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World Englishes, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 472–485, 2014.


English language teaching in the Philippines


ABSTRACT: Research in world Englishes (WE) and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) have long been
promoting what Pakir describes as ‘common working axioms’ (2009: 228) which uphold the pluricentricity
of English: the existence of varieties, the acceptance of language change and adaptation, and the highlighting
of discourse strategies. These principles have had profound effects on our understanding of the English
language and, consequently, on the teaching of the language. In this paper, I argue that, for all the benefits
offered by varieties of English, it might not be appropriate to teach varieties explicitly as a model to non-
native learners of the language. I make this argument with the Philippine education context in mind, and
propose a framework for Philippine ELT that recognizes both the identity and communication functions of
the language.

With the introduction of the world Englishes (WE) paradigm to Filipino scholars and
teachers of English in the 1990s, questions about the dominance of ‘native speaker’ models
in Philippine classrooms began to surface. This was followed by a surge in the popularity
of Philippine English (PE) research and consequently, calls for the language variety to be
promoted in ELT. Borlongan (2011), for instance, argues for the re-training of teachers,
the development of new instructional materials based on existing corpora of Philippine
English, and the re-envisioning of instructional leadership in managing innovations in
English language teaching in the country. He pushes for these ‘little sacrifices that are
not to be held back so as to finally put Philippine English on the pedestal of established
Englishes, together with American, British, and Australian Englishes’ (Borlongan 2011:
Friginal (2011: 71), in presenting data showing the frequency of the use of the modal
would in PE, argues for pedagogical applications of his findings: ‘It seems that using
educated PhilE as a target English in the national setting for public and private schools
(in contrast to teaching American English) is more appropriate because, in the first place,
PhilE is grammatically and semantically comparable to target core English.’ Borlongan
and Friginal are not alone in pushing for the promotion of non-native varieties in the
English language classroom. Kirkpatrick (2007: 193) also argues that ‘the advantages
of choosing a local model in outer-circle countries in which the local variety has already
gained widespread social acceptance outweigh the advantages of choosing a native speaker
model.’ However, in the case of the Philippines, I argue that, for all the benefits offered by
the Philippine variety of English, it might not be appropriate to teach this variety explicitly
as a model to learners of the English language. The alternative, of course, is not the status

∗ Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, 1108, Philippines.
E-mail: mmartin@ateneo.edu

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English language teaching in the Philippines 473

quo, which is the continued reliance on ‘native speaker’ models. How then should Filipino
teachers of English approach ELT? The answer may lie in the WE and ELF paradigms as
these are applied to the educational context.


Pakir’s (2009: 233) analysis of research frameworks in WE and ELF point to four ‘working
axioms’ that the WE and ELF paradigms share. These common principles include ‘empha-
sizing the pluricentricity of English, seeking variety recognition, accepting that language
changes and adapts itself to new environments, and observing the discourse strategies of
English- knowing bilinguals’ (Pakir 2009: 233). However, Pakir also makes the tentative
conclusion that WE and ELF are ‘similar in many ways but dissimilar in significant ones’
(Pakir 2009: 234). One significant area of difference, according to Pakir (2009: 231),
is what she describes as the tendency of ELF research to focus on ‘connectivity minus
linguaculture.’ While WE research hinges on the sociolinguistic realities of Englishes,
especially in the Outer Circle English (OCE) contexts, ELF research concerns itself with
the ‘the transient and incipient nature’ of the interactions of Expanding Circle English
(ECE) users as they come into contact with each other (Pakir 2009: 233). WE research is
interested in the ‘indigenized’ nature of English, while ELF research focuses primarily on
the ‘contact’ nature of the language (Pakir 2009: 230). By doing so, ELF research does
not account for the indigenization and identity-marking processes found in OCE contexts
where Englishes are used in greater depth and range.
Like Pakir, Seidlhofer acknowledges that WE and ELF have a common ground. However,
she also argues that the ELF paradigm, while drawing from the main principles of WE,
operates on a different set of realities (Seidlhofer 2009). For Seidlhofer, ELF is ‘different
in kind, functionally and not formally defined; it is not a variety of English but a variable
way of using it: English that functions as a lingua franca’ (Seidlhofer 2011: 77). Thus,
ELF is more concerned with intercultural communication, a reality that she believes is
‘not contained in, or constrained by, traditional (and notoriously tendentious) ideas of what
constitutes “a language”’ Seidlhofer (2011: 81). On Pakir’s claim that ELF research focuses
primarily on ECE users, Seidlhofer agrees. However, she asserts that ELF communication
happens not just in ECE contexts, but also across all the circles of Kachru’s Three Circles
model (Seidlhofer 2009: 236). In contrast, WE research, according to Seidlhofer (2009:
237), by concerning itself with OCE contexts alone, does not account for the use of English
among ECE countries, which is ‘the most widespread contemporary use of English – that
which from a global perspective actually constitutes the prevailing reality of English, with
the largest number of speakers.’
With the WE paradigm aligning towards the indigenization of English, and the ELF
framework focusing primarily on the contact nature of the language, the two paradigms
may be located on opposite poles of Kirkpatrick’s (2007) identity-communication contin-
uum, which corresponds to Mahboob’s (2010) user-uses complementarity. The continuum
reveals the two major functions of the English language. Kirkpatrick describes the identity
function of English as evident in local situations to signal identity within a speech com-
munity. Thus this variety ‘will display a wide range of distinctive phonological, lexical,
syntactic and cultural features’ (Kirkpatrick 2007: 172). On the other hand, the commu-
nication function of the language is used across speech communities and usually exhibits
fewer distinctive features. The WE and ELF paradigms, having opposing tendencies in

