Filipinos’ English-Speaking Ability: Deteriorating?

  • June 29, 2011
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By Chiena Bondoc

The Philippines is tagged as one of largest English-speaking country in the world. Primarily, this is because as a former US colony, their education system is patterned after the American education system. This also includes American-style diction and pronunciation of the English language.

This serves as an advantage for the country which at the present helps them to be one the best outsourcing destinations in the world. This also made them to be considered as the most intense competitor of India in the global BPO market.
In addition to that, it was said that the Philippines is far better than India in terms of call center outsourcing services. This is since the Filipino-English has a neutral or an almost American accent, giving them the advantage in understanding and dealing with mostly American clients. Also, the country, being a former American colony, has a better understanding of the American culture.

But there are concerns over the industry’s unsurpassed competitiveness. Many critics have cautioned that the English proficiency of Filipino graduates has been descending for years.
There has been a report by McKinsey and Co., a research arm of the McKinsey Global Institute, released last September 2005, said the country got average or below average in such areas as non-labor costs like power, political and security risks, a less hospitable business environment and bureaucracy.
It warned that the Philippines must develop a clear strategy to attract foreign investment in this sector, improve its infrastructure and boost the quality of its labor force, particularly in the area of English language.
Some even mentioned that one of the biggest problems here in the country is the declining supply of English speaking students.”
But definitely, the government has made actions regarding the matter. To resolve this, the National Government launched a program in 2003 where colleges will integrate special English courses “for international business,” in their curricula precisely to address the call centers’ concerns.

The new drive of the government is to increase BPO operations to other major cities in the country, such as Cebu and Davao, where salaries and costs are lower and where unemployment is more serious.

To promote this trend, the government wants to ensure that potential host cities can meet the requirements on power supply, telecommunications infrastructure and fiber optic facilities.

They are also expanding the industry to higher-level information technology sectors like software development, engineering design, computer graphics and animation.

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