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 :
- 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.
- 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.