The Philippines--proficient in English or not?
Really? What is it?
The Business Process Association of the Philippines reported last year that the country's BPO industry was regarded as a second front runner after India. Today, the Philippines has overtaken the latter in certain aspects of outsourcing. The country has also become top destination for American companies for their back office requirements.
These companies cite Filipinos' cultural inclination towards Americans and their "proverbial" American accent. But read this:
Russ Sandlin, an American businessman in the Philippines, recently closed his call center in Manila because he said he could not find enough English proficient workers. “Not even 3 percent of the students who graduate college here are employable in call centers,” he complained.
Adding to this, the Department of Education reported that 80 percent of secondary school teachers in the Philippines failed in an English proficiency test in 2007.
So where is the veracity of those claims that the Philippines have a substantial pool of English-proficient workers?
A friend who works in the HR department for one of the Manila offices of Canadian telecom, Telus, said that they interview an average of 50 people a day and only manage to hire two or three applicants.
The proliferation of BPO companies in the country has entailed the setting up of American-accent training facilities. One of the most important qualifications that a customer representative must possess is the ability to speak with an American intonation.
The bureaucracy has made a short-term solution to fill the vacancies in these burgeoning contact center offices in the country. What the government and the industry should do is go back to formal education, a step steadily taken through the House Bill 305:
mandating the use of English as the medium of instruction in all academic subjects from Grade 3 onwards and encouraging the use of English as the medium of interaction outside the classrooms.
(A little backgrounder: English and Filipino are the official languages of the Philippines)
If the country wants to continue its competitiveness in the BPO sector, it must act quickly to address this worsening issue.