Where the English Language Proficiency Started in the Philippines

The recent statistics say that the Philippines is ranked as the 3rd country among Asian nations to have a high level of proficiency in English and 15th among the countries all over the world. Moreover, the Philippines also stands as the 5th largest English-speaking country.


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Why does the Philippines always have a strong rating on English Language Proficiency?

The major factor is that the country recognizes English as one of its two official languages, aside from Filipino. That explains why almost everyone disregarding the status in the society can speak the language.

In socialization, English has been the natural approach to having conversations (and to some extent, Filipinos even merged both languages that gave birth to ‘Taglish’). In the business industry, the mastery of the language opens the possibility of entering the international market. In school, English is already taught during the basic education.


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You’ve read it right. It all started in our basic education.

Before mother tongue was added in the education system in 2012, the Philippines had included the English language on elementary education since Grade 1. Basic words like body parts, numbers, shapes, and colors are taught in English. The level of difficulty gradually increases up to high school and college.

Our continuous exposure to the English language has become part of our culture.

Why did we incorporate English into our basic education?

It all dates back to our history. For those who don’t know, the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish for more 300 years and it was the Americans who helped us gain freedom. Although the Spanish already introduced the basic education to Filipinos, the Americans improved the system and provided public education for all. While Spanish focused on religion, the Americans taught using their own language: English.


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photo courtesy of retrato.com.ph

So, basically, the Americans were our first English teachers.

They are called as ‘Thomasites’ for they came to the Philippines through a transport vessel named USS Thomas.


photo courtesy of Hands Across the Sea Samplers

The curriculum included English language, agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts (such as sewing, crocheting and cooking), manual trading, mechanical drawing, freehand drawing and athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis, indoor baseball and basketball).

The legacy of the Thomasites is the reason why Filipinos are almost like the native English speakers.

This legacy is remembered through the preservation of Teachers Camp in Baguio. It is now a center for athletic training and educational activities since the city of pines was once considered the recreational facility of the Americans.


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