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474 Isabel Pefianco Martin

their approaches, also differ in perspectives towards English language teaching (ELT).
One important issue concerning applications of WE and ELF to ELT is the question
of which model of the English language should be target of teaching and learning. By
‘model’ here is meant ‘a linguistic ideal that a learner and teacher keep in mind in the
course of language instruction’ (Berns 2006: 725). Kachru (1991) offers a functional,
dynamic approach, which is based on a polymodel perspective. The polymodel concept is
the alternative to the nativist approach of presenting one standard model, usually a ‘native
speaker’ model. Berns (2006: 725) describes the polymodel approach as ‘responsive to
the sociocultural dimensions of functional and formal diversity in speech communities
requiring competence in English.’
Other than taking a polymodel approach, WE also pushes for the promotion of local
cultures which inform the language varieties. Kachru (1980: 7) himself calls for the use
of non-native literature in the English language classroom and argues that using such texts
offers both teachers and learners of English an opportunity to embrace the language variety
as their own. According to Kachru (1980: 7), using non-native literature in the English
language classroom allows learners to ‘see a non-native language as part of the culture
with which they identify. The English language thus acquires both formal and functional
realism.’ Sadly, non-native literature in English is still relegated to the margins of language
and literature education today, especially in the Philippines where texts of American and
European origins remain privileged in school curricula (Martin 2007).
A WE approach to teaching and learning the English language takes a tolerant position
on learner ‘errors.’ Li (2010: 631) challenges the ‘fine line between errors and innovations’
when he asked the question ‘When does an unconventional form become an innovation?’
(Li 2010: 617). The issue of identifying a feature or innovation of a language variety is a
tricky one. In the case of Philippine English, Gonzalez (1983) argues that ‘errors’ cease
to become such when the educated elite continue to use these ‘errors.’ However, Gonzalez
also admits that it is difficult to distinguish in absolute terms ‘errors’ from features.
An interesting phenomenon concerning the emergence of varieties of English is the fact
that these varieties have similar non-standard linguistic features. Kirkpatrick provides a list
of these shared features, which include pronunciation and grammatical features, such as the
tendency of speakers to avoid using fricatives and complex verb tenses (Kirkpatrick 2007:
173). Among users of the language in Southeast Asia, Kirkpatrick provides another list of
shared non-standard phonological features such as reduction of consonant clusters and the
merging of long and short vowel sounds, among others (Kirkpatrick 2010: 173). Kirkpatrick
argues that the traditional approach of correcting so-called ‘errors’ is a waste of curriculum
time, as these features rarely present problems in communication between Southeast Asian
speakers of English. As more and more users of the varieties interact with each other, the
shared non-standard features among the varieties expand into what Seidlhofer describes
as ‘commonalities that could facilitate global international/intercultural communication’
(Seidlhofer 2011: 79). These commonalities are the concern of ELF research and pedagogy.
Seidlhofer (2011: 189) argues that the widespread use of ELF ‘brings home the simultaneity
of learning and using in a particular striking way.’ While traditional ELT practice separates
language use from language learning, ELF pedagogical practices view ‘learning and using
(as) not consecutive by simultaneous processes’ (Seidlhofer 2011: 189). Seidlhofer explains
that traditional ELT positions language use as dependent on language learning. Such a view
does not capture the reality of language learning.

