Can we already do a massive MLE implementation?

Distinguished members of the Loop:

This is a long-overdue posting that should have accompanied the signing of DO 74.

One of the biggest sources of apprehension and the chief reason for objection of officials (and even the general public) in mandating MLE is the gargantuan expenditure for producing materials.

Does MLE always mean having to translate?

Most people then thought that beside the cost of translating MLE learning materials which would have to come from the central office of the DepEd, the cost of producing and distributing textbooks and other related materials would be so enormous.  One party list congressman who was sent to the House of Reps for education causes voted for the Gullas Bill because his impression was that by going MLE, the entire basic education budget would have to be doubled.  He further reasoned out that we cannot afford this even with small gradual budgetary increments.

We need to clarify this aspect of the MLE policy in our social advocacy efforts.

The above video is the presentation I made in at least 3 MLE Fora in Bicol for the Loopers’ information and comments.  The basic policy rationale of the proposed  all-out implementation is lifted from the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-10 (MTPDP). This is why one of the distinct features of DO 74 is the provision on localization and school/community-based initiatives.   This was in turn patterned after the Papua New Guinea model which launched its MLE without substantial additional Ministry of Education budget increase, even as the country  has 800 plus languages.  How could they have done this? Please see the video.

Happy reading!

Nap B. Imperial

15 thoughts on “Can we already do a massive MLE implementation?

  1. Hi Nap,

    I do think that we must be deliberate and careful on this if we are to implement MLE in a sustainable and successful manner. If we allow people to go ahead with no guidlines or principles to follow we will end up having a wide variety of MLE programs, some producing good results and some producing negative results. The programs with less than good results will cause the opponents of MLE to insist that MLE is actually ineffective and then we will be at square one again, with no hope for change for another several decades. Thus we need to be careful, create guidelines for people to follow, base our methods on proven teaching strategies, train people, monitor, evaluate, assist communities etc.

    I also think that we are in a very different situation from that of PNG those16 years ago when they first implemented. We have a long history of education with official text books. We cannot expect communities to use indigneous materials for their books, they must be provided with some materials such as A3 paper for big books, and bond paper for creating small books. They can look for some funding elsewhere, but if Dep Ed wants to see communities produce their own materials they cannot just tell them to do it without providing guidelines and basic supplies. There are very cost efficient materials that can be created but unless Dep Ed is willing to participate and contribute, people just are not going to do it.

    A comment on sequencing… I feel fairly strongly that English should not be taught with English, nor Filipino with Filipino. That is immersion and has consistently been proven to be the least effective of all second language learning methods (cf. Thomas and Collier, Krashen and others). We need to allow those languages to be taught with the first language as the language of instruction. That is the reason English is learned well in Lubuagan in the MLE program. We do not use English to teach English. That will come later but no earlier than grade four.

    Those are some of my thoughts. Thanks for your work and the detailed work of Dina and co!



  2. Nap,

    I neglected to say anything about translated materials. SIL does not recommend this. There is no need for the first three grades. In lubuagan we do have a translated SS book in grade one and a math book for grade one. What is important is that the teacher follow the learning competencies and plan their lessons accordingly, preparing materials needed, but not teaching by the book. The reading books can include stories suitable for each subject, but there is no need to translate the text books per se.

    There is need for the teachers to think through the PELC and create space for the L1, planning their lessons based on learning outcomes and creating the materials needed. These activities can be done in partnership with the local communities in workshop settings. This is why we need to be very careful how we go about the actual implementation of MLE, or operationalizing the DO 74.

    Additionally we can implement where communities are ready and willing to move ahead on MLE rather than trying to implement everywhere at once. Dep Ed can create a set of criteria that communities in partnership with local Dep Ed officials need to meet before Dep Ed will assist in the training and materials production process necessary before MLE is actually implemented. We need to proceed in a staged, controlled manner rather than massively.

    I attended a Comparative and International Education Society conference last March and heard that in Latin America there are often policies allowing for MTBMLE but support for these programs is not sufficient and thus they are often floundering. We must provide a strong support system with a gradual plan for implementation and Dep Ed must control that in partnership with the stakeholders.

