2009 (STAR) By Paolo Romero  - Malacañang disputed yesterday the findings of a group, which was accredited to administer English proficiency tests that the skill of Filipinos on the language is deteriorating.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo was commenting on the report from the IDP Education Pty. Ltd. Philippines that showed the average score of Filipinos who took the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) last year was a poor 6.69 where 7.0 is the passing score.

Fajardo told a news briefing that based on the National Achievement Tests administered in 2007 and 2008, there was “significant improvement” in English in identified low performing schools.

She said 79 percent or 1,453 of the identified 1,898 low performing elementary schools increased achievement levels in English from low mastery to average mastery.

Fajardo added that 82 percent or 215 of the 265 low performing high schools also registered improvement in achievement levels in English from low mastery to average mastery, citing data from the Department of Education.

She said the overall results of the Test of English Proficiency for Teachers in the low performing schools in English showed that a majority of the elementary and secondary teachers are on the average proficiency or 51 percent in elementary and 67 percent in secondary level.

Officials said the government is earmarking P1.1 billion to train nearly 400,000 teachers to improve their Math, Science and English skills.

Fajardo said there are other projects to improve the English proficiency of teachers and students in public schools, like the “Project Turning Around,” “Every Child A Reader Program,” and the National English Proficiency Program.

According to Andrew King, country director of IDP Education Pty. Ltd. Philippines the overall average score was disappointing because many of the Filipino IELTS takers were supposedly “educated.”

IDP Education Philippines is a group accredited by the Australian government to administer IELTS to Filipinos seeking to work, migrate, or pursue higher education in Australia.

“These are professionals with college degrees and are managers in their jobs here who seek to migrate to Australia,” he said.

King said the Philippines did not even enjoy the top place in its English proficiency in Asia or even the Southeast Asian region since it was held by Malaysia.

Decline of English in primetime TV shows cited

The apparent deteriorating quality of teachers teaching English, error-riddled English textbooks and the decreasing English content in public primetime television were seen as the cause of the declining level of English proficiency in the Philippines.

King warned the people that the government should address these causes if the country seeks to retain its image as foremost supplier of workers skilled in speaking the English language.

King, whose group is accredited by the Australian government to administer the IELTS in the Philippines and other countries all over the world, said that a continuous decline in Filipinos’ English proficiency could affect the growth of the call center industry which is providing employment to hundreds of thousands of workers and the chances of Filipinos getting work in other countries.

“As many countries are demanding higher English scores (in the IELTS), Filipinos may not be able to meet the English requirement and this will have human and economic consequences for the country,” King said in the national English conference held at Malcolm Hall at UP Diliman organized by the Centre for International Education (CIE) last week.

King said that IDP’s researchers who had looked into the results of the IELTS given to Filipinos in 2008 attributed it to poor quality of English instruction as well as the “resources” or textbooks on English teaching.

A check they made on how English is taught in schools, he said, explained the poor scores in the IELTS.

“The teaching is limited by the capacity of the teachers,” King said.

King said that the level in English proficiency was also “obviously affected by the standards of resources available, especially the textbooks.”

He cited the case of the use of numerous error-riddled textbooks used in public schools made by Antonio Calipjo-Go, an academic supervisor of Marian School in Novaliches, Quezon City, which he pointed out have to be raised by an outsider, because public school teachers failed to detect the errors.

King said that looking into the errors enumerated by Go, he agreed that these were real errors that had to be corrected and was puzzled why many were being defended by the Department of Education.

The decreasing content of English shows on primetime television had also aggravated the poor quality of English teachers and textbooks.

“Filipinos are exposed to less and less English as programs in the local language now dominate television,” King said.

King, in his presentation at the national English conference, revealed that the Philippines was just second to Malaysia in proficiency in listening, speaking, writing and conversing in English.

According to King, Malaysians had an average overall score of 6.71, leading among countries in Asia in overall English proficiency.

The Philippines was second to Malaysia with 6.69; third was Indonesia with 5.99; fourth was India with 5.79; and Thailand fifth with 5.71. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

No midnight sale of government assets - Palace (The Philippine Star) Updated November 04, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang sought yesterday to douse suspicions that it is rushing the sale of government assets to boost its campaign war chest for the elections next year.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo explained the administration has been implementing the privatization program of the government.

Fajardo made the explanation in reaction to the statements of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. that the administration is engaging in a “midnight sale” of government assets.

Pimentel said the rush in the sale of government assets is designed more to fatten the pockets of corrupt officials in the remaining months of President Arroyo’s term of office.

“Privatization has long been a program of our administration and I think if there are allegations such as the one that Senator Pimentel has been saying, I think if they can be proven, charges can be filed against the government officials, who may be tagged by evidence,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo said Pimentel was unfair in making the statement.

“It would be unfair for such statement, saying that there is a rush in the sale of assets because the administration of the President is about to end,” she said.

Pimentel said to make up for its deficiency in tax collections, “the Arroyo administration has been selling all kinds of assets, from its shareholdings in Petron and Meralco to military camps or reservations apparently without due regard to the strategic importance of maintaining government stake in these corporate enterprises.”

Pimentel urged the government to desist from selling more state assets to allay apprehensions that such business deals are part of the fund-raising campaign for administration candidates in the 2010 elections. – Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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