Filipinos top 2012 English indexBy Queena Lee-Chua
Philippine Daily Inquirer
While professors (including myself) decry the decline in English language skills of our students, Global English’s Business English Index 2012 begs to differ.
Global English, an English language instruction company in California with clients such as Cisco, General Motors and Procter and Gamble, tested 108,000 employees in 216 companies in 76 countries. The tests, conducted in 2011, included comprehension of English, and its usage in various media such as e-mail, phone, presentations.
First, the bad news. On a scale of one to 10—one, as the lowest, indicating the employee uses only basic English while 10, as the highest, means the employee communicates like a native English speaker—the average score was 4.15, down from 4.46 the year before.
Most global workers can deal with basic information, but cannot perform more complex tasks that require nuanced understanding of the language.
Now for the good news: We are at the top! The Philippines was the only country to score at the intermediate level (7.11), followed by Norway (6.54), Estonia (6.45), Serbia (6.38), Slovenia (6.19), Australia, Malaysia, India, Lithuania, Singapore and Canada.
Global English president Tom Kahl was quoted as saying, “Addressing English skills gaps and ensuring that employees can immediately perform at the necessary proficiency level should be viewed as a strategic imperative for multinational businesses as enterprise fluency, the ability to seamlessly communicate and collaborate within global organizations, can deliver significant financial upside.”
The worst performing countries were Armenia, Cote d’Ivoire, Taiwan, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Brazil.
While I welcome the Mother Tongue-based instruction for our schools that will start this June, we need to ensure that we do not lose our global edge in reading, writing, speaking and understanding English.
Teaching in DC
When the United States labor department issued a two-year debarment order against the public schools in Prince George, Maryland, hundreds of Filipino teachers lost their jobs.
Instead of indulging in self-pity, some teachers decided to dedicate their Saturday mornings to help struggling American kids learn—for free.
In their old schools, the teachers established weekend mentoring programs that helped many students pass assessment tests. Now in Washington DC, the US capital, the teachers decided to do the same thing at venues such as Perry Street Preparatory Charter School.
Because of one-on-one instruction, kids not only mastered basic skills but also improved their behavior.
In his article “Laid off in Maryland, Pinoy teachers blaze new trail at DC” at abs-cbnnews.com, Rodney Jaleco recounted the story of a boy who used to be “rude, disrespectful and playful inside the classroom,” but was able to change because of the intervention of Filipino teacher Lilian Espiritu.
Hopefully, Filipino teachers here can emulate their counterparts in the US, teaching for free students who need extra help. We also need to find ways to entice Filipino teachers to come home, because so many Pinoy kids also need one-on-one help here.
On the surface, this may not be good news for students, at least for those in Britain. A few months ago, professor Steve Sparks, chair of the United Kingdom Advisory Committee on Math Education, proposed that by the year 2016, mathematics should be required for all students at least till they reach 18 or 19 years of age.
The Philippine K to 12 program requires math for everyone up to Grade 12.
Sparks cited the usefulness of math in the modern world, especially in the job market, where numeracy is essential.
But Alex Bellos, author of the book “Alex’s Adventures in Numberland,” argued that math should be studied not just for its practical use, but for aesthetic purposes, the same reasons we study Shakespeare or art.
“Math makes us more creative and gives us a deeper understanding of the way things really are,” he said in the UK’s Guardian. Bellos gave the following example to show that math is not only useful; it is also cool.
Nothing can be cooler than Apple products, such as the iPod. But, at first, when people used the Random Shuffle feature, music pieces from the same album often played in succession.
How could this be? This was not random, people complained.
But randomness does not mean that similar tracks will not appear.
In fact, “the study of probability teaches us that clusters of similar tracks are indeed very likely,” Bellos said, “in the same way that when you flip a coin, you will get surprisingly long runs of heads or tails.”
When told about the complaints, Apple guru Steve Jobs said Apple would tweak the feature so that tracks from different albums would appear, “making it less random to make it feel more random.”
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