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What you need to know about DepEd's

foreign language electives


The education department says its Special Program in Foreign Language 'aims to
enhance the ability of learners to engage in meaningful interaction in a linguistically and
culturally diverse global workplace'

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education on Sunday, November 18, clarified


that the Korean language will be taught only as an elective.

The clarification was made amid confusion that it would replace the Filipino subject
previously required in schools.

The clarification also came after the Supreme Court’s decision that lifted a 2015
temporary restraining order on a higher education directive removing Filipino and
Panitikan as required subjects in college.

But according to DepEd, the basic education curriculum indeed will still put a premium
on the Philippine national language by “continuously strengthening the teaching and
learning of Filipino as part of the K to 12 Program.”

At the same time, the education department is currently implementing the Special
Program in Foreign Language (SPFL) classes in public schools. So what is this about?

What is the Special Program in Foreign Language?

The Special Program in Foreign Language, according to DepEd, “helps learners


develop skills in listening, reading, writing, speaking, and viewing that are fundamental
in acquiring communicative competence in a second foreign language.”

It’s a long-running program by DepEd, first implemented in select schools in 2009 and
which initially only offered Spanish. Since then, the program expanded to include
Nihongo, French, German, Mandarin, and the latest in 2017, Korean.

DepEd added that the program “aims to enhance the ability of learners to engage in
meaningful interaction in a linguistically and culturally diverse global workplace.”

Who are these classes for?

SPFL classes are open to Grade 7 to 12 students.


What is important to note is that it is considered only an elective, meaning it is not
mandatory and does not replace Filipino as subject.

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The classes are only encouraged and recommended to those who have shown English
competence based on their National Achievement Test (NAT) results. Students will also
be assessed if they are “capable of learning another foreign language.”

According to DepEd in 2017, each foreign language class is allotted 4 hours per week
“as an additional subject.”

Data from the education department also shows that there are at least 10,526 SPFL
students across the Philippines.
HELP. Korean Cultural Center officials donate learning materials to Las Piñas National High School.
Photo from Korean Cultural Center

Who are teaching these electives?

Teachers and volunteer teachers are the ones responsible for leading foreign language
classes.

Since the program was first implemented, DepEd has partnered with several institutes
to help train teachers in a specific foreign language they are supposed to teach. These
organizations include:

 Embassy of Spain
 Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation
 Instituto Cervantes
 Japan Foundation
 Confucius Institute – Angeles University Foundation
 Embassy of France in Manila
 Goethe-Institut Philippinen
 Korean Cultural Center
In 2017, DepEd used P35 million to fund SPFL, using P22 million for training and
capacity- building programs for foreign language teachers.

In fact, Takahiro Matsui, one of the creators of the manga series Jose Rizal, oversaw
the teaching of Nihongo in public high schools in Central Visayas. He said it was the
time when his interest in the Filipino hero caught his interest. (READ: Manga creators:
Jose Rizal more than a Filipino hero)

Won’t the existence of foreign language electives set aside Filipino and
other Philippine languages?

While the fate of the Filipino subject at the tertiary level is in limbo following the SC
decision, DepEd remains firm that its place in the basic education curriculum is secure.

According to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, the subject Filipino “remains to be


among the core subjects in basic education while the teaching of Panitikan in the
Filipino subject serves as a springboard for discussion of grammar lessons and a way of
strengthening the Filipino identity and culture.”

The 1987 Philippine Constitution also says that the “government shall take steps to
initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as
language of instruction in the educational system.”

There is also the Mother Tongue-Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) which is part


of the K to 12 basic education program for Kindergarten, Grades 1, 2, and 3. Under this,
8 major languages in the Philippines are offered as learning area and languages of
instruction. – Rappler.com