Industry Research : Workers Fear Use of 'Mother Tongue' May Lose Philippines Competitive Edge
TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, Oct 4, 2012 -- Information communication technology (ICT) workers fear possible setbacks in the country’s global ICT sector when the school system adopted the use of the "mother tongue" in education.
In a recent ICT Roadshow in Bohol, call center worker at Convergys and Philippine Call Center Institute (PCCI) trained speaker, Jonalyn Batoy expressed her concerns on the program of the public schools that encourages the use of Tagalog and or Cebuano (mother tongue) as medium of instructions.
Batoy said adopting the mother tongue in school instruction diminishes the English speaking ability and fluency of students that may result in less "English-speaking" graduates that are mostly needed in call centers.
Genny Marcial, Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPO) executive director for external affairs, said one of the most competitive edges of the Philippines over other countries today is that its workers speak fluent English.
"We have young English speaking talents and we have the highest literacy rate among the existing competitor countries such as China and India," Marcial noted.
Batoy said teaching kids while young forms the basic foundation of their future because that is when they easily learn.
She said when you teach the mother tongue to kids at young age, this makes learning English later difficult and will degrade the English speaking and comprehension skills of the students.
Department of Science and Technology – Information, Communication Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) Deputy Executive Director Monchito Ibrahim said the BPO is the only sector in the Philippines that has great opportunity to be number one.
"ICT is the fastest growing industry in the country. In 2004, the Philippines only generated $1.3B for the sector, while in 2011, the revenues rose to more than $11B," he cited.
DOST on the other hand noted that in 2004, ICT had an active workforce of 100,000 full time workers and in 2011, it rose to 650,000 workers.
Multinational companies are willing to pay 20 percent more to outsource their business in the Philippines. Even if we have higher cost – power, labor, etc., these global companies are very willing to pay extra because of our people.
Ibrahim said the country needs to take advantage of its competitive edge--young English speaking talents and high literacy rate--over China and India.
The Philippines has overtaken India in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), one of the key niche markets in the ICT sectors which include animation, software development, call center in Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), medical transcription and other inbound and outbound call services.
According to ICTO, "it is not just communication skills that is the problem among students but they also need to harness problem solving and analytical ability.
The intent is to develop graduates who will have 21st century knowledge and skills because this is what is required by the IT-BPO industry today, Ibrahim added.
The government has inserted key competencies in call center training courses to make sure more and more of the country’s graduates are accepted and pass as call center workers.
The ICTO survey says presently, only 10 percnent of applicants get hired in the sector that requires a high English skills proficiency.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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