By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:58:00 07/21/2009
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers in the House of Representatives should support the Department of Education’s policy of using the local language to teach the basics to young students by allocating a portion of their pork barrel for the development of training materials, according to Valenzuela Representative Magtanggol Gunigundo.
Gunigundo, who has opposed the pending House bill that seeks to make English the primary medium of instruction in elementary schools, lauded DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus for issuing an order that strikes down the practice of using only English and Filipino as the primary languages of instruction and promotes mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE).
Also rejoicing at the new directive are the educators and non-government organizations who make up the Talaytayan MLE Consortium. The group has been advocating the use of children’s first language or their mother-tongue to teach them during their formative years because they understand things better this way and it allows them to grasp concepts more easily.
Lapus’ directive would allow the use of the students‘ mother tongue– whichever of the more than 100 Filipino languages it is–to teach them during the early years of elementary school. English and Filipino would be taught as separate subjects, and would later be used as the media of instruction when students are ready.
DepEd order 74, dated July 14, 2009, institutionalizes MLE as “a fundamental educational policy and program in the Department.”
The order calls for the gradual integration of MLE in all subjects and all grade levels, and allows the use of school board or education improvement funds, as well as the maintenance and other operating expenses, for the planning and operation of MLE programs. The DepEd also requires the creation of an MLE technical working group at the regional and division level.
Gunigundo, in a statement, praised Lapus for “finally looking at the linguistic research and not relying on the anecdotal evidence” in issuing the order.
He said the new policy would protect the children’s right to be taught in their own language. He also said lawmakers could contribute a portion of their priority development assistance funds to build up the MLE training programs, which include teacher training and the development of teaching materials in the use of the mother tongue.
The new DepEd order should also convince supporters of the English bill to rethink their stance, according to Gunigundo.
“If they really are for quality education for all, they should not anymore pursue its passage,” he said in a text message.
Macario Tiu, an Ateneo de Davao University professor and a Palanca awardee, noted that advanced countries teach their children in their own languages. He also said MLE should apply all not just in elementary school, but all the way through college.
Aurelio Agcaoili, who heads the association of Ilocano educators and writers known as Nakem International, said in a statement that the new DepEd policy would bring about a new period of linguistic and cultural justice in the country.