Lesson from the MLE experience; argument for an ed journal

Dr. Abraham I. Felipe [abefelipe@yahoo.com] posits the following for discussion:

magazine_mNow that DepEd Order No. 74 has been signed, let us look back for any important lesson. There may be many. I will take up one. Although my involvement in the MLE campaign was very marginal, let me tell part of the story from a personal perspective. For me, it is a 61-year long story conveying a lesson on how to shorten the waiting for the approval of research-based policies.

In my long teaching career which started in 1956 (53 years ago), one of the things of which I have been proud was that my first office room was adjacent to the office of a very dignified and well respected educator known to have demonstrated experimentally eight years earlier that using one vernacular for medium of instruction was superior to using English. He could have called that vernacular “mother tongue” instead, since that vernacular (Hiligaynon) was in fact the mother tongue of his experimental subjects. But the vernacular-mother tongue distinction was not yet salient at that time. This educator was Dr. Jose V. Aguilar. Greeting him as we passed each other on the stairway or along the hallway of UP’s College of Education Building, or conveying a message from my boss to him, never failed to make my day.

In my naïvete, I expected that the educational system would act consistent with his research findings. Now, it is clear that it did not. I did not know that for a fact until much later. I had my reasons for my ignorance. I never followed up on the topic because, for one, medium of instruction was not a major interest to me. Many were more knowledgeable in that topic and in a discussion I would readily defer to them. I was not even into education, per se, for specialization. The closest I got to studying language was an interest in linguistic behavior, animal communication (in ethology) and the language of science (in philosophy). I felt certain that the many who were emotionally involved on the topic of medium of instruction would see to a policy that was appropriate. I did not feel needed in that advocacy.

Thus, I was surprised that in the mid 70’s a bilingual medium of instruction policy built on the Tagalog-based Filipino and English was adopted. Since I was not up-to-date on the pertinent studies, I assumed that studies that came after Dr. Aguilar’s called for a modification of the Aguilar thesis. Of course, the truly responsible action was for me to look into the pertinent studies and form an independent opinion. But that was easier said than done. I did not know of any authoritative review of such studies to start with. Although I had begun getting my feet wet in education after starting to work in FAPE, I was really a newbie on the research bases of educational policies and practices.

I was into a bigger surprise when an English-based medium of policy was proposed a few years ago on the egging of the business sector. It amazed me that it was seriously considered by Congress! It amazed me more that it apparently had the support of the Palace! To be kind, I’d say they were being concerned with those seeking foreign employment. To be unkind, I’d say they didn’t care if the children were being ineffectively taught.

I wondered if, in the meantime, there had been more recent studies which demonstrated the superiority of English as medium of instruction in Philippine schools. It was incredible that politicians who, in my experience, were an intelligent lot, would take a stand against research findings if the latter were unambiguous, sensible, had been replicated and verified, were consistent with established principles and, moreover, widely practiced internationally. Such a stand would be sheer brazenness. It could not matter if some school administrators, with an eye to the student market, supported them by publicly announcing “We are an English-only campus”, as Michael Tan wrote.

It must be because of all these curious events that concerned educators and other citizens were provoked to take political action. Within a short period, I saw two or three resolutions on how the mother tongue, Filipino and English should be used for teaching. Then, after a couple of years, there was DepEd Order No. 74 . This Order is what we now celebrate even if it only amounts to an ambiguous victory because it does not confer the same force of law enjoyed by the older bilingual policy which has a footing in the 1987 Constitution (Article XIV, Sec. 6-9).

Using the societal type of accounting of assigning values to government policies, we can ask: how many million Filipino children were inadequately schooled under the “English as medium of instruction” policy? How many million were added when the bilingual policy was adopted? How many million more will be added before the mother tongue policy is implemented effectively? How many million missed the chance for an education that could have improved Filipino manpower for the global market? What is the equivalent in dollar remittances? How many failed to get functional literacy? How about better quality basic education? What is the value in Philippine currency of the educational programs implemented under these language policies? Were our TIMMS results and, consequently, the way our educational system is regarded by other countries, affected by these medium of instruction policies?  How much of all these costs could have been avoided if only we seriously considered the Aguilar finding in 1948? These accounting questions, and many more.

Dr. Aguilar might have erred in calling Hiligaynon “vernacular” for his Ilongo pupils, instead of calling it more precisely “mother tongue” for them. But that was not a fatal oversight. His finding could have been easily refined. That was just what the Dekkers (Greg and wife Diane) and Catherine Young did besides showing that the mother-tongue was a more effective medium for learning even the English language itself. Could we have avoided the long and costly wait of 61 years since the Aguilar study of 1948?

We can only give opinions. I have opinions on that subject. I think we could have avoided the long wait if we only had the infrastructure for sorting out the significant from the minor researches. I think our existing infrastructure for doing this is inadequate. I think we can construct an adequate system if we use common sense and try to learn from the experiences in other countries. The system will be adequate if could meet ___ criteria:

  1. A shortened time interval between discovery (research finding) and its use or application. Even if we allow time for a finding to mature, 61 years are too long for policy-oriented studies such as those on the medium of instruction.
  2. A consensus among specialists that the policy application is consistent with relevant research findings.
  3. The correctness of the policy would be validated empirically.

