Manila, Jan. 30, 2003 (Malaya) -- President Arroyo has ordered the Department of Education to revert to the English language as the primary medium of instruction.

Arroyo said the Filipinos' literacy, aptitude and skills in English must be preserved, along with the country's competitive edge in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, "where high-value jobs are most plentiful."

Arroyo disclosed her action in an address during the 75th anniversary celebration of the Far Eastern University.

Arroyo said the constitutional provision specifying the use of Filipino as language of instruction is subject to provisions of the law and the wishes of Congress, which has not enacted the enabling law that would mandate the use of Filipino as the medium of instruction.

She said some subjects would still be taught in Filipino, but did not specify which ones.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the President's change of heart was prompted by the growing emphasis of English in the curricula of most countries, including China and Japan.

Arroyo said that mathematics and science education in Philippine schools must also be upgraded to prepare the next generation's level of aptitude and skills "which we are losing even faster than our (knowledge of) English."

The number of classroom hours for the teaching of science and math must be increased in the current school year.

Other reforms that Arroyo ordered Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus to implement in the forthcoming school year are:

* Restoration of the PTCA (Parents-Teachers Community Association) fees so schools could pay miscellaneous fees (i.e. for security guards) not provided for in the budget, provided that these should be "voluntary" and should not be collected during the enrollment period.

* Establishment of school buildings in 322 barangays that do not have such structures, and that these should serve at least first and second grade pupils so they do not have to travel far.

* Changes in the design of school buildings in remote barangays to reduce their cost from P700,000 to P250,000. (De Jesus and Public Works Secretary Bayani Fernando have been ordered to attend to this matter.)

* Doing away with DepEd rules on the size of a schoolyard in remote barangays which are not expected to become towns for some time. Local governments should not also be required to transfer a land title to the school.

* Ensuring that public schools have textbooks for priority subjects in Grades I-4 and in the first and second years of high school.

* Use of DepEd savings to generate additional items for school teachers. In the case of barangays in areas affected by conflicts, soldiers can be tapped as teachers, or distance learning can be used.

* Propagation of De Jesus' coupon system of scholarships to allow the poor to be scholars in private schools, thereby exposing them to better education standards and reducing the demand for new public school buildings and teachers.

* Restoration of the subject Good Manners and Right Conduct in the school curriculum and allowing the voluntary teaching of religion in school premises.

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