Using Filipino in the Teaching of Science


Risa L. Reyes
University of the Philippines
National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development
Diliman, Quezon City

(Presented at the 1st Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education held at the Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, on Feb. 18-20, 2010.)

Risa L. Reyes

ABSTRACT: In this paper, two science classes in Grade 4 were taught by the same teacher, one in English and the other in Filipino. Videos of the classes were analyzed to determine which language better facilitates the verbal interaction and discourse in a public elementary school in Quezon City where the mother tongue is assumed to be Filipino. Pupil participation and sharing of ideas were found to be more enthusiastic, spontaneous and articulate in Filipino than in English. Evaluation scores were also better in the class conducted in Filipino than in that conducted in English. This suggests that using Filipino in teaching Science would be more effective than using English. Filipino should therefore be used as the LOLI for Science in Grade 4.

Keywords: Mother tongue-based multilingual instruction (MLE), use of Filipino in teaching Science


Background of the Study

The Department of Education issued DepED Order No. 74, s. 2009, “Institutionalizing Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MLE)” in July 2009[1]. It had two enclosures: Enclosure No. 1 “Fundamental Requirements for a Strong Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MLE)” and Enclosure No. 2 “MLE Bridging Plan A (L1 MT, L2 Filipino, L3 English) and MLE Bridging Plan B (L1 Filipino, L2 English, L3 Local Language, L4 Foreign).”  Bridging Plan A is for pupils whose mother tongue is not Filipino; Bridging Plan B is for those whose MT is Filipino. Both plans provide for the use of English as the language of learning and instruction (LOLI) for Science and Mathematics starting in Grade 4.

Science as a separate subject currently starts in Grade 3 with English as the LOLI. There is no reason given for delaying the introduction of Science as a separate subject for another year. The use of English as its LOLI is also not justified by any of the reasons given for institutionalizing the use of the mother tongue in the DepED Order; in fact, they would support the use of the mother tongue in the teaching of both Science and Mathematics also. This small study aims to provide information regarding pupils’ proficiency in English and the quality of the classroom discourse in both languages to determine the language of LOLI which would be more effective in teaching Science for Grade 4.

Statement of the Problem

The aim of the study was to determine which language is more effective in teaching Science in Grade 4. Specifically it attempted to find out how two classes, one taught in English and the other in Filipino, compared in terms of the following criteria:

  1. Number of words used/richness/ quality of ideas conveyed in these words in student discourse
  2. Length of response time before expression of answers
  3. Enthusiasm/eagerness of pupils to participate indicated by their actuations and behavior/words
  4. Summative assessment scores.

Additionally, the study intended to obtain the teacher’s and pupils’ points of view regarding which language they considered more effective for use in the teaching/learning of science.

The research question may thus be stated as follows:  Which language is more effective in teaching Science in Grade 4, Filipino or English?

Significance of the Study

The findings and recommendations in this study could inform the language policy of the Department of Education. The Bridging Plans A and B will be used for the first three years and will be evaluated thereafter. This early, classroom observations on the use of English as the LOLI could provide data for language policy studies of DepED. Without studies like this, the effects of the bridging plans will not be adequately documented and evaluated.

Scope and Delimitation of the Study

Only two classes in one public elementary school in Quezon City comprised the subjects of the study and only one lesson was videotape recorded and analyzed. The study focused on the language used in classroom interaction alone; the strategies used for the development of the science concept, including the hands-on or practical work activity performed and the assessments were not critiqued for this paper.


A research on the circulatory system by the elementary science group of NISMED in 2003 [2] recommended the use of a language the pupils know in order to encourage active participation. It reported that, since the intervention activities were in Filipino, the children expressed themselves confidently thus developing high self-esteem and  manifesting joy during their participation. Such positive experiences were found to be contributory to the success in learning the concept of the circulatory system.

A similar study in 2008, affirms these findings with respect to the study of the respiratory system [3].

Much earlier than these curriculum development researches, in 1983, a group of specialists (linguists, scientists, science educators and general educators) proposed the immediate use of Filipino as the medium of instruction in science and mathematics at the primary level of education although English should be available for those who intend to pursue careers in science (starting probably at the secondary level) [4].

More than 10 years later, in 1994, Acuña argued for the use of Filipino for science teaching and for classroom/laboratory discussion, not just for the elementary level but all the way to fourth year high school. [5] Aside from the mandate of the 1987 Constitution, she laid out a well-researched argument for the use of Filipino in order to “allow technology to filter into the wider culture”…and to “enable pupils to learn science concepts” and to be functionally literate even if they are unable to proceed to high school.


