Manila: Filipino senior high school students will take lessons in Indonesian or Malaysian languages as part of the education department’s foreign language programme, an official said.

An article published by the daily Philippine Star quoted Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro as saying that officials are looking at adding optional lessons in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu as part of a programme to introduce a second language to Filipino students asides from Filipino and English.

The official said adding another language to the basic teaching curriculum would truly make Filipinos multilingual.

Probably due to the Philippines’ proximity to Malaysia and Indonesia, the language of these countries, Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malayu, are very similar to the Filipino dialect. In fact, some words in the Kapampangan dialect of Pampanga in Central Luzon are the same as in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malayu.

Because of similarities between the three languages, Luistro believes it will be easier for Filipinos to learn Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malayu.

Unlike languages of other Asian countries such as Thai, Japanese, Korean, Bahasa is written in Latin script — just like Filipino and English.

Luistro said he believes that the competitiveness of Filipinos in the international arena lies in their willingness to learn languages other than their own. In Indonesia, some of the country’s top executives are Filipino.

It can be recalled that the Philippines is implementing its K+12 education programme which adds another two years to the basic curriculum to make it on a par with similar teaching schemes in more progressive countries.

Last October, the House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill No 6643, which will enact the K to 12 Basic Education Programme into law. The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2012 aims to give access to two more years of free basic education for Filipinos, while enabling holistic development and readiness for different paths.

The K to 12 Basic Education Programme prescribes an enhanced system that includes one year of kindergarten, six years of elementary education, and six years of secondary education consisting of four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school. It aims to develop lifelong learners who will be prepared for higher education, employment, entrepreneurship, and equip them with middle-level skills.

“Implementing institutional reforms and addressing resource shortages go hand in hand, and both have immense bearing on the quality of our graduates,” Luistro explained. “Delaying one in favour of the other would further set us back in meeting our goal of making our basic education system attuned to the needs of the 21st century, and accessible to all Filipinos,” added Luistro.