First congressional hearing on language in education

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ched Arzadon

I attended the congressional hearing yesterday where the English Only bill of  Gullas and the MLE bill of Gunigundo were presented. It was an SRO and there was a certain feeling of excitement in the air. Kudos to Cong. Gunigundo for giving a powerful and convincing presentation (which Nap Imperial described as “pamatay”).  Also kudos to USec Yolly Quijano for her bold assertions that DepEd favors the MLE bill because it develops the cognitive abilities of the pupils leading to acquisition of reading and  math/science skills. She also cited several MLE experiments in a number of schools all over the country.  The Chair of the Basic Education Committee, Cong. Salvador Escudero III facilitated the discussion quite dexterously. The Bicolanos should be proud of him.

Cong. Magi’s presentation highlighted the Thomas and Collier study, the economic benefits of MLE and PNoy’s speeches extolling the value of MLE. Later, there were many congressmen who manifested their support for the MLE bill in spite of the fact that during the last congress, majority of them supported the Gullas Bill (something that Gullas would harp on every now and then). Especially supportive was Cong. Henry Teves from Region 8 who said that he survived early schooling (with Tagalog as MOI) simply because his mother (a native of Laguna) gave him extra help at home but he pitied his classmates who had to struggle with an unfamiliar MOI. He said that when he heard about the Lubuagan study two years ago, he asked DepEd to implement MLE in his district. He is proud to talk about the MLE initiatives in his area.  Cong. Fatima Dimaporo spoke saying that she was particularly impressed with the idea that MLE develops the child’s cognitive skills. The congresswoman, a young charming lady probably still in in her 20s, said that her L1 is English which was reinforced by her schooling experience in Brent. However she admitted her feelings of regret for not learning her ancestors’ languages–Maranaw and Binisaya.

Cong. Gullas’ main argument was that his bill had previously gained the support of the majority and that it responds to the failing English proficiency of our children. He also cited our pupils’ dismal performance in Trends in International Math and Science Study. Unknown to him, NISMED had a study attributing our students’ poor performance in TIMSS to the non-use of the mother tongue in teaching science/math concepts. Joining Gullas were Cong. Eulogio Magsaysay and Cong. Carmen Cojuangco.  I was quite disappointed with our congressman from Pangasinan (Cojuangco) who said that the pupils  in her area (5th district) knew little of Ilocano anymore and so they should just focus on learning English (and let go of the little Ilocano they still have!)  At the end of the hearing, Gullas and his camp capitulated and said that they were willing to work for a melding of the two bills.

The two camps already agreed on the use of mother tongue from pre-school to grade 3. Differences to be discussed are :

  1. MOI for grades 4-6 . Cong. Magi said grades 4-6 will be a transition period and MT should still be used to scaffold learning but that Filipino/English would be introduced gradually. Cong. Gullas insists that English should be introduced abruptly.
  2. MOI for high school. Cong. Magi proposes that Filipino and English should be used as MOI in high school while the Gullas camp insists that English alone should be the MOI.

We hope that whatever compromise between the two bills the two camps come up with, it will be something that would best facilitate learning and the development of cultural/linguistic pride among our young ones.  We hope too that the groundswell for MLE would continue, especially when it is debated on in the plenary.  In spite of the presentation of research reports saying that MLE promotes language learning, many congressmen still mistakenly think that MLE retards the acquisition of the English language.

Somebody in the Senate (Guinguna, Recto  Escudero?) should now immediately file a Senate counterpart of the MLE bill.

Let’s keep hoping, praying and working for the best. Will inform you about the schedule of the next hearing so that you can be there too.  Till then.

Ched Arzadon

4 thoughts on “First congressional hearing on language in education

  1. Learning another language develops mental faculty. But studying other subjects in a foreign language is a different issue. I can’t recall but I have read somewhere about a research work that claims studying different subjects in the mother tongue improves knowledge, interest and quality.

  2. Dear Ched and Diane:

    I am glad about the way the first chapter of the congressional discussion on MLE ended. But you were expecting more chapters after Gullas’ capitulation. Are there no studies on how L2 and L3 should be paced in for optimal effectiveness? I think everyone wants schoolers to learn English well (without paying with ignorance in the other subjects, that is). How is that done? We need to move beyond demonstrating that the mother tongue is a superior mode of instruction to an L2. How does one handle the “abruptness” proposal of English for English? Good luck.


  3. Ched, yes, great narrative! Do inform me if there will be hearings and I will try my very best to attend.

    jovy z (UPOU)

  4. Pingback: For Comment: Revised MLE Primer « Multilingual Education – Philippines

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