Research Design

This study is mainly qualitative with some quantitative data.  It is a comparison of two Grade 4 Science classes taught by one teacher. One was conducted in English, while  the other was conducted in Filipino though the pupils’ activity sheet and the visual aids were in English as were the Science terms used that referred to the related concepts.

The Sample

Two intact sections in an elementary school in Quezon City, consisting of 53 boys and girls each, comprised the sample subjects in the study. The class taught in English was Section 4 while the class taught in Filipino constituted Section 6. These two sections are regarded as being of middle-level ability out of eight (8) sections.

The Instruments

The researcher observed and took notes during the classes. She paid special attention to the criteria to be considered later in comparing the classes conducted in English and Filipino. These are thought to distinguish proficiency in, and effectiveness of, the language used for the teaching-learning of Science.

The researcher also arranged for two videographers from UP NISMED to videotape the two classes for documentary evidence.

The classroom observations were analyzed using these criteria and summarized in a Classroom Observation Matrix.

In addition, the teacher and five (5) selected pupils from each of the two intact classes were interviewed a few days after the classes using a simple Teacher Interview Guide and Pupils Interview Guide with a single question written in both English and Filipino:

In your opinion, which language is more effective in teaching Science, English or Filipino? Please explain your answer.

Sa palagay mo, anong wika ang higit na epektibo sa pagtuturo ng Agham, Inggles o Filipino? Ipaliwanag ang iyong dahilan.

You may answer in English or Filipino or a mixture of both. Maaari kang sumagot sa Inggles o Filipino o halo nung dalawa.

Data Collection Procedure

Two videographers using two cameras recorded the entire class proceedings. The researcher herself took notes during the two classes. She also gave the teacher and ten (10) selected students the interview guides with instructions to write down their answers. Afterwards, she talked to each of them, except one who was absent (but another student from the same class was sent in her place) for further clarification and to elicit additional comments and opinions, if any.

Data Analysis Procedure

The videotapes were viewed and the researcher’s handwritten notes were reviewed and analyzed in terms of the criteria used to compare the two classes. A Classroom Observation Matrix based on the videotapes and classroom observation notes of the researcher was constructed to summarize the observations. The written answers of the teacher and the 10 pupils on the interview guide as well as their additional comments and answers to the researcher’s questions were gathered to determine the stakeholders’ point of view with regard to the most effective language to use in the teaching/learning of science.


Comparison of the Two Classes in terms of the Set Criteria

A few tasks/activities/events in the class conducted in English (CE) and that conducted in Filipino (CF) summarized compared in terms of the four (4) criteria mentioned earlier. They will be described here and selected questions and responses of the pupils will be presented.

Task A: The teacher shows a colored drawing about the size of 1/4 sheet of Manila paper showing a young, male person wearing shorts and dark glasses, with no shirt, and lying down on a bed or rectangular shape on the shore of a body of water. The water is blue and in the distant background may be seen hills and vegetation.

The teacher asks, Q1: (CE) What can you say? (3X)

(CF) Meron akong papakitang larawan. Anong masasabi niyo tungkol dito?

Pupils answer (PA):  (CE) beach, sun, cloud, mountain, sea, boy (6 words given)

(CF): mainit (3x), malamig (2x), maganda, kaakit-akit, maraming mga puno. (4 words, 1 phrase)

Q2: (CE) What is the boy doing?

(CF) Ano palagay niyo ano ang ginagawa ng bata?

PA: (CE) Sunbathing

(CF): Nagbibilad, nagpapahangin, nagre-relax, nagpapahinga, natutulog.

Q3: (CE) How do you think the boy feel?

(CF): Ano ang palagay niyong nararamdaman ng isang taong nagbilad sa init?

PA: (CE): The sun is very hot.

Teacher (T): The boy feels very hot. What else? Another..more…What do you think about this man, boy? What does he feel? What does the man feel?

(CF): Masarap, naiinitan, mabuti sa katawan, pinagpapawisan

Task B: The reading of two sentences written on a piece of Manila paper: “The Sun is the source of heat, light and other forms of energy. The heat reaches the Earth through the form of radiation.”

(CE): Two pupils are called by the teacher to read and they do so fairly well.

(CF): Pupils read just as well. The teacher translates what the sentences mean into Filipino.

The pupils of both classes can read, and they do so fairly well. Then the teacher checks their understanding of the two sentences by asking a question.

Q1: (CE) How does the Sun’s energy reach the Earth? Through__________?

(CF) Ito pala namang ‘to nakukuha niya ‘yong init in the forms of _______________?