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English language teaching in the Philippines 475

How does language learning operate in the first place? It is a question all teachers of
languages must ask, but often do not. Widdowson (2009: 211) tells us that language learning
is ‘a process of recurrent unlearning and relearning, whereby encoding rules are modified,
extended, re-aligned or abandoned altogether to accommodate new language data.’ Such
a view of language learning as a process that takes place simultaneously with language
use certainly has implications on teaching the English language. ELT then becomes ‘a
matter of guiding this process of learning by unlearning, and the actual input presented
by teachers is of secondary importance’ (Seidlhofer 2011: 183). Unlike WE pedagogy,
ELF does not ask which language to teach or not teach? ELF pedagogy is concerned not
with ‘learning a language but learning to language’ (Seidlhofer 2011: 197). According to
Seidlhofer (2011: 197):

the purpose of teaching becomes the development of a capability for effective use which involves the
process of exploiting whatever linguistic resources are available, not matter how formally “defective”.

For ELT in ASEAN, Kirkpatrick (2010: 177) argues that ‘rather than focusing on a
specific variety of English, the ASEAN school curriculum needs to make a radical move
to teach English as it is used in social contexts within the region.’ Kirkpatrick refers to
this as ‘the multilingual model,’ combined with the adoption of a ‘lingua franca approach
to the teaching of English.’ This lingua franca approach involves the use of strategies for
constructing and negotiating meaning in communicative events. One strategy is the use of
the learner’s own language (L1), which is part of the linguistic repertoire of any language
In Figure 1 (WE and ELF in the context of education), I summarize the common
working axioms of WE and ELF, as well as the basic tenets and pedagogical applications
of each paradigm. Adding to the work of Kachru (1980, 1983, 1991), Pakir (2009), and
Seidlhofer (2009, 2011), I superimpose Kirkpatrick’s identity-communication continuum
(Kirkpatrick 2007, 2010), as well as Mahboob’s (2010) user-uses complementarity on the
two frameworks of WE and ELF.


Having surveyed the tenets of WE and ELF, and general applications of each paradigm in
educational settings, I now turn to a specific context – ELT in the Philippines. My aim in
this section is to describe the ELT practices that dominate and to discuss the appropriateness
of these practices in promoting English language learning among Filipino students.
Among ASEAN countries, the Philippines occupies a unique position in that English
was brought to the country by the Americans, rather than the British. Three hundred
years of Spanish occupation did nothing to make the Spanish language occupy the same
prestige status that English enjoys today. However, about fifty years of American rule was
enough to put the English language in its present elevated position in Philippine society.
English came to the Philippine classrooms through American soldiers who first taught in
Corregidor in 1898. With the Americans came public education and a directive for English
to be used as the medium of instruction (MOI) in all levels. During this period of colonial
rule (1898–1946), English was taught as if the Filipino students were native speakers of
the language. (Martin 2002) One indication of this may be found in the following quote
from an American school principal in 1911:

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476 Isabel Pefianco Martin

Figure 1. WE and ELF in the context of education

We must insist that every day in his first three years of school life, the Filipino child has a dialogue
lesson, and we must make him commit that lesson absolutely to memory. For instance suppose his first
lesson is as brief as this:
Good morning, Pedro.
Good morning, Jose.
How are you this morning, Pedro? Thank you, I am very well. It would not be cruelty to animals to insist
on any second grade pupil’s committing that lesson to memory (cited in Martin 2002).