    Hope this helps,


  3. Earlier, I sent you the following:

    Dear Nap and All,

    Thanks for the initiative to get DO 74 rolling by placing it in the front burner of the discussion…

    In an earlier email to Dina Ocampo and the Loop, I suggested that her (Dina’s) format of “Pacing of Language and Early Literacy Instruction”, starting from the ECCD Level, the Primary Grades, the Intermediate Grades, Secondary School, to the Alternative Learning System level (Chaps. 5-9 of “The Philippine Roadmap to Multi-literacy”) and also the part which identifies what each of the stakeholders are supposed to do could be used as a model to craft a DepEd Memo to implement DO 74, cognizant of the “no memo, no action” mentality which was cited in “When Reforms Don’t Transform.” This to-be-drafted DepEd Memo on the pacing for the implementation of DO 74 should detail where the mother tongue comes into play as initially the MOI from preschool to grade 3 and then how it reverts to its auxilliary (“scaffolding”) role later with Math, Science, Makabayan, etc. courses.

    Even an MLE Bill (as you earlier proposed) if ultimately enacted would require this type of detailed implementing DepEd Memo, so I strongly recommend that we go ahead and craft the Memo now for the DepEd Secretary’s signature to have something explicit to guide our concerned teachers in the field, the DepEd hierarchy, LGUs, NGOs, etc. in properly implementing DO 74. This route gives the DepEd more flexibility to act when some mid-course adjustments need to be made to strengthen the MLE policy initiative.

    Again, thanks for the groundbreaking move.

    Joe Padre

    I still believe that we need this type of DepEd Memo detailing what every stakeholder is supposed to do to get the ball rolling. First, let’s see what parts of the implementation process could go ahead without a mega outlay and then identify those that require some money which can be had using those set aside for the purpose by DO 74 itself. That amounts to a lot of things we can do before even thinking of hitting the panic button!

  4. Ne, napintas a diskusion daytoy, kakadua. Idi Biernes laeng, inangay ti MMSU ti immuna a Sangkarehion a Seminar Panangyam-ammo iti MLE iti Rehion Uno ket inawisdak a nagsarita. Nagadu a kuestion ket ti kadagsenan isu ti panagrigat kano manen dagiti mamaestratayo no sadino ti pagalaanda iti materiales.

    Nangruna a nangipeksa iti danag dagiti taga-Ilocos Sur, dagiti adda iti dumaya nga ayan dagiti kakabsattayo a Kankanaey. Ania ti masurot, Ilokano wenno Kankanaey? Ti kinunak, no ania ti nakayanakan-dila ti ubing isu ti mausar. Adda ngarud posibilidad nga iti mismo a klase, adda dua a pagsasao a mausar- Ilokano ken Kankanaey wenno ania pay a pagsasao iti lokalidad!

    Maysa kadagiti sungbatko ti mayayon iti kinuna ni Nap Imperial: Nasken a tumulong ken magutigot dagiti gobierno lokal kas maiyayon iti Mandar DepEd 74. Insupusopko ti padas ti Papua New Guinea nga inako dagiti turayen lokal ti pannakaisagana ti kurikulum ken pannakasanay dagiti mannursuro.

    Isu a nalawag iti probision kinunak a mabalin a mausar ti fundo ti Konseho Edukasion Lokal iti kada ili wenno probinsia a pangisagana kadagiti gamigam-panagisuro, pangsanay kadagiti mannursuro ken pananggutigot- komunidad (community advocacy) a panggep.

    Maysa ti nalawag ditoy, palubosan ti DepEd ti pannakigamulo dagiti gobierno lokal iti daytoy a panggep. Ngarud, no buyogantayo daytoy a panggep, maysa ti nalawag: itunda ti Edukasion Nariingan Dila ti lokalisasion ken desentralisasion ti edukasion. Maysa daytoy a wagas ti pannakawayawaya dagiti maipapaigid ken maiwalinwalin manipud iti panangtengngel ti sentro.

    Masdaawak laeng ken malidayanak ket kasta met ti inwalangawang dagiti taga-MMSU, iti madaras ken awan tanangna a panangimandar ti Departamento iti pannakaiyimplementar ti Nakayanakan-Dila nga Edukasion iti umay a tawen-panagseserrek (schoolyear). Diak koma kanunongan daytoy no mabalin ta ngamin agbalin a nakiro ti situasion ti edukasion ket masiguradok a maysa daytoy a palso nga addang.

    Maysa pay a saan a nakasagana ket ti kurikulum dagiti eskuelaan edukasion mannursuro (teacher training institutions) a kas iti Unibersidad Estado Mariano Marcos-Kolehio ti Edukasion Mannursuro. Pagangayanna, maudinto manen ti kurikulumda ket saan a naisagana dagiti produktoda iti daytoy a perspektivo ti edukasion.