PA: (CE) Radiation (as if filling in the blank.)

(CF) Radiation

The pupils in both classes can understand and readily answer the question of the teacher checking on their understanding of the two sentences. Several pupils are called in both classes.

Task C: This is the main practical-work activity. It is in one sheet of paper mounted on one-half of a stiff folder. Each group is given a copy. They first read it aloud (the CF class gets the same copy in English).

Experiencing Radiation

Problem: How does heat energy reach the earth?

Hypothesis: (blank)

Materials: Pencil and paper


1. Go outdoors and find a shady place.

2. Stand still for a few minutes and think about what you feel. Is it hot or cold? Can you feel your body absorbing the sun’s energy and heat? How does it feel?

3. Go to an open area.  Stand still for a few minutes and tell us how you feel. Can you feel your body absorbing the heat? Is it hot or cold?

Results and Analysis:

1. How does your body feel when standing in the shade?

2. What do you feel when standing in an open area? How do you feel?

3. How does heat transfer occur during activity? Is it hot or cold?

For CF, the teacher translates in Filipino.  Before the pupils are sent out, the teacher asks/admonishes the class:

(CE) What shall we do first?  We should __________?  What will we do to observe?  You will do this quietly, and __________?  What?  Cooperatively, silently.  (The teacher supplies the answers to her own questions.)

(CF) Gagawa kayo ng matahimik at makiki-cooperate kayo sa mga lider ninyo.

Task D: Reporting

After about 30 minutes doing the activity outdoors, the pupils are told to go back inside the room. Each group reports.

(CE) Answers of each group (Results and Analysis)

Group 1:

1. It is relaxed and cool.
2. It is hot and unrelaxed.
3. Through radiation.

Group 2:

1. It is warm
2. Hot
3. Radiation

Group 3:

1. Warm
2. Hot
3. Through radiation

Group 4

1. ________
2. Very hot
3. Through radiation

Group 5

1. Fresh air
2. Very hot
3. Through radiation

Group 6

1. It’s relaxing
2. Very hot
3. Through radiation

CF finishes faster.  The class goes back to the classroom after about 22 minutes.

Group 1:

1. Mahangin, comportable
2. Mainit, nakakasilaw, nakakapaso
3. Sa pamamagitan ng radiation

Group 2:

1. Mahangin at malamig
2. Naiinitan at nasisilawan
3. Nakarating sa pamamagitan ng radiation

Group 3:

1. Mahangin, masarap as pakiramdam
2. Mainit, nakakasilaw
3. Sa pamamagitan ng radiation

Group 4:

1. Malamig, mahangin
2. Mainit
3. Sa pamamagitan ng radiation

Group 5:

1. Malamig at presko
2. Mainit, nakakapawis at nakakasilaw
3. Radiation

Group 6:

1. Mahangin at presko
2. Mainit, nakakasilaw
3. Dahil sa radiation

Group 7:

1. __________________
2. Mainit, nakakasilaw, komportable, masarap pakiramdam,  nagiginhawahan
3. Sa pamamagitan ng radiation

Group 8:

1. Malamig, komportable, mahangin
2. Nakakasilaw, hindi presko
3. Radiation

The CF groups use slightly more words, there is slightly more variation in the words that they use than those used by the CE groups. In the CF class the teacher goes over the answers of all groups briefly, commenting at the end:  Bakit kaya iba  ang sagot ng Group 7? Punta kayo sa labas, sa araw.

The members of Group 7 then come back and change their answer in No. 2 to mainit, nasisilaw at hindi komportable.

Task E:  Definition of Radiation

The teacher then goes back to the two sentences on Manila paper. She asks them to read the two sentences together and aloud.

Then she asks:

(CE) So what is radiation? (3X) Based on the activity? (2X) Radiation is________? What is radiation? (Nobody answers)

The teacher then posts a strip of Manila paper with these word—“Radiation – is the transfer of energy in the form of waves.”

The teacher asks 4 pupils to read this definition aloud.

(CF) The teacher also tells the class: Basahin nga natin ulit …referring to post. The pupils read aloud together.

So ano pala ang radiation? Ano ang ibig sabihin…?

PA1: Kunwari nandoon yung apoy (pointing some distance from where he is), naiinitan ka.

PA2: Naililipat ng init ng Sun papunta sa Earth dahil sa radiation.

Then she asks 3 pupils to read the definition.

P1 is the sole pupil who is able to come up with an operational definition (based on their experience) of what radiation is but the teacher is bent on asking them to memorize what she posted. Nobody was able to come up with the definition as written by the teacher based on the activity. It is a textbook definition.