In the quote above, the school principal believes that Filipino students will learn the
English language only by memorizing dialogues. Such was the practice in American
schools at that time. Other than dialogue memorization, ELT in the colonial public schools
also promoted other mechanical methods of teaching the language, namely, stressing
eye movements in reading, asking students to read aloud, making them perform grammar
drills, and expecting them to recite memorized passages. However, a series of studies of the
Philippine educational system at this time (such as the Monroe Report of 1925) indicated
that these ELT strategies, as well as the choice of English as MOI, did not contribute to
an increase in learning outcomes. Despite this, the English as MOI policy persisted until
after the Second World War, when the Philippines gained political independence from the
US (Martin 2002).
In the 1970s, with nationalists clamoring for wider use of the national language, English
shared its MOI status with Filipino in a bilingual education scheme that is still observed
at present times (Gonzalez 2003: 2). This Bilingual Education Policy (BEP) came under

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scrutiny in the last few years after Filipino students were reported to have performed badly
in international tests of math and science (Martin 2010: 248–249). The dismal performance
of the Filipino students, as well as low test scores they have been receiving in national
achievement tests, was attributed to low proficiency in English, which was the language
of the tests. Thus in 2009, the Department of Education (DepEd), in an effort to address
the continuing deteriorating of basic education, pushed for the use of the mother tongues
in the early levels of elementary schooling (Department of Education 2009). The move is
known as mother-tongue based multilingual education (MTB-MLE).
A quick survey of memoranda, circulars and orders from the DepEd reveals three
dominant ELT practices in the Philippines, namely, the Communicative Language Teaching
(CLT) approach, English for Specific Purposes (ESP), and Task-Based Language Teaching
approach (TBLT). Interestingly, the popularity of these ELT approaches is in proportion
to the number of memoranda and circulars, as well as corresponding training programs
on these ELT approaches (see appendix for the list of DepEd memoranda). For teachers
of English, especially in the Philippines, the introduction of ‘new’ language teaching
approaches is always welcome as these add to the teachers’ bag of tricks in the classroom.
However, the teachers may not realize that language teaching approaches are not neutral
as these always come with a set of assumptions that may or may not apply to the unique
contexts of teaching and learning English in the Philippine.
ESP became popular in the Philippine ELT scene in the 1990s. This popularity is
attributed to the growing global spread of English, increasing demand for Philippine
laborers, and the need for development in science and technology in the country. Teaching
English for specific purposes was believed to offer an ideal means to equip Filipino
citizens with the English language skills they needed to upgrade the state of science and
technology in the country, as well as to meet demands for overseas employment of Filipino
workers. The approach was presented as scientific and culture-free, which Valdez (2011:
74) describes as ‘[fitting] the utilitarian purposes of government, educational institutions,
and the Filipino people.’ ESP was widely criticized during this time for its promotion of
dependence on Western technology and knowledge.
Seidlhofer (2011) warns about ESP approaches, especially in situations where the pur-
poses conform to native speaker norms. According to Seidlhofer (2011: 200):

most learners have other and far less specific and predictable purposes, and it does not seem reasonable
to impose such ESP objectives on them, especially since they are unlikely to attain them anyway. What
they need is what is actually referred to as EGP – English for General Purposes – English that can be
adapted to any purpose and made appropriate to any context.

Another popular ELT approach in the Philippines is Task-Based Language Teaching

(TBLT), which is associated with the Philippines English Language Teaching (PELT)
Project undertaken by the DepEd in the 1990s. TBLT, which claims to be more mindful
of the nature of second language acquisition (SLA), was developed as an alternative to
traditional form-focused ELT practices. (Ellis 2003; Nunan 2004) The approach draws
from Skehan’s (1996) three dimensions of performance, namely, complexity, accuracy, and
fluency. For TBLT, the goal of language learning is to acquire these three components of
second language acquisition. However, as Seidelhofer (2011) has pointed out, complex-
ity, accuracy, and fluency are defined in reference to native speaker norms. Seidelhofer
specifically reacts to Ellis’s description of TBLT as a situation where ‘learners should

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Table 1. Developing accuracy vs. developing fluency in the English language classroom (Richards 2006)
Activities focusing on accuracy Activities focusing on fluency