    Nayonantayo iti sumaruno. Kabayatanna, agyamanak kadagitoy nga inyemailyo Manong ta kitaek man ti kagagaladda.



  5. Dear Diane and Fellow Loopers,

    Thank you for your timely comments. Just a quick response to your posting before I pack up for my early morning trip to GenSan tomorrow.

    1. Actually, the powerpoint presentation and its essay version mainly address the concerns of the many doubting Thomases who have long maintained that “it cannot be done “ simply because of the logistical-financial reasons. This belief prevailed since the release of the EDCOM Report in 1991. We felt that this is the most important roadblock that we should first overcome as we embark on the long MLERoad.

    2. During the Forum discussions, I of course, underlined the need for overall guidelines applicable to all regions which should form part of national policy. The MTPDP 2004-2010 also enunciates the national policy that should govern local materials development. Both of them, of course, were stated with the very optimistic anticipatory note that they would be enunciated in the future DO 74 in the forms of the provisions on local/school/local government initiatives and self-reliance. We should work extra hard on this aspect through the Policy/Resource Mobilization Workshop Group of the StratPlan

    3. The above points are precisely the reasons why in both our Talaytayan meeting in Cainta and with USec Vilma L., I belabored the point that we need to have a unified command over the three “centers of the MLE universe” even if they are pursued under three distinct funding arrangements, e.g. the future PRIME Project, those that are currently piloted under the regular budget and those that may proceed from BESRA and other ODA funded initiatives. This is why the design of the StratPlan places great importance to the further policies that we need to formulate.

    4. In fairness to the Papua New Guinea Model which the MTPDP cited, BEAM’s Rosemary Green who spoke to us at NEDA early last year was quite explicit on the precautionary or supportive guidelines that you pointed out when her group served as consultants to the PNG Project. These things she shared with us found their ways in some provisions of the DO 74.

    5. It’s good that you have affirmed that translation is hardly necessary in the case of early grades materials development

    Best wishes to all of us as we move on. See you this Saturday in Cainta.

  6. Dear Nap,

    I studied DO 74 and read Diane’s comments and suggestions. I would suggest that careful consideration be given to organizing the implementation so that you learn as you go along and try to avoid going too far along unproductive or counter-productive paths. Here are some suggestions for doing so.

    1. Translate the 10 fundamental requirements for a “strong” MLE program into operational criteria that DepEd units can follow and that supervisory bodies of these units can validate as having been met. This means that a school can have an MLE program, a district can have an MLE program, a division can have an MLE program or a cluster of divisions can have an MLE program. But the higher unit (district over school, division over district, region over division) has the authority to “recognize” the MLE program of the lower unit. This will insure that the actual L1 languages of the different MLE programs may vary but all recognized MLE programs meet certain common technical standards.

    2. Provide strong mandates, incentives and support from the regional and division offices for schools, districts and divisions to establish MLE programs meeting the operational criteria. DepEd Central and regions should identify resources and changes in authorities that can be accessed by schools, districts and divisions establishing MLE programs meeting the criteria. Since establishing MLE programs meeting standards require effort and change, DepEd needs to motivate people to make the change.

    3. One major area that should be developed is the support mechanisms available from central, region and divisions for recognized MLE programs at schools, districts and divisions/clusters of divisions. This support should encompass different kinds of assistance to start up an MLE program, to scale up a recognized MLE program, or to institutionalize a scaled-up recognized MLE program. Each region can start up MLE programs at a modest scale, learn from the experience and build up implementation based on the learning.

    I hope these suggestions are useful.


  7. Hi Sir Nap,

    I think you are aware that DepED-Bicol through the inspiration of Director Layon and Asst. Director Tuy has started the development of reading materials using the different versions of lingua franca – Bicol…..

    Please be informed that for DepED-Ligao City, the City Government under the loving leadership of Hon. Linda P. Gonzalez, has shouldered the cost of producing the big books for use in Grade I classes…. she even approved our request for the teacher writers and artist to be compensated for doing something beyond their regular duties….








  9. Dear all:

    I’ll wade in the discussion of a massive MLE implementation with tongue in cheek because, as I have confessed, MLE is an area of which I know next to nothing.

    Like Mario Taguiwalo, I took a look at Diane Dekker’s comment. I’ll be coming from her comments and some reports of the Lubuagan studies that were kindly shared to me by Diane Dekker and C Young.

