Periphery ELT: The politics and practice of teaching English in the Philippines

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The sociolinguistic profile of English reveals that ownership of the language is shared across continents and cultures. Following the World Englishes paradigm, the language is approached as having a multiplicity of meanings and a plurality of centres. Such a phenomenon doesn’t come without myths and fallacies. In the Philippines, this is especially true in the ‘periphery’ – in English language and literature education in the public schools. This chapter presents illustrative data that reveal four myths about English in the

Philippines. The chapter begins by describing ELT during the American colonial period when canon and pedagogy merged to produce a public education system that marginalized Philippine literature in English and propagated present-day myths about the English language. The chapter ends by exploring possibilities for resistance in Philippine ELT. Filipino poet Amador T. Daguio, in the poem ‘Man of Earth’ (1932), speaks eloquently

about the proverbial Filipino resilience. The Filipino is likened to the pliant bamboo. He may have been forced to stoop and bend, but he persists in rising despite the ‘wind [that] passes by’. Like the persona in the poem, who tries to ‘measure fully [his] flexibility’, the Filipino teacher of English rises above the challenges of ELT in the Philippines. The history of English in the Philippines cannot be mapped out without having

scrutinized the agenda of ELT in the country. English was first introduced to the Filipinos through the American public school system. For half a century, the language was systematically promoted as a civilizing tool. Today, beliefs and attitudes about English, as well as the various ways in which the language is used, are products of the Filipino experience of American colonial education. In this chapter, I shall present English in the Philippines from the perspective of ELT.

In particular, I take the perspective of the periphery in describing the politics and practice of teaching English in the Philippines. Canagarajah uses the term ‘periphery’ to refer to ‘communities where English is of post-colonial currency’ (1999: 4). Such is the situation of the ELT community in the Philippines, especially where the public school system is concerned.