The Neoliberalization of the Filipino

Published November 25, 2018, 9:11 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

On Oct. 9, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the removal of Filipino and Panitikan as core subjects in the collegiate level by lifting the temporary restraining order of the CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 20, Series of 2013.

Various nationalist groups, intellectuals, linguists, and academics have slammed the SC ruling, all of them echoing the same call: Ipagtanggol ang pambansang wika (Save our national language)! While the courses are dropped to the level of Senior High School and below, the critics have pointed out that 12 years would not be enough to teach and fully learn Filipino and Panitikan. In case people are forgetting, we’re not talking about just any language—it’s the national language, stripped of relevance, removed as a core subject! Rizal would turn in his grave. Not to mention the thousands of teachers and instructors that might lose their jobs.

The ruling is so absurd that even TV show host and senate president Vicente C. Sotto III expressed his stern condemnation. In a statement, he said: “We can see these days among the youth the lack of grasp of the Filipino language and by removing this as a core subject in college or any other school level, I fear this would deteriorate even further. The Filipino language is part of our identity as a people and as such we should strive to preserve and strengthen this at all times.”

Bulaga! Tito Sotto gets it. Yes, the removal of the courses as core subjects would be a huge blow to the already weakening appreciation of the national language and the literatures written in it. But let’s dig deeper. Why is there a lack of appreciation in the first place? The na­tionalist historian Renato Constantino answers this question in his essay “The Miseducation of the Filipino,” which aggressively criticized the United States for its “un-Filipino,” neocolonial, and imperialistic education imposed upon us dressed as “benevolent assimilation.”

In the essay, Constantino wrote: “Thus, from its inception, the educational system of the Philippines was a means of pacifying a people who were defending their newly-won freedom from an invader who had posed as an ally. The education of the Filipino under American sovereignty was an instrument of colonial policy.”

With the American education, Constan­tino wrote, we were not only learning a new language, we were not only forgetting our own language, we were starting to become a new type of American—the new type of American consumer, the new type of American laborer. The miseducation of the Filipino, especially today, isn’t only an issue of “national identity,” it also spells socio-economic crisis, a neoliberal attack against the youth.

K12 Graduate In the Midst of Globalisasyon, Acrylic on Canvas, by Iska


The CMO No. 20 is part of the K-12 system. A system that is widely opposed and is continually exposed as a neoliberal, colonial education program, which aims to further depress the wages of the Filipino worker. The system is designed to ensure that more Filipino youths leave school at a younger age to become “semi-skilled” laborers and compete with one another for scarce jobs and ultimately add to the growing number of unemployed. To the eyes of foreign multinationals and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies, the country becomes a pool of docile cheap laborers.

Speeding up “education” and blurring the importance of nation­alist subjects such as Filipino and Panitikan while, on the other hand, highlighting foreign-related courses make it easier to export the youth as young semi-skilled workers rather than professionals in their own country. The K-12 primer itself states that one of the objectives of adding two years is for the youth to graduate at the age of 18, the minimum age for entering into legitimate labor contracts. The two years that will be added to high school is focused on techni­cal or vocational training that matches the needs of foreign corporations.


While it isn’t bad to study foreign languages, it is certainly destructive to remove one’s opportunity to deeply study his or her mother tongue. Language is one the most integral part of education, it re­flects one’s culture and history. Moreover, a deeper study of one’s language means a deeper understanding of one’s society, its problems and ills. And historically, language, in different forms and dialects, have been proven instrumental for radical change, an expression for revolution.

While we must do whatever we can to save our national language, we must also call against the entire colonial K-12 sys­tem, which aims to build an education system that serves only the interests of big capitalists, compradors, and imperialists. Instead we should fight for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented educational system, one that will free us from our one-sided colonial bonds, socio-economic and socio-political chains, uphold genuine progress, and truly spring national development. As Constantino wrote: “Philippine educational policies should be geared to the making of Filipinos. These policies should see to it that schools produce men and women with minds and attitudes that are attuned to the needs of the country.”