Task F: Experiencing Other Examples of Radiation

The teacher lights a lamp, candle, and alcohol lamp in succession. After lighting each, she asks a few pupils to come to the front to bring their hands close to the objects without touching them.

Q1: (CE) How does heat transfer?

PA (CE) Through radiation

Q2: (CE) So what is radiation again?

PA(CE): (They read the definition) The transfer of heat in the form of waves.

The teacher makes them repeat this.

Q1: (CF) Paano naililipat ang init galing sa lamp? (5 pupils come forward)

The teacher keeps repeating the question in Filipino, and the pupils answer “Sa pamamagitan ng radiation.”

Then she shows a drawing of a microwave oven which she forgot to show CE.

She says: Tignan natin ‘tong drawing ng microwave. Palagay nyo paano lumilipat ang init? So naiinitan ang pagkain sa radiation.

Then she asks 4 pupils to read the definition. Afterwards she removes the strip of paper and tells them to repeat the definition.


The teacher takes down all postings and tells them to get a sheet of paper. Then she posts the 5-item test and 2 pupils to read the directions aloud.

Write True if the heat transfer through radiation and False if not.

___1. You will feel the heat of the sun if you are standing in an open area.

___2. The heat of the sun reaches the Earth through radiation.

___3. Heat transfer to cook the uncooked food inside the microwave oven.

___4. You will not feel the heat of the sun when you are standing in an open area.

___5. You will feel the sun when you are standing near the fire.

There were 38 CF pupils who got 4-5 of the items correctly.  This number is divided by 53 (total number of students present) and multiplied by 100 to get an MPS of 72%

In the CF, the MPS is 82%.

Based on the foregoing observations, the following statements with regard to the set criteria may be made:

Criterion 1: Number of words used/richness/quality of ideas conveyed in these words in student discourse

Over all, the number of words spoken by the pupils in CF is only slightly greater in number than those in CE and the meanings these convey in the two classes are not much different from each other. The lesson is really not very challenging and involves memorization. The operational definition given by one boy in the CF class stands out, however, because it accurately describes a phenomenon associated with radiation—that you can feel the heat through a distance,  without touching. Unfortunately, the teacher missed the opportunity to enable the boy to explain his idea further.

Even the teacher was more natural and could easily provide alternative questions and statements for the pupils’ greater understanding and comprehension.

Most importantly, the pupils talked to each other in Filipino during the outdoor activity. It is unthinkable that they will speak to each other in English.

Criterion 2. Length of response time before expression of answers

Pupils in the CF answered more quickly than those in the CE. The questions were really not very complicated but in the CF, there are many who raise their hands wanting to give the answer while in CE, the teacher was often heard to say “Come on, come on” and repeat the question.

Criterion 3: Enthusiasm/eagerness of pupils to participate indicated by their actuations and behavior/words

It was quite apparent that in the CF, many hands would eventually shoot up when the teacher asked a question together with “Ma’m, ma’m” indicating their eagerness and readiness to give their answers. In doing the outdoor activity, the pupils in CE took some time trying to read the activity before doing it due apparently to inability to understand the directions readily.

Criterion 4: Summative assessment scores

CE garnered a mean percentage score of 72% while CF had an MPS of 82%.  This means that more pupils in CF got 4-5 items correctly in the 5-item summative assessment than pupils in the CE.


With Teacher:

It was the teacher’s opinion that Filipino is more effective than English in teaching Science. Her reason was that “they  (the pupils) can understand, express and reason out” better in Filipino than in English. She said though that from her end, using Filipino would be “medyo mahirap dahil sanay sa English.” Ordinarily, she usually translates in to Filipino “kasi hindi naiintindihan.” She said further that “mas maiintindihan ng bat kung ang mga materyales ay Filipino.”

With Pupils

Alll 10 pupils (5 from CE and 5 from CF) wrote that Filipino is more effective in learning Science than English.  Their reason was that “mas madaling maintindihan at magpaliwanag” (sa Filipino.)  Some said “madaling magbasa at magsulat,” “madaling unawain at sagutin”


Grade 4 pupils can understand and express themselves better in Filipino than in English.  They can respond faster when asked, perform readily when told to do something, and get higher scores in a test.  Even among themselves, during group activities, they speak to each other in Filipino.  They are also more relaxed, more confident, more enthusiastic and eager to answer and participate when the LOLI in Science is Filipino.