• Reflect classroom use of language • Reflect natural use of language

• Focus on the formation of correct examples of language • Focus on achieving communication
• Require meaningful use of language
• Practice language out of context • Require the use of communication strategies
• Practice small samples of language • Produce language that may not be predictable
• Do not require meaningful communication
• Control choice of language • Seek to link language use to context

largely have to rely on their own resources (linguistic and non-linguistic) in order to com-
plete the activity’ (Seidlhofer 2011: 184). Would language learners be allowed to call on all
their linguistic resources, including their own languages? According to Seidlhofer (2011:
184), the tendency of TBLT is to design tasks that do not aim to ‘develop communicative
proficiency as such but proficiency in confirming to native-speaker norms.’
The most popular approach in Philippine ELT is the communicative language teach-
ing approach, which draws its principles from Hyme’s (1966) notion of communicative
competence. Canale and Swain (1980) later provided concrete pedagogical applications
of communicative competence with the expansion of the concept to include three compo-
nents, namely, grammatical, sociolinguistic, and strategic competence. However, in Canale
and Swain’s (1980) discussion of CLT practices, Leung (2005: 128) sees ‘traces of the na-
tive speaker’ perspective, specifically, when Canale and Swain suggested that non-native
learners of English are not expected by native speakers of the language to have mastered the
appropriate sociocultural rules in given settings. Following the CLT approach, ELT focuses
primarily on teaching the language as a functional tool for communication, which means
that language teaching does not pay much attention to form or structure. In this approach,
contrasts are made between developing accuracy and developing fluency in language use,
the latter being the goal of CLT. Richards (2006: 14) summarizes this in Table 1.
The above dichotomy between developing accuracy and developing fluency, which is
promoted by CLT, presents several questions. For one, what exactly does ‘natural use of
language’ refer to? Doesn’t language in the classroom represent the natural use of language
as well? Why is the focus on accuracy a bad thing in the English language classroom?
Doesn’t a lack of understanding of form impede on meaningful communication? Clearly,
CLT, in isolating accuracy concerns from fluency issues in the classroom, contributes to
what Firth refers to as ‘the contrived divide between language “learning” and “use” ’(Firth
2009: 149).
Criticisms of CLT abound. These include observations that the approach discourages
the use of the mother tongues in the classroom, which McKay (2002: 112) believes is
a ‘tenet [that] ignores the productive ways in which the mother tongue can be used in
class, and is particularly inappropriate in an era when English is being acquired primar-
ily in bilingual contexts.’ Teachers outside the Inner Circle countries (ICC) also find the
approach inapplicable to their situations. Mohammad (2012) describes misapprehensions
about CLT among Bangladeshi teachers of English. These misapprehensions include be-
liefs that the approach involves the exclusive focus on meaning, no exclusive focus on
learner errors, listening and speaking practice only, and avoidance of the learner’s mother
tongue. (Mohammad 2012) CLT has also been questioned because of its ‘sort of naive

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English language teaching in the Philippines 479

Figure 2. ELT practices of Filipino teachers of English

ethnocentricism prompted by the thought that what is good for Europe or the USA had
to be good for KwaZulu’ (Chick in Mahboob and Tilakaratna 2012: 10). McKay (2002:
113–116) provides a discussion of serious challenges to CLT posed by teachers in China,
Korea, Hungary, and Pakistan. These challenges include the beliefs that: (i) CLT does
not seem to present serious learning activities; (ii) CLT is unable to respond to the needs
of learners to pass traditional national grammar-based examinations; (iii) CLT does not
work in less-than-ideal educational systems with large classes and inadequate funding for
teacher training; and (iv) CLT is burdensome to teachers who are expected to produce
authentic learning materials, especially in communities where English is not widely used.
When CLT was first introduced to Filipino teachers in the 1980s, it was largely misun-
derstood and found to be pedagogically unclear. This may be attributed to the top-down
fashion of presenting CLT to Filipino teachers of English (Valdez 2011: 74). Among Fil-
ipino teachers today, there are different interpretations of the CLT approach to teaching
English. In a survey in which 76 private and public high school teachers of English were
surveyed in 2012, I conducted recently about ELT practices among private and public
school teachers of English, I found that teachers who claimed to be practicing CLT also
reported that they taught grammar explicitly to their students (Figure 2). When asked to
describe the features of CLT, the teachers reported practices, which are summarized in
Figure 3.
Although the survey involves a small sample, the results illustrate that among Filipino
teachers of English, CLT is interpreted as having practices that the approach was not origi-
nally intended to observe. For instance, the teachers did not seem to see grammar-focused
teaching as incompatible with CLT. In focused group discussion, some teachers reported
that they allowed the use of the mother tongue during group activities and occasionally
introduced grammar games in their lessons.