    As a first point, I start from the fact that the MLE policy was science-driven. It was inspired and supported by empirical studies of linguists which showed that learning in and of L2, L3 is influenced by L1. Having predicted and demonstrated MLE, linguistics should have other hypotheses about conditions that are unfriendly to (or, alternatively, supportive of) wider implementation. Is an appropriate vocabulary important? If implemented widely, are the vocabularies of existing mother-tongues developed enough for the “massive” implementation. Is syntax important? Orthography? Are the mother-tongues of various Philippine communities linguistically developed or understood enough for MLE implementation? If the conditions are not propitious, let us not rush things. Let us not risk too many failures, lest research as a basis for policy will lose whatever has already been gained through the MLE studies. Let us systematically listen to what linguists say about implementation for proper guidance.

    Second. This is from pedagogy. This is about Rose who was used in the demonstration of the value of L1. Rose was not a randomly chosen teacher. She had special training. And from the research report she submitted, she was no ordinary teacher. How many Roses are needed for the massive implementation? Can we grow Roses fast enough?

    Third, this from the linguistic reality in the Philippines. An internationally recognized Filipino lexicologist, Dr Ernesto Constantino of the UP, says there are at least 111 Filipino languages, dialects excluded. What system can be adopted to establish priorities?

    Fourth, the political implication of the third point. Politicians are naturally protective of the interests of their constituencies. The language distribution in the Philippines overlaps with political authority. How should we shape the implementation in such a way that the relations with politicians will not be disturbed?


  10. In region 7, we are having discussions about how to use the introduction to MLE to strengthen English learning in the middle grades. By bundling the expanded role of Cebuano (already used as a language for repeating (teacher centric!?) presentation, but not for assessment or reading or writing) with innovations in English that every parent and stakeholder will enthusiastically support, we hope to defuse resistance.

    What we are finding to be the biggest problem is that innovation requires staff time, and there is an urgent need for additional items so some teachers can actually focus on rethinking their schools activities in the light of MLE. Also, the very large class sizes are not conducive to applying ESL approaches (I would love to hear about experiences in Lubuagan and elsewhere), it would be nice if we could split sections with the support of additional teachers or trained teacher aides. The Cebu City Schools Division has been doing something along those lines for grade 1 (by reducing hours for children but not teachers), but in an English as a medium of instruction context (although they do have experience in using Cebuano for early stages of literacy learning).

    Is there some way to get funding (primarily for teacher items) in support of regional or division MLE initiatives?


    Fred Kintanar
    occasional linguist and educator
    Cebu City

  11. 2009/10/5

    Dear Frederick,

    What sort of items for teachers did you have in mind?

    Basically two kinds: items for MLE coordinators, who might have limited teaching responsibilities and spend more of their time developing innovations and assisting classroom teachers in their implementation. Existing personnel are fully loaded, and MLE is unlikely to prosper unless somebody can focus their full attention on it.

    Also items for additional classroom teachers, so that at least for piloting, normal sections of fifty can be split into sections of 2 x 25 or 3 x 18, sizes that are conducive to innovative teaching methods. The items will not necessarily go to the MLE pilot sections, but would free up the best and most experienced teachers to work on MLE innovation.

    What is necessary is the help of bilingual teachers to teach and demonstrate instructions and directions in both languages.

    Almost any candidates or teachers in our region would be bilingual, that is not a problem. I think the challenge is to shift the use of the Mother Tongue from “medium of repeated presentation to satisfy low expectations in reading English” to “medium of task-based goal-setting, organizing, reading, writing and assessment to achieve high level standards in fluent reading in the mother tongue.” At the same time, I indicated a strategy of reinvigorating ESL teaching, first for limited hours as a subject taught substantially in Cebuano, and later, if resources are available, in a well-supported “immersion-style” small section for intensive ESL which makes use of the mother tongue literacy they have already achieved. I have a detailed draft concept paper of the intensive ESL strategy if you are interested, and am working on drafting something for Kindergarten and Grade I focused on Cebuano reading and spoken English as a subject.

    Having accepted that children learn best when there is good understanding of what is required.

    We are an innovative and resourceful people. Let the teachers build networks among themselves and ask each other to help each other improve understanding of their lessons.

    Yes, but as Mario Taguiwalo suggested a good strategy can make a difference between success and failure after the goal is agreed. And as Diane Dekker suggested, there are risks to a half-baked implementation.

    Sometimes it helps to know what children have in their homes and use these as building blocks for what can be done in schools.

    I am definitely interested in involving parents and family members, and have some ideas how that can be done.

    Maybe an English Cebuano dictionary?

