Screenshot of the English Medium Education (EME) virtual discussions we organised with CHED and representatives from higher education institutions in the Philippines. Among those in the screenshot are our Head of Education Lotus Postrado and National Teacher's College's Dr Ed Fermin.

Together with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), we conducted two virtual discussions on English-medium education (EME) on 16 and 22 October 2020.

Virtual dialogue

CHED technical panels in English and Teacher Education as well as EME practitioners from state and private universities explored the immediate and long-term impact of the digitisation of learning on the use of English as a medium of instruction (EMI).   

CHED Director for International Affairs Atty Lily Milla spoke about the role of strengthening English in internationalising higher education. She acknowledged the British Council and CHED project ‘Access and Competitiveness through Internationalisation of Higher Education’, of which the virtual dialogue is a component. ‘This project highlights the importance of English-medium education in reinforcing internationalisation-at-home agenda,’ she said.

British Council Vietnam’s Academic Manager for English and Education Davide Guarini Gilmartin shared case studies from Thailand and Vietnam that featuring the motivations for expanding EME and digital learning. He shared that attracting international students and enhancing the employability of graduates are common driving forces. He also cited a recent British Council research by Dr Nicola Galloway stating that the students’ main reasons for enrolling in EMI programmes were mostly for future job opportunities, to practice and learn English and to study abroad.

National Teachers College’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr Edizon Fermin presented the current landscape of EME in the Philippines. Using the English Proficiency Index (EPI) data managed by Education First, a Swiss education company specialising in language training, he shared concerns on the declining levels of English proficiency in higher education. In 2017, the Philippines ranked 13th in the international rankings of EPI. This declined to the 14th spot in 2018 which significantly lowered our proficiency index from high to middle level. 2019 showed an alarming drop to the 20th spot. Given these findings, Dr Fermin recommended the creation of policies to strengthen support to faculty and staff on English language proficiency. With educators proficient in the English language, they are more able to produce learners who will fare well after graduation. This will in turn increase employability of Filipinos in the global job market.

During the group discussion, EME practitioners shared how their institutions promote the development of language skills and competencies both in English and mother tongue. They also shared how the current pandemic situation opened doors for them to easily collaborate with international partners through virtual means. aiding the internationalisation efforts of their respective institutions and of the country.

The technical panel members also shared that CHED is already discussing the future of the delivery of higher education in a post-pandemic era and how the current situation will re-shape the value of physical campuses.

Using the results of these discussions, we will present a policy paper on EME to CHED in the first quarter of 2021.

Screenshot of Dr Ed Fermin's recommendations with regards to English Medium Education in the Philippines. The text reads: EME and internalisation: 1. Promoting the 'go global, stay local' perspective; 2. Articulating internalisation at home as a priority directional area for institutional development.; 3. Exposing students to the kind of language skills needed in linkage-building and remote working; 4. Engaging international experts in local learning experiences through virtual structures

National roadmap

This last quarter of 2020, the National Roadmap for Global Competitiveness in Communication Skills (NRGCCS) was launched through a series of workshops running from November to December. NRGCCS is a multi-stakeholder initiative to ensure global competitiveness of Filipino students through language and communication skills.

The workshop series introduces the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to Philippine higher education institutions. CEFR is a language standard that describes language ability in speaking, reading, writing, listening understanding and measures learning outcomes at different stages —By increasing their understanding of CEFR, the NRGCCS endeavours to equip educators with tools to align curriculum and classroom activities to international standards.

British Council Assessment Research Group Manager and Senior Researcher Dr Jamie Dunlea introduced the CEFR and Test Development Researchers Richard Spiby and Carolyn Westbrook led a session on using the CEFR in the classroom and in self, peer and teacher assessments.

Through these activities and collaborations, we promote internationalisation, supporting the Philippine government’s vision to deliver higher education that is on par with international standards and best practices.

See also