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Figure 3. Features of CLT according to Filipino teachers of English

CLT remains as the most popular, almost the default, ELT framework in the Philippines.
Lesson plans and textbooks continue to be written following the principles of CLT. Doplon
writes about a particular lesson in a textbook. She makes the following observation:

The communicative approach in the instructional materials does not seem to be contextualized in a proper
multilingual environment [ . . . ] [T]he instructional materials reveal a belief in the monolingual fallacy:
English language classes, although found within the Philippine setting, are really monolingual classes
located in the Philippines. The interactions within such classes not only support the monolingual fallacy,
but the maximum exposure fallacy as well (Doplon 2012: 148).

Doplon illustrates how the native speaker context is assumed in CLT in Philippine text-
books. According to her:

The first grade is the entry level for the BEC. For many students, this may be one of their first encounters
with the English language. The lesson is aimed at mimicking real life situations where people greet one
another. While the situations are life-like, the language of the situations neglect the first language of the
children and their multilingual environment.

We might also notice the following script prescribed to engage the students:

Motivation Ask:
How do we greet our parents? visitors? other people? What do we usually tell them? How do our
parents/visitors feel when we greet them? Do you feel the same way?
The use of the personal pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’ assume that the students and the teacher live in a
community where they speak English. Not only are they assumed to speak in English, they are assumed
to be comfortable and familiar with the language as it is used for a very personal function such as
greeting. The use of the term ‘usually’ also assumes that the students commonly greet their parents
and visitors in English. However, that is far from the usual situation in the Philippines’ (Doplon 2012:

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English language teaching in the Philippines 481

Clearly, the approaches that dominated and continue to dominate Philippine ELT, namely,
English for Specific Purposes, Task-based Language Teaching, and Communicative Lan-
guage Teaching, persist in their reliance on ‘native speaker’ norms. Such a situation, if
allowed to continue, will certainly create feelings of intimidation for the learners, low
self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Dropout rates in the early years of schooling have
been associated with the Filipino learners’ inability to understand their lessons and teachers
(Nolasco 2008). And language has a lot to do with developing learners’ knowledge and
understanding about things.
The ELT approaches offered by the WE and ELF paradigms open up several possibilities
for Philippine ELT to veer away from practices that promote ‘native speaker’ norms. The
two paradigms are located as opposites on the cline of the identity and communication
functions of the English language. While the WE approach to ELT foregrounds identity
by promoting local varieties, ELT from the ELF perspective forwards the communication
function of the language by approaching learning and use as simultaneous processes.
In what specific ways may these two paradigms assist Filipino teachers of English in
their task of teaching the language? As there are clear benefits resulting from the promotion
of local varieties of English, should Philippine English be used as the language model of
Filipino students? What are other options for Filipino teachers of English if Philippine
English is not promoted as the norm of ELT in the country? These questions are addressed
in the next section.

The introduction of the WE paradigm to Filipino scholars and teachers of English in the
1990s presented an opportunity to finally resist the dominance of native speaker norms in
the classroom. However, with a surge in the popularity of Philippine English research, the
variety began to be promoted as the target of ELT. Clearly, there are benefits to using PE
in Philippine ELT. For one, the variety is already being used by teachers of the language,
whether they are aware of it or not. Thus, by promoting PE in the classroom, feelings of
intimidation, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence among both teachers and learners
may diminish. And, as teachers know, lowering affective filters may result in an increase
of learning outcomes. However, I argue that, for all the benefits offered by the existence
of a Philippine variety of English, it may not be realistic and appropriate to use this variety
as the norm for ELT in the Philippines.
First of all, the absence of a comprehensive codification of the variety, grammar books,
and other instructional materials makes it difficult to choose PE as a model in the English
language classroom. It is true that so much has already been written about PE and that
the variety has reached ‘an age of maturity’ (Bolton 2011), but these research studies have
remained research studies with no clear and concrete applications to ELT. In addition,
there are issues concerning the widespread acceptability of the PE variety. The variety has
always been referred to as educated PE. Such label is recognition that PE is used only by
the elite few. Despite two decades of scholarly work that describe and promote the variety,
questions arise on whether this discourse on PE presents the language as empowering to
its users or as what Tupas (2004: 54) describes as ‘a reified sociolinguistic abstraction
which does not have much to do with the lives of its speakers’. Tupas (2006: 169), in
response to Filipino poet Gemino Abad et. al.’s (1997: 170) now famous line ‘English is
ours. We have colonized it too,’ asks, ‘But who are the “we” who have colonized English?’.