    I am quite interested in learner’s dictionaries, and have been working on developing English-Cebuano resources. This includes graded vocabulary lists for introducing specific senses of meaning at appropriate grade levels, and ensuring the children have active mastery of a core vocabulary (they can produce sentences with those words, during the first 2-3 years of school in spoken form, and in later grades in writing (or rewriting into English the themes they wrote first in the mother tongue). I suspect recognition vocabulary will come automatically if the children are supported in regular and ambitious reading targets, but a productive vocabulary needs serious learning support, including speaking and later writing tasks with feedback.

    I have an English Filipino dictionary. Would this be useful? Are the common Cebuano words not known to most teachers in Cebu?

    Almost any teacher or candidate in Region 7 would be fluent in Cebuano. The problem is not equivalents of common words, but how the teacher can be sensitized to the multiple senses of meaning of English vocabulary, so they can ensure students achieve mastery of multiple senses appropriate for their grade. For example, a common word like “break”.

    —- excerpt from draft

    “break” has a basic meaning of “an object suddenly separates into several parts, usually because it is dropped or hit” (= CEB nabuak, FIL nabasag), which will be introduced in Grade I. In Grade II, they can study the additional meaning “If someone breaks for a short period of time, they rest or change from what they are doing for a short period.” (= CEB nagpahuway, FIL nagpahinga) and the related noun (= CEB miryinda, FIL meriyenda).

    In Grade III, they can learn some patterns of how common words have extended meanings. For example, a leg is broken (= CEB nabali ang bukog, FIL nabalian (ng buto)) even if it remains a physical whole, but the bone inside might be cracked. A machine breaks (= CEB naguba, FIL nasira) even if there is no separation of parts, what is important is that it doesn’t work anymore. Sometimes the focus is not on a object that breaks, but on an agent that breaks loose. Related to the idea of interrupting a continuing activity, you can break a silence, or break a journey. They can study derived words like breakfast (= CEB pamahaw, FIL almusal), perhaps in relation to learning that “fast” can also mean not eating (= CEB mag-puasa, FIL mag-ayuno), daybreak (=CEB banag-banag, FIL bukang liwayway?), breakage.

    In higher grades, they can study how different prepositions help signal different meanings: break into X, break with Y, break from Z. The word also participates in “phrasal verbs” where the verb is used with a prepositional form that no longer carries its usual relational meaning but signals a special meaning of the verb: break down, break out, break up. They can study idioms using the word: break someone’s heart, break new ground, break even.

    The vocabulary lists will identify specific senses of meaning for a word that will be studied at different grades, so that a common word with many different meanings will be studied systematically several times over the years. That way the pupils can achieve a better mastery of the core language in both writing and reading, and have greater confidence and effectiveness in using language as a tool for learning Science and Health.

    —– end of excerpt

    The above analysis is based on the COBUILD dictionary, which is very useful for teachers (and has a softcopy version). I also have the Longman Dictionary of American English, which is even more user friendly for students, but less detailed. What is lacking is an English-Cebuano (and English-Filipino) learner’s dictionary embodying similar principles in support of the needs of young learners. For Cebuano, there are several English-Cebuano dictionaries including a very large one just published by SunStar. Unfortunately, it is more like a bilingual thesaurus designed for fluent speakers of both English and Cebuano who are used to writing English and are trying to find the right word or phrase in Cebuano. The entries are not self explanatory for children, and are not necessarily very useful for parents or teachers.

    If you know somebody who is interested in working on a bilingual learner’s dictionary (English into Cebuano or Filipino, or both) I am interested in collaborating. I am also interested in developing other kinds of language resources, including vocabulary development materials based on grade-level lists of targeted senses of meaning.

    I notice your email address is at Miriam. If you are with the college, you might want to help organize research activities along these lines, I would be happy to give a talk the next time I am in Manila. I am a colleague of Dr. Ibe on the board of trustees of Philippine Science High School, give her my regards if she still is involved with MC.



    Frederick B. Kintanar
    Cebu City


  12. Dear Yasmin,

    I would be interested in your work on ESL for Cebuanos because I’m also interested in developing a similar learning aid for Ilocanos. Maybe we could work on a collaborative approach using your material and some of mine. I am sitting on some English “immersion” materials designed to fast-track the learning of English with very little “pain”.

    Should you be interested in further work on the Cebuano-English path, I would like to refer you to my friend, Dr. Jessie Grace U. Rubrico (, who maintains the following website,

    Joe Padre

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