Both the teacher and her pupils expressed the opinion that Filipino is more effective in teaching and learning Science. The pupils find it easier to speak, read and write in Filipino than in English. It is therefore more effective to use Filipino in the teaching of Science in Grade 4.


1. Since Grade 4 pupils are not yet very proficient in speaking, reading, writing in English, the mother tongue should still be the LOLI in Grade 4 Science since they are still learning English.

2. In connection with this, instructional materials for pupils and teachers should be written in the mother tongue (in Filipino in the case of this study). Collaborative lesson research and development is recommended so that the teachers themselves can make inputs in the development of the instructional materials by curriculum developers and the pupils can also contribute towards making the materials effective by their feedback.

3. Studies on the teaching of Science in the L1 especially at Grades 5 and 6 should be encouraged and supported.


The author wishes to acknowledge the teacher of the elementary school who wholeheartedly cooperated and agreed to teach two of her classes in English and in Filipino, the Science Coordinator of the school and the Principal. The pupils belonging to the two classes are likewise to be thanked for their cooperation. The chair of the AV Group of UP NISMED, and the two videographers are also gratefully acknowledged in this research as are the Director and  staff of UP NISMED


[1] Department of Education (2009) DepED No. 74 s. 2009. “Institutionalizing Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MLE). Department of Education.Republic of the Philippines

[2] Carale, L. R. & Campo, P.C. (2003) Concept Development in Filipino Children: The Circulatory System. National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development.

[3] Elementary School Science Group, UP NISMED (In press) Concept Development in Filipino Children: the Respiratory System.

[4] The Science Education Development Plan, a joint project of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports and the National Science and Technology Authority (1983) Science Learning and Teaching: Language in Focus. Proceedings of a Symposium on the Role of Language in Science Learning.

[5] Acuña, J.E. 1994 . “Language of Instruction in Science Education” in Acuña (ed.) 1994. The Language Issue in Education. Congressional Oversight Committee on Education, Congress of the Republic of the Philippines.

6 thoughts on “Using Filipino in the Teaching of Science

  1. The study simply confirms the long established fact that the use of the mother tongue (the students in the study are from an area that speak primarily Tagalog/Filipino) in the early years of school prepares the student with better learning skills than if he were taught in a foreign language he basically doesn’t understand well.

    Now if the same study were conducted in a different setting, say in an area where Maranaw is the mother tongue, I have a hunch that the responses of those in a CF group would be somewhat different from the above observations.

    It is therefore fallacious to reach the conclusion given in the article that “Grade 4 pupils can understand and express themselves better in Filipino than in English”, or that “Both the teacher and her pupils expressed the opinion that Filipino is more effective in teaching and learning Science”, or that “The pupils find it easier to speak, read and write in Filipino than in English”, or that “It is therefore more effective to use Filipino in the teaching of Science in Grade 4″ as if to suggest that these inferences are true for all students whose mother tongue is NOT Tagalog/Filipino. Either that or the conclusions should have been sufficiently qualified as applying to those whose mother tongue is Tagalog/Filipino.

  2. Luzon lang yata ang tingin mo sa Pilpinas ah!! Bakit kami dito sa Cebu sanay ba sa Tagalog na tinatawag mong mother tongue? Tagalog is our national language, not our mother tongue. Ibig sabihin dapat sa Bisaya din ituro ang mga subjects dito sa Cebu?

    Filipinos benefited a lot from being able to speak English. We are suppposed to learn to speak English because this is what the world understands.

  3. may mga terminolohiya sa wikang ingles na di umaakma pag isinalin sa wikang filipino. Kinakailangan ang maingat na pagsasalin nito. At dahil dito, isa na namang pasanin ng mga guro ang pagsasalin nito at nangangailangan pa muli ng ibayong pagsasa-gawain nito upang tuluyang maibahagi sa mga guro ang panibagong sistemang ito. Ang pag-unlad ng kaalaman ng bata ay nakasalalay sa makatutuhanang pagbibigay ng aralin! wag nating gawing kumplikado ang isang aralin na natututunan naman ng bata kundi ang pag ibayuhin natin ay mga kagamitan at kasanayang ginagamit ng mga guro sa pagpapadaloy ng karunungan. Ganunpaman, kahanga-hanga ang pagsubok sa ginawang pag-aaral ngunit di sa palagay ko naaakma sa kasalukuyang sistema ng edukasyon sa pilipinas.

  4. Ang paggamit ng filipino sa education would help to national development and dessimination ng filipino language. Like what the constitution said we should develop our national language. Using it in education, the goal of the constitution will be attained because the language is formally learned in the school.

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