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There are claims that PE should be taught because the variety, as all other Englishes are
seen in the WE paradigm, is an indigenized, identity-marking variety that bears the unique
culture of its speakers. But PE is not really significantly different from other varieties; it is
certainly not radically different from Standard American English (SAE). Still, if we accept
the argument of PE as a mark of identity and culture, then the argument would apply only
to the identity and culture of the educated class who use this variety. For the rest of the
Filipinos, identity in languages means using the mother tongues, not a nativized variety of
a language that is still associated with the colonial past.
Finally, the Philippine educational system has been saddled with a wide range of prob-
lems from teachers’ salaries, low achievement scores, lack of classrooms, limited acces-
sibility to vital infrastructure (such as electricity and computers), to curriculum reform,
teacher training, and instructional materials development (Martin 2005). And then there
is that ‘unresolved medium of instruction issue in Philippine basic education [that] is
a recurring nightmare’ (Bautista et al. 2010: 34). With all these concerns, should ELT
professionals even bother to worry about what variety of English should be taught in the
If PE should not be taught as a model for Filipino learners of English, what then is the
alternative? Certainly, the alternative should not be to revert to native speaker norms, which
is already the status quo. Instead, what I propose for ELT in the Philippines is a framework
that is more cognizant of the unique sociolinguistic profile of the Philippines. ELT stake-
holders in the Philippines would do well to focus instead on the communicative function of
the language in Kirkpatrick’s identity-communication continuum. Mahboob (2010) refers
to this side of the continuum as the ‘uses’ side of his user-uses complementarity. According
to Mahboob (2010: 8):

Literature on world Englishes has traditionally focused on the “users” and looked at linguistic features
and structures that can be used to identify them. The results of such a focus on “users” leads to a neglect
of the “uses” of English within a world Englishes paradigm.

Mahboob pushes for an emphasis on ‘uses’ which are ‘socially constructed ways of making
meaning in specific contexts so that people from different backgrounds can “communi-
cate” efficiently and effectively’ (Mahboob 2010: 11). Kirkpatrick (2010) refers to this
focus on teaching the communication function of English as the ‘multilingual model and
lingua franca approach,’ which requires the presence of multilingual teachers as models
for the multilingual learners, using instructional materials drawn from various contexts,
following a cross-cultural curriculum. Matsuda (2003: 723) more concretely recommends
that learners be exposed to speakers of other varieties through face-to-face interaction,
email exchanges, visiting websites that provide audio-visual samples of these varieties.
For instructional materials, Matsuda (2003: 724) calls for the rewriting of textbooks to
assign speakers from the OCE and ECE major roles in dialogues and stories.
It is also important for ELT in the Philippines to strive to make full use of all linguistic
resources available to the learner. The Philippines has more than 175 languages. Thus, for
ELT in the Philippines to be relevant, appropriate, and successful, it must allow the use of
mother tongues in the classroom. Mother tongues are vital resources learners draw from in
bridging from one language to another. Sadly, the English-only attitude and practice still
persist in Philippine ELT, despite the move to institutionalize MTB-MLE in basic education.
Other than the mother tongues, linguistic resources in the classroom also include PE and
SAE. There can be no denying that SAE still occupies a prestige position in Philippine

