MANILA, Philippines – Starting Where the Children Are is a collection of essays on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) on these general topics – MTBMLE: What It Is and What It Is Not; Language in Education: Reform and Reality; The International Experience in Language Use in Education; Pinoy English; Language Endangerment and Preservation; Languages and Identities; and Writing in the Mother Tongue. Edited by Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, Francisco Andes Datar, and Arnold Molina Azurin, the essays are written by educators, media personalities, linguists, and culture advocates. The book argues for the need to shift from our present bilingual policy to mother-tongue based instruction.
In the Introduction, Azurin summarizes observations made by advocates of MTBMLE as follows: (1) that many teachers have, in fact, been making use of the mother tongue (L1) as the medium of imparting knowledge despite the existing policy of bilingual instruction which is limited to English and Filipino and which is considered by many as obsolete; (2) that the use of L1 has improved scores in the national achievement tests; (3) there is general consensus that it is the most vital reform for the country’s basic and general education system; (4) the use of the L1 facilitates learning a second and third language; and (5) all neighboring countries use the mother tongue and have likewise garnered better scores in international Mathematics and Science tests.
Ched Arzadon’s account of classes that use MTBMLE indicates outcomes showing that indeed the learners are more creative. As early as grade one, pupils are able to write their own ideas and form them into a simple story or a song. Diane Dekker notes that use of the learner’s home language and culture allows teachers to begin lessons with a discussion of what is already familiar to the learner. Before children begin school, they think and process concepts in their mother tongue. Critical thinking is further developed by the use of open questions.
Former DepEd Undersecretary Isagani Cruz credits former DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus for issuing DepEd Order 74 which changed the languages of instruction in basic education from the bilingual to a trilingual one (mother tongue, Filipino and English). It mandates that multilingual education “shall be institutionalized as a fundamental educational policy in the whole stretch of formal education including pre-school and in the Alternative Learning System. It will be used not just for the first three grades but all the way to the last year of secondary school.”
Rep. Magtanngol Gunigundo, author of House Bill 3719, advocates the use of the first language as the primary medium for pre-school to Grade 6 and that English and Filipino should be taught in the elementary grades but only as a separate subject and not as medium of instruction. The strategy is that of nurturing the children’s cognitive, academic, and linguistic skills in the use of L1 and to gradually transfer this knowledge in the prescribed languages, English and Filipino. The use of the local languages will not undermine the national language but will in fact, strengthen and reinforce it. This is in accordance with the constitutional provision which states that the national language should be developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.
Should the law be passed, there will be need for a more concerted effort in ensuring that we have a more responsive curriculum and learning system- indigenous content, re training teachers, and continuing advocacy for public support.
[The MLE book is available (for 200 pesos a copy) at 170+ Talaytayan MLE Inc., with offices at Room 2115 Faculty Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. For orders outside the Philippines, write to email@example.com.]