The Heart of the Infrastructure

The heart of the infrastructure shall be a scientific journal on education which shall publish original studies and evaluate submissions based on the following two criteria:

  1. Replicability. The Journal should guarantee that the description of the methods of the studies it publishes is complete and could be replicated
  2. Verifiability. It should guarantee that the reported methods are sufficient for somebody else to verify the results of the study.

The Journal’s primary consideration shall be scholarship.  It shall stick to these policies and publication guidelines to assure everyone that it gives no space for politics and extraneous influences. In this way it hopes to develop trust in the quality of the Journal. Controversies like the recent one on National Artists shall be eschewed.

The above criteria have several implications.

  1. They affirm that the journal aims to be a scientific journal.
  2. They make it known that the Journal applies quality control in the choice of articles. With the use of a system if refereeing at different levels of evaluation,  the Journal guarantees that those finally chosen illustrate how canons of research are applied and their results properly interpreted and reported.
  3. They accept that logical implications of the research results are valid topics of further research (predictability).
  4. They mean that the articles shall be reports of empirical studies. Arm-chair theorizing, library studies and opinion papers (such as the present) will be misplaced in the Journal. The only exception to this rule would be systematic reviews of studies in a given area together with applicable theories.

The Aim of the Journal

The purpose in having the Journal is to encourage recognized specialists in other fields but with research interest in matters related to education, to publish in the Journal. Education can profit from specialists from fields like (partial list, alphabetic) anthropology, demography, economics, finance, linguistics, management, medicine, psychology, and sociology.   In turn, these specialists will gain a readership among those make decisions and policies or who influence practices in education and schools. By creating a window for them to publish in a journal of education, they have new opportunities to interact with education specialists along their research interests.  They will have a chance to cut 61 years of waiting before a good policy will be adopted. The Journal will be an upward contribution to references in education.

For the Journal to perform these functions, it will need the following inputs, support:

Act on several layers of selection – referees.

Editor, the editorial staff and the referees form the inner circle of the community that promote scientific studies for education, with other contributing researchers constituting the larger community.

Protection against backdoor lobbies of some who want to enter the circle; against friendship; padrinos; illegitimate reasons; frontal assaults; reduce the temptation by removing material rewards, in order to reduce interest in breaking in into the circle.

Examples of topics for which a professional society and a journal are important: length of educational cycle, entrance age, licenture vs. experience, length of calendar, contact time. Host apply the scientific method to check veracity/tenability of a practice

Benefit: How to avoid cost per social accounting

4 thoughts on “Lesson from the MLE experience; argument for an ed journal

  1. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a Philippine Journal of Education for all these years.

    The ed journal as initially envisioned by Dr. Felipe, given the functions, input and support as he so indicated, perhaps would be easier realized with a less costly online version available 24/7 than the printed journal type. Additionally, digital publishing, updating and archiving issues could be less of a hassle.

    Are we going to call it the Philippine Journal of Education, or Philippine Journal of Multilingual Education, or Philippine Multilingual Education Journal? Whatever it will be, please let me know so I can reserve it. You can count me in for the first 5 years’ domain name registration/renewal fees. You take care of the hosting fees. I’m sure you could work out a fee-paid access for online subscribers to compensate for staff and online publication costs, researchers and contributors, including hosting fees and later domain name renewal. Additional income may be generated from ads, like Google AdSense.

  2. Your suggestion for an online form is good. Will consult with you on your suggestions. Let us keep the name open until others react.

  3. Someone who knows the intricacies of web design, especially for a professional scientific journal that’s published periodically, will serve you better as a consultant in the design of the proposed Philippine journal of education. Unfortunately, I am not yet in that league.

    Look at some of the subscribed online journals to give you an idea how they look and operate. One good example is The American Journal of Medicine [Official Journal of the Association of Professors of Medicine] where you will note that certain articles may be accessed by registered subscribers only while others are open (free) to the public.

    Then again, your organization may have other ideas. Like making certain articles available to non-registered subscribers for a fee. Or, matching your goals to an appropriate web hosting plan. Etc. Etc.

    Of course, we all know that the proposed journal will live and survive on interesting, intellectually stimulating, scholarly articles and an uncompromising editorial staff which has the backbone to discriminate against the sophomoric and “extraneous” stuff. [E.g.: the UP Press and the Philippine Folk Literature series.]

    The pot just gets more interesting with the inclusion of an undetermined number of mother tongues as MOI in the equation. It is, however, encouraging to note that Papua New Guinea, with its more than 800 languages, has managed to have its own Papua New Guinea Journal of Education (PNGJOE).

  4. Read your comments. They are all to the point. Noted your demurer. The more I think the journal will need your advice.


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