We haven’t been educating our young more effectively all along

On one hand, the young school children coming from the 22 million or so Tagalogs have always had the edge for acquiring learning skills early by virtue of the Constitution, laws and orders by the government.  On the other, the larger number of non-Tagalog children coming from some 19 million speakers of Cebuano, some 8 million speakers of Ilocano, some 7 million speakers of Hiligaynon, some 5 million speakers of Bicol, some 3 million speakers of Waray, some 2.5 million speakers of Kapampangan, about 1.5 million speakers of Pangasinense, and God knows who else,  have not been given the proper language bridge–their mother tongue–to acquire those same learning skills.  These non-Tagalog children enter school for the first time and are instructed using Filipino (which, as we know, is basically Tagalog or Tagalog-based) and English–both of which are foreign to them.

While this may not be the sole reason why our students performed relatively poorly (more like near the bottom of the barrel) in recent international academic achievement tests (e.g., Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study or TIMSS), it certainly is a huge factor.  Other reasons could be weak curricula, inadequately trained teachers, and lagging content quality of textbooks.

In “The Prospects of Multilingual Education and Literacy in the Philippines“, Dr. Ricardo M. Nolasco, Acting Chair of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, calls this situation the “basic weakness” plaguing Philippine education. “It is that many pupils do not understand what their teacher is saying and therefore they cannot follow the lesson,” Nolasco says.  “Why? Because the language in school is one they can hardly speak and understand.”

It is at this juncture that DepED Order No. 60 s. 2008 basically opens the floodgates to remedy what plagues the early education of our young by encouraging “The integration into the improvement plans of schools and learning centers of projects to use the mother tongue as the language of instruction beginning Grade I (or its equivalent level in ALS [Alternative Learning System])…” The DepED Order also authorizes funds for expenditures that may be required during the planning and implementation phases of using the mother tongue as the language of instruction.

The use of the mother tongue as the initial medium of instruction to build a bridge to learning other languages and other academic areas is deemed the key to quality education according to “Education in a Multilingual World”, a UNESCO report based on extensive research on the effects of using the mother tongue as the language of instruction in the child’s early education.  The report says:  “There is much research which shows that students learn to read more quickly when taught in their mother tongue. Second, students who have learned to read in their mother tongue learn to read in a second language more quickly than do those who are first taught to read in the second language. Third, in terms of academic learning skills as well, students taught to read in their mother tongue acquire such skills more quickly.”

The advantages of the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction in the multilingual education context are empirically substantiated by the Lubuagan Experiment. Because of the triumph of the multilingual education concept close to home, we expect other local language communities to follow suit especially on the heels of Republic Act No. 7160, The Local Government Code of 1991 which liberates provinces, cities, municipalities and barangay from over-dependence upon the central government by increasing their powers and share in the taxes and wealth of the nation and empowers these local political entities to look after their own good.  Witness the Pangasinan mother tongue initiative (Pangasinan Provincial Resolution No. 195-2008).

We’re just beginning to see the light!  We’re starting to build the infrastructure for a quality education for our young!

2 thoughts on “We haven’t been educating our young more effectively all along

  1. At the outset. I have always thought Dr. Jessie Grace U. Rubrico, a linguistic expert (Language Links) who has done quite some work in Cebuano and a few other Philippine languages and whom I had the great fortune of knowing a while back, would be a tremendous SME and MLE advocate. This morning I sent her the following email:

    My dear Jessie,

    If there is one working for MLE, I think you’d be one of the best examples. Hence, this FW.

    I’ve taken the liberty of including your work in the proposed Multilingual Education/Philippines website and even used your website as a link for the Cebuano language tab/page on the top without your prior permission. I pretty much have a high regard for your work and your ability to realign yourself with the emerging MLE initiatives.

    Please say you didn’t object to my brashness.



  2. Hi Joe,

    I am for MLE, and thank you for counting me in. It’s okay to use my website link for this initiative. We also have two other websites for languages: http://www.magbinisaya.com and http://www.wikapinoy.com, although http://www.languagelinks.org is still my academic website.

    Two of my papers are coming out this year: The Common Pitfalls of Medical Translations from English to Cebuano, a paper read at the Linguistic Congress last Dec and Filipino, the Davao Variety: A Linguistic Description; the former at the UP Ling and LSP publication of the Congress proceedings, the latter at the PSSR, the official refereed journal of the CSSP UP.

    Well, teaching English via the native tongue is a breakthrough in TESL. I have always adhered to the belief that it is easier to learn an unknown concept via the known/familiar one. Thus my pedagogical materials are always bilingual, contrary to what others think -e.g., use only the target language in SLA teaching.

    More power to you and to the MLE initiatives. May this be a vehicle to a truly multi-lingual Philippines where all languages and cultures are given equal opportunity to unfold and to flower.


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