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English language teaching in the Philippines 483

society. However, this status is not the fault of the language. SAE is certainly not an evil
monster that must be destroyed. The monster is not the language, but the attitude attached
it, which is the assignment of superiority to SAE at the expense of other languages. Thus,
PE and SAE should both be used in Philippine ELT. Kirkpatrick (2007) talks about how
some scholars have recommended the use of a native speaker variety as norm, with the
local variety as model. In such situations, learners will not be discouraged from using
whatever variety they speak, but they should also aim to be clear and intelligible to others.
This may mean downplaying some features, which impede communication. Thus, in the
end, it is communication that learners of the language strive for.
In the final analysis, whatever ELT policy and practices are introduced, these will still be
unsuccessful if teachers are not allowed to make their own decisions on the ground. Each
school situation in the Philippines has a unique sociolinguistic profile. Because of this,
languages-in-education decisions must be made as close as possible to the classroom. One
concrete application of school-based ELT management is allowing teachers to have a hand
in the preparation of instructional materials. In some ways, this is already being practiced
by the public schools that have embraced the MTB-MLE. Rather than wait for books to
be printed and delivered from Manila, teachers in these schools create what they call ‘big
books’ from their and their students’ artwork. These teachers, who are fully immersed
in the sociolinguistic realities of their schools, are in the best position to make important
decisions to ensure the success of ELT in their classrooms.

List of Department of Education (DepEd) Memoranda on English Language Teaching in
the Philippines
Communicative language teaching approach
No. 201 s.2009 Region-wide National English Proficiency Program (NEPP) Enhancement
Training of Mentors on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), Assessment and
Intervention for Grades I-III and Grades IV-VI Teachers/Mentors
No. 137 s.2009 Schedule of the Enhancement Training of Trainers (TOT) on Communica-
tive Language Teaching (CLT), Assessment and Intervention for Grades I-III and Grades
IV-VI Teachers
No. 107 s.2009 Enhancement Training of Trainers on Communicative Language Teaching
(CLT), Assessment and Intervention for Grades I-III and for Grades IV-VI Teachers
No. 575 s.2008 Continuation of the Region-wide Conduct of the Training on Commu-
nicative Language Teaching and Assisting Beginning Reading for Grades I-III Teach-
No. 527 s.2008 Orientation of Regional Chiefs, Regional NEPP Coordinators and Division
English Supervisors in the Elementary Level on Communicative Language Teaching
(CLT) and the Teaching of Reading to Support School-based Mentoring Program
No. 415 s.2008 Enhancement Training of Trainers of (TOT) and Region-wide Training on
Communicative Language Teaching and Assessing Beginning Reading for Grades I-III
No. 169 s.2008 National English Proficiency Program (NEPP) Phase II-Ten-Day Training
of Trainers (TOT) on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and “Gabay” Mentoring
Program for Grades IV-VI

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484 Isabel Pefianco Martin

No. 27 s.2007 RELCAAP National Seminar-Workshop on Updating Strategies in Com-

municative Language Teaching: Support to School-based Management (SBM) Inset
No. 61 s.1987 Summer Workshop for Language Supervisors on Communicative Language
Teaching for Intermediate and Advanced Students of English as a Second Language
English for specific purposes
No. 184 s.2000 International Seminar of “Language for Specific Purposes: Tuning to the
New Millennium”
No. 69 s.1994 Summer Seminar-Workshop on Materials Development in English for
Specific Purposes (ESP)
No. 7 s.1993 Second of a Series Lecture-Workshop on English for Specific Purposes
No. 87 s.1989 National Conference on English for Specific Purposes: State of the Art
No. 64 s.1984 7TH National Seminar Workshop in English for Specific Purposes (ESP)
No. 35 s.1983 Center for English for Specific Purposes (CESP) Seminar-Workshop
No. 116 s.1982 Fifth National Seminar-Workshop on English for Specific Purposes: En-
glish in Agriculture
No. 32 s.1982 5th National Seminar-Workshop on English for Specific Purposes
Task-based language teaching approach
No. 237 s.1996 Corrigendum to DECS Memo No. 320, S. 1996 (Orientation Meeting of
the PELT Project SFDA)
No. 220 s.1996 Orientation Meeting on the PELT Project School-based Follow-up Devel-
opment Activity
No. 348 s.1995 Philippines English Language (PELT) Project

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(Received 13 June 2014)

C 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd