writing performance and their writing background?” the same statistical procedure was used, Pearson product moment correlation analysis. The results in Table 2 below show the increases in essay scores is significantly related to the increases in the writing background scores of the students: r=.32, N=60, p<.01.
Table 2

Pearson poduct moment correlations between essay scores and writing background

Research question 3

The third analysis gave light on the question: “Is there any relationship between Filipino writing performance and their idea generation processes?” Pearson product moment correlation analysis revealed that there is a strong positive relationship between text production process, which is idea generation, and writing performance: r=.64, N=85, p<.01., as shown in Table 3 below.
Table 3

Pearson product moment correlations between idea generation process and essay scores

Research question 4

The last question, “Is there any relationship between Filipino writing performance and their linguistic knowledge?” requires that the students’ scores in spelling, grammar, and vocabulary be correlated with essay score. As shown in Table 4 below, vocabulary knowledge is significantly related with essay score (r=.57, p<.01). Likewise, grammar knowledge is significantly related with writing performance (r=.25, p. <.05). Spelling, however, is found to have been no significant relationship with writing score.
Table 4

Pearson product moment correlations between linguistic knowledge measures and essay scores

Results of the Discourse completion task (DCT) confirmed the relationship between writers’ performance and linguistic knowledge, topic knowledge, and idea generation process. The questions in the DCT and the sample replies of the respondents are discussed below.
  1. 1.

    Do you believe that topic familiarity or your knowledge about the topic contributed to the success of your diagnostic essay and helped you get a high grade in your essay? Why or why not?

All respondents except one replied with an affirmative on this question. They indicated that topic familiarity enabled them to provide more information and enough supporting details—elements that are considered to be important factors in assessing essays. In addition, topic familiarity mattered in the generation of ideas. Here are some of their replies:

Yes, because you have more knowledge about the topic and you have more information to add in your supporting details. (Respondent 34)

Yes, because knowing the background of the topic can bring depth to the essay. (Respondent 2)

Yes, it can affect mainly because I would not have enough supporting details for my topic sentence. (Respondent 4)

Yes. Because if you are familiar about the topic you can write many supporting details that are necessary in your essay. (Respondent 23)

Yes, because when you are familiar with a topic, it is easier to develop a paragraph because of the knowledge you possess. Also, it would not be hard to think of ideas. (Respondent 8)

Yes, because when you know more about the topic, there would be more ideas and the quality of the essay is efficient. (Respondent 9)

Yes, because the more familiar you are, the easier to think about ideas for your essay. (Respondent 40)
  1. 2.

    Do you believe that your high school writing background contributed to your performance in writing the diagnostic essay? Why or why not?

In this part of the survey, 21% of the respondents replied that their high school writing background had no effect on their present writing performance. Here are some of the reasons for their claim:

My background had no contribution for my present performance for I was poorly oriented in my high school writing and yet I did not perform poorly in my essay. (Respondent 9)

In a way, no because I have poor background in writing, but I am not doing poorly. (Respondent 23)

I think it’s not because I was a bad writer in high school. (Respondent 13)

I don’t think so. I find college writing very different from high school writing. In fact, I am using different writing strategies this college compared when I was in high school. Besides, I am not really a good writer during my high school years but I got a good grade in my diagnostic and other essays. This proves that writing background does not matter. (Respondent 17)

On the other hand, 79% acknowledged writing background as having a part in their success in writing their diagnostic essay; they believed that high school writing experience gave them a foundation for writing. Here are some of their reasons for thinking that their writing background had to do with their present writing performance:

Yes, because having good knowledge in a topic can still be ruined by a bad background in writing. On the other hand, a good background in writing can be the saving grace for someone with limited knowledge of a topic. (Respondent 33)

Of course, because high school days were the days that I learned to write an essay and to believe that I can write them on my own. It gave me confidence with my English writing. (Respondent 39)

Yes. I believe that my background in writing contributed to my success in writing essays because you know how it works and thus making it easier for you. (Respondent 29)
  1. 3.

    Do you believe that your text production processes such as idea generation while composing played a role in your writing performance? Why or why not?

As regards the role of text production processes such as idea generation, the respondents had a unanimous answer. They reported that the processes they had activated while writing the essay had a direct relationship with the product of their essay. Here are what they had to say on this claim:

Yes, if you generated ideas really well, then you will come up with a very good essay. (Respondent 16)

Yes, because it affects the delivery of ideas. (Respondent 36)

Yes it does. This text production process greatly helps the writer. The process makes the writing flow much easier. (Respondent 38)

Yes, specially if the writing of the essay is time-bound. (Respondent 27)
  1. 4.

    Do you believe that your linguistic knowledge such as grammar usage, vocabulary, and spelling has a bearing in your success in writing the diagnostic essay? Why or why not?

To this question, all the respondents have a unanimous affirmative reply, indicating that the content of the message is dependent on the linguistic structures they form. The respondents considered linguistic knowledge as an important factor in the creation of meaning during the text production, thereby affecting the comprehensibility of the message being transmitted.

I believe that my linguistic knowledge play the biggest role in writing an effective essay because I will be able to better express myself. (Respondent 2)

Yes. Linguistic knowledge greatly affects the quality of an essay because it will affect on how the reader comprehends your essay. Having the improper linguistic knowledge will give the readers a difficult time in understanding your essay. (Respondent 28)

Yes because these are very important in English writing. Wrong grammar and spelling and wrong vocabulary use can alter the meaning of the message. (Respondent 12)

Yes, because my linguistic knowledge affects the effectiveness of the delivery of the ideas I want to convey in my essays. (Respondent 36)

I believe that wide vocabulary and being able to follow grammatical rules will greatly affect the quality of an essay. The essay would not be effective if there are flaws on the grammar or has faults on spelling. (Respondent 25)

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       As mandated in the 1935 Philippine Constitution, a national language was to be adopted and developed based on one of the existing native languages.  In 1937, the Institute of National Language (INL) which was created to direct the selection, propagation and development of the national language, recommended that Tagalog be the basis for the adoption of the national language of the country.  In the same year, then President Manuel Quezon signed Executive Order No. 134 declaring Tagalog as basis of the national language.

       On April 12, 1940, Executive Order No. 263 was issued ordering among others, the teaching of the national language in all public and private schools in the country.

       A Department Order was subsequently issued by the Secretary of Public Instruction on April 8, 1940 to implement the aforementioned Executive Order.  Bureau Education Circular No. 26, s. 1940 provides that “… effective June 19, 1940, the national language shall be taught forty minutes a day as a regular, required two-semester subject “… The national language shall replace an elective in each semester of the second year in normal schools and shall be an additional subject of all secondary schools …”

       The national language, more popularly known as Tagalog, was therefore, first introduced in the fourth year of all public and private high schools and in the second year of all public and private teacher-training institutions.

       The inclusion of Tagalog in the curriculum was viewed as a positive direction towards more effective teaching and learning since, compared with English, Tagalog would be an easier language to use as tool of learning.   This significant move also marked the beginning of the critical process of developing the national language and disseminating it nationwide mainly through the schools.

       Meanwhile, Tagalog was popularized more widely when the Japanese forces invaded the country in 1942.  The Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Imperial Forces ordered the prohibition of the use of English and the Filipino people’s reliance upon Western nations particularly the United States and Great Britain.

       Besides being declared as the official language, Tagalog was to become the medium of instruction in schools during the Japanese regime.  (Teachers who were used to using English, however, were reportedly teaching secretly in English and not in Tagalog.)

       In 1943, President Laurel issued Executive Order No. 10 mandating educational reforms which included, among other things, the teaching of the national language in all elementary schools, public and private, and the training of national language teachers on a massive scale effective at the beginning of the school year 1944-1945.  Major emphasis was given to the development of the national language.  It was during the Japanese regime, then that the teaching of the national language became part of the curriculum at all levels.  It was introduced as a subject in all grades at the elementary and high school levels.  In 1944, non-Tagalog teachers started learning the language through the opening of a Tagalog Institute to enable them to teach and use the language.

       Executive Order No. 44 was issued by President Laurel to lay down educational policies which included the restoration of the University of the Philippines, which was tasked with the promotion of Philippine nationalism, and the development of the national language, among others.  In line with this provision, the curricula of higher education institutions had the national language as one of its compulsory subjects.

       The school system was reorganized when the Americans came to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese invasion.  English, again, became the principal medium of instruction with Tagalog taught as a required subject in the elementary and secondary levels.

       In 1957, a new language policy was adopted in Philippine schools, following a period of intensive research and experimentations on which language to use best as medium of instruction.  In an attempt to make the school system more relevant to the needs of the times, the Board of National Education, a policy-making body in education, decided that the “medium of instruction in the first two grades of the elementary school shall be the local vernacular; that at the same time the national language (named Pilipino in 1959) shall be taught informally beginning in Grade I and given emphasis as a subject in the higher grades; that English shall be taught as a subject in Grades I and II and used as medium of instruction beginning in Grade III”.  The vernacular was used as auxiliary medium in the the primary while Pilipino was used as an auxiliary medium in the intermediate and high school levels.

       This Revised Educational Program of 1957 was criticized strongly due to the observed weakness of the multilingual policy which it promoted.  The use of no less than four languages (English, Pilipino, Spanish and the vernacular) did not prove effective in educating the Filipino child.

       Various surveys and language experiments were undertaken two years after the implementation of the new program in an attempt to formulate more workable and effective policies on language use in schools.  These included the classic Iloilo and Rixal experiments (See Davis, 1967: Philippine Language Teaching Experiments.  PCLS Monograph Series No. 5 for details), and the 1968 Language Policy Survey conducted by the Language Study Center of the Philippine Normal College.

       The outcomes of these researches provided valuable inputs in formulating a new policy on bilingual education which was implemented beginning 1974 following the ratification of the Philippine Constitution in 1973.   The new program was disseminated through DECS Order No. 25, series 1974.

       Bilingual education, as defined in the DECS Order mentioned refers to the separate use of Pilipino and English as media of instruction in specific subject areas from grade I in all schools.  Pilipino was allocated to Social Studies/Social Science, Work Education, Character Education, Music, Health and Physical Education.  All other subjects were taught in English.  As the guidelines provided, Pilipino and English were taught as subjects in elementary and secondary schools to achieve the goals of bilingualism.

       The first phase of implementation provided for a four-year transition period (1974-1978).  This was done to allow schools in non-Tagalog areas to prepare for a gradual shift to Pilipino as medium of instruction by preparing needed teaching materials and training teachers to teach in Pilipino.  The use of Pilipino in the subjects mentioned was to become mandatory in both elementary and secondary schools beginning school year 1978-1979.

       The DECS Order did not give specific guidelines regarding the implementation of the bilingual program at the tertiary level.   The Institute of National Language took notice and recommended to the National Board of Education that implementing guidelines be formulated for the higher education institutions.  Consequently, Department Order No. 50, s. 1975 was issued by the Board prescribing the offering of English and Pilipino courses as part of the curricula of tertiary institutions.  Further, the Order states that by school year 1984, all graduates of tertiary institutions should be able to pass examinations in English and/or Pilipino for the practice of their professions.

       The 1974 Bilingual Education Program was revised in 1987 following the ratification of the 1986 Philippine Constitution.   Article XIV, Sec. 6 of said Constitution resolved all controversies regarding the national language, when it categorically stated that “the national language of the Philippines is Filipino …”  Sec. 7 of the same document further supported the bilingual policy as it stated, ” … for purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino, and until otherwise provided by law, English…”  The regional languages are mandated as auxiliary official languages and media of instruction in the region.

       In the revised policy on bilingual education (DECS Order No. 52, s. 1987), “Filipino and English shall be used as media of instruction, the use allocated to specific subjects in the curriculum as indicated in DECS Order No. 25, s. 1974”.  The two languages shall also be taught as subjects in all levels to achieve bilingual competence.

       The continuing intellectualization of Filipino to be led by higher education institution is also one of the guidelines articulated by the aforementioned DECS Order.

       Studies conducted on the evaluation of the bilingual education program revealed that the program is not seriously being implemented especially by private schools.  At the tertiary level, it appeared that the policy is not a priority.  Many institutions seemed to have put more premium on the use and teaching of English, the main language aspiration of many Filipinos.  Studies also showed the very low level proficiency in the two languages of both the teachers and students.

       In 1990, a Congressional Commission was created to survey Philippine education.  The Commission, more popularly known as EDCOM, recommended among other things the use of Filipino as language of instruction at all levels by the year 2000.  The language recommendation has not been acted upon by Congress up till now because of strong oppositions raised by various sectors.

       Meanwhile, in 1994, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) was created by virtue of Republic Act No. 7722, otherwise known as the Higher Education Act of 7722, otherwise known as the “Higher Education Act of 1994”.  One of the first things CHED did was to revise the curriculum.

       In 1996, Commission on Higher Education issued a CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 59 titled New General Education Curriculum (GEC) which was implemented, beginning school year 1997-1998 as part of all baccalaureate degree programs in all Higher Education Instructions (HEI’s) in the Philippines.

       The minimum requirements for this mandatory GEC, include 9 units in Filipino, and 9 units in English.  For the first time in so many years, Filipino and English are given equal treatment in the curriculum.  Literature, which used to be studied as language, is now treated as an art form under Humanities and has been allocated 6 units.

       To accommodate the needs of HEI’s offering technology and non-HUSOCOM (humanities, social science and communication) courses, CHED issued Memorandum Number 04, s. 1997), superceding CMO No. 59, s. 1996.  This memo differentiates the Filipino language requirements for HUSOCOM and non-HUSOCOM courses’ i.e., 9 units for the former and 6 for the latter.

       As regards medium/media of instruction, CHED Memo 59 states that:

“Language courses whether Filipino or English should be taught in that language.

At the discretion of the HEI’s, Literature subjects may be taught in Filipino, English  or any other language as long as there are enough instructional materials for the same and both students and instructors/professors are competent in the language.

Courses in the humanities and social sciences should preferably be taught in Filipino. “

About the Author:
Clemencia Espiritu, Ph.D. obtained her Ph. D. in Linguistics at the Philippine Normal University and is the Founding President of Asosasyon ng mga Dalubguro sa Filipino (ADFIL). She is the Director for Language Study Center of the Philippine Normal University and chairs the Technical Committee for Filipino Commission on